Dominic Cummings' extraordinary testimony - should we believe him? 4 months ago

Dominic Cummings' extraordinary testimony - should we believe him?

What. A. Day.

Over an increasingly revelatory eight hours, Dominic Cummings gave the public an extraordinary insight into the chaos, ineptitude and sadness of pandemic government.

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From the blunt "we are absolutely fucked" at discovering the UK did not have a pandemic response plan, to the claim that Matt Hancock is a "serial liar", and the repeated belief that his health secretary nemesis should have been sacked long ago - this joint select committee session produced more gossip than a TOWIE season finale.

The main allegations, although by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Matt Hancock lied to Boris Johnson about the cause of PPE procurement problems, blaming Rishi Sunak instead of accepting responsibility himself
  • He also lied about planning to test those discharged from hospital and into care homes for coronavirus during the first peak - they weren't tested
  • Boris Johnson was not invited to initial coronavirus meetings because he would actively undermine "serious planning"
  • Johnson said coronavirus was a scare story and would prove it by being injected with the virus live on TV
  • The Cabinet Office was "terrifyingly shit" during the initial stages of the pandemic
  • Household quarantine plans were derailed in March 2020 because the PM's fiancé Carrie Symonds went "crackers" over a story in The Times about her dog
  • By October 2020 Cummings regarded Johnson as "unfit" to be PM
  • "Tens of thousands of people died, who didn't need to die"

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And that's not to mention the aliens and Jeff Goldblum of Independence Day, Trump sending the CIA to gazump PPE orders, Marcus Rashford, and Spider Man memes. No, seriously.

Throughout questioning by MPs of all stripes, Cummings' narrative was compelling. He seemed too open and free-wheeling to be dishonest. That's what makes him such a deadly opponent.

This piece of political box office, rumble in the committee room, Johnson v Cummings, was less immovable object meets unstoppable force and more habitual liar meets habitual liar.

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Remember last year's, almost to the day, Barnard Castle jaunt, an occasion hardly imbued with honesty. Downing Street refused to comment upon that story for six weeks before its publication. Cummings' rose garden press conference reeked like the pig pen before the chainsaw in an abattoir. New information was offered today that most of his thinking then was apparently informed by death threats and security concerns.

Before that, the 2019 election. Admittedly, hard to debate honesty in three words repeated ad nauseam, but the prorogation before. Legal and legitimate, until the Supreme Court was asked its opinion.

Zoom out further still and you'll reach the referendum on EU membership. Cummings' Vote Leave faction pumped dubious claims about the EU banning kettles, the impending arrival of 76 million Turkish people, and the billions of pounds of funding the NHS would soon receive into the nation's Facebook feeds. At best spurious, at worst malevolent.

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I don't have some inside line on Cummings, I've never met him. I hear whisper and rumour about his manner and intellect.

I'm just of the view that his approach to politics is total war, scorched earth. His campaigns go from Brexit to the 2019 election to the annihilation of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock. None have been motivated by high-minded ideals like truth and transparency, their guiding principle is, instead, victory.

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Johnson's own relationship with the truth is so well documented, and I am so short of time, that I won't go into it here.

Cummings made a liar the king and is apparently only now realising the king's a liar.

Who wins this clash of the titans is as yet undecided.

Who has already lost is clearer - those who've lost loved ones due to Johnson and Cummings' collective incompetence.