The Johnson-Cummings saga is medically instructive – like seeing head injury symptoms acted out as a public warning.
Less dazed and confused, more dopey and conspiratorial. A black comedy as coda to the great lockdown.
If there was a club of politicos, then Johnson and Cummings would be blackballed. Defenestrated. Done-in behind the recycling bins.
Mensa believes you can measure cleverness. Of course you can’t. Those tests just measure male chippiness. But Johnson and Cummings lend credibility to the idea you can gauge stupidity.
They have set their own scale, like Celsius or Fahrenheit, and have offered us a yardstick for absolute zero political skill. How they got this far is astonishing. Yet also sadly explicable.
Raised by woodland creatures, they entered the adult human world both feral and contemptuous. When Boris could stop nibbling at the curves of women, and Cummings pulled the puppy tail from his teeth, they conspired to bite everyone else.
Long before virus was the big risk, tetanus was the most feared disease, contracted by close contact with either man. Lockjaw is the result, and it seems that every decent force within conservatism found themselves unable to express opposition to the creatures. Thankfully, that is finally changing.
Tories are looking in horror at the rats caged in Downing Street.
This grand story, so ludicrously comical in its series of inept decisions, a study in comedia dell’arte, is only possible by the nature of the main players. All our stories are ourselves destructing over time.
Johnson and Cummings are rotting before us, their youth gone, their arrogance now creeping under the national skin, like some metaphorical necrotising fasciitis.
Only a man who knows nothing about politics can make a national address without apologising for the clear error of his special adviser. The Johnson twice sacked as Cabinet minister, the Johnson who launched a coup again Theresa May which lasted half a day, the Johnson of reality is appalling at politics.
It turns out, so is his special adviser. Cummings was on the winning side of the Brexit vote because he didn’t care for the truth and he thought the rest of us stupid. He contributed to the Boris landslide in December, the most low-life vote in my lifetime, with deception. The government he worked for lied about honouring deadlines, and as we follow this farce, another lie is unravelling on the question of the Northern Irish border (a fact thing, so not really the territory of Johnson-Cummings).
Somewhere in Boris’s head it seemed sensible to break civil service rules and allow an unelected special adviser to give a public address, from the seat of British Government power, when in Dominic’s own words he was speaking as an individual.
To compound that clear abuse of our political rules, Cummings then thought it would help him to ramble on, allowing everyone to form the opinion that he really hasn’t a clue.
Did he break the rules? Yes he did, by his own admission of detail, if not by his interpretation. But that begins to pale beside the gigantic lack of political sense. An apology on his behalf on Sunday from Boris would have gone a long way. Sharing information weeks ago might have settled the public mood.
Any contrition during his Monday agony-thon might have helped.
Like a first-year philosophy student, he kept waiting for everyone else to know he was right. And they didn’t. You could hear the creaking of seats, feel the sweaty dampness of it all.
At this time, the most difficult of his career, he decided to blame it on everyone else.
According to Cummings, the media had it wrong (though not really, and much less had Downing Street deigned to answer to questions over the weekend). Explaining things to the journalists often leads, according to Dominic, to more confusion. Then we the people had it wrong – we were entitled to our opinion, said Cummings, but it was wrong. It is quite possible his child has it wrong, as the poor blighter seems to have been let out of the car for a pee, but then started to “play” in Cummings’ own words.
Didn’t the kid read the briefing?
The truth is he has to go because his political instincts are as good as a squirrel run over by a logging truck. If he wasn’t roadkill on Sunday, then he finished the job on Monday. Politics is not about detail, it’s about emotions.
Cummings seemed to understand this when he lied about the NHS getting £350 million a week after Brexit. NHS – emotion, more money – elation. EU – nasty.
And yet he couldn’t see that this applied to him. Cummings – not brave enough to stand for office, an elaborate story – never credible. Rest of the nation – fantastically annoyed.
In our flawed way, we make up our minds on a mix of fact and instinct, and a basic trust in the system. That’s humans for you, that’s democracy. Something Johnson and Cummings thought they were above.
Now, both are broken. Undone by their own contempt for the truth, the people and the nation.