Dean and CummingsFor the second post in a row I open with a reference to Watergate, though once again the post has nothing to do with the mother of all political scandals. I was just thinking of John Dean. An attorney and White House Counsel for Nixon, Dean was the reluctant Judas whose testimony to Congress in 1973 blew the lid wide open on the murky machinations at the dark heart of the Presidency. During his appearance at the Watergate hearings, John Dean didn’t come across as someone enjoying the grinding of an axe; despite being promised a degree of immunity from prosecution in return for co-operating with the committee, Dean still looked like a condemned schoolboy poised to receive a sound thrashing from the headmaster as a prelude to expulsion. He could probably foresee what his evidence would ultimately lead to, but the burden of playing a key role in the downfall of a US President perhaps wasn’t the kind of historical footnote he sought or relished. Whereas the Watergate hearings happened at the tail-end of the last era in which the vast majority of people didn’t want to believe the worst of their elected representatives – and indeed it undoubtedly began the process of terminal disillusionment in them – nobody expects anything better from them now.

Maybe the ghost of John Dean was evoked yesterday as a glaring contrast with the deliverance of similarly damning testimony of a government given by another former inside man. Indeed, the gulf between the diffident Dean and the hell-bent-on-revenge performance of Dominic Cummings couldn’t be wider. We’ve been living in a post-Watergate world of cynicism and scepticism when it comes to the integrity of political figures ever since John Dean confessed all in the summer of 1973, and Cummings’s grandstand audition for the next Tory administration – carefully distancing himself from the pandemic can-carriers by both laying into them and omitting names he clearly thinks will rise from the ashes and call upon his services in the future – was unedifying confirmation that the public’s tendency to believe the worst is entirely justified.

I’ve watched a sizeable chunk of the opening of John Dean’s Watergate testimony on YouTube, but just the first part of four instalments runs for six hours – and the rest nearly five each – so I’m presuming his appearance lasted several days; Dominic Cummings’s appearance before a select committee of MPs was scheduled for just the one day, but it still spanned seven straight hours – and I therefore had no option but to stick with the edited highlights. What made John Dean’s testimony so much more effective was that he delivered genuinely devastating revelations in such a mild-mannered manner; the weight of what he had to say seemed enhanced by the way in which he slowly unveiled it; moreover, the impact of those revelations was also given considerable clout by being made at that particular point in history, which was – as stated – a less cynical time. Cummings, on the other hand, embarked upon his theatrical kiss-and-tell at a moment when the standing of public servants probably couldn’t sink much lower. With Dean, it was the information that counted above all else; with Cummings, the focus was all on the performance; the information simply confirmed what most already knew.

I suppose one could say with friends like Dominic Cummings, who needs enemies? The man who ran away from the media spotlight throughout the fallout from his eye-testing expedition up north in the depths of lockdown owned the media spotlight yesterday and appeared to love every minute of it. He may have been ostensibly answering select committee questions, but he wasn’t going to leave without having done as much damage to the pretty threadbare reputation of his man at No.10 as was within his power as an ex-insider; this was the opportunity to get his own back after being prompted to jump last year – and Cummings grabbed it with both claws. His bitterness at being usurped at Downing Street by Carrie and her Woke entourage was laid bare; the day of reckoning had finally come for the jilted partner – and he damned Boris with all the vociferous, vengeful fury of a dumped spouse in a celebrity divorce case. The man whose rise to power he played no inconsiderable part in is now apparently ‘unfit for office’. Well, we didn’t need Dominic Cummings to tell us that, but it was still grotesquely compelling car-crash telly to see the ex-Svengali ripping into Boris and saying it out loud. According to Cummings, it’s ‘crackers’ that Boris is PM and that ‘thousands of people’ could provide better leadership. Boris is ‘a shopping trolley, smashing from one side of the aisle to the other’. Who was it pushing that trolley in the supermarket, though? Ah, yes – but maybe that proves Cummings was in sore need of an eye-test after all.

Of course, the pandemic was at the top of the agenda when it came to the actual questions Cummings was being posed yesterday; and his assessment of the approach taken by Boris and the Cabinet to the coronavirus gave him a chance to drive his first batch of nails into the Johnson coffin. He claimed Boris dismissed Covid as a scare story as late as February 2020, though to be fair that hardly makes Boris unique; he also said Boris’s main concern as the first lockdown was imminent was more the impact on the economy than lives – though once we were all under house arrest, the state of the economy proved to be a prime cause of worry for many. Boris’s reluctance to instigate lockdown was undoubtedly the reason it was delayed for so long, but Cummings paints himself as a bit of a hardcore pro-lockdown cheerleader whose advice was ignored, as though had it been taken by the PM thousands of lives would’ve been saved. He even said he overheard Boris utter the statement reported in the press, the one about him preferring to see ‘bodies piled high’ than impose Lockdown III. Not that Cummings reserved his most scathing accusations for Boris, however; no, the main guilty party in his opinion was Matt Hancock.

Cummings claimed he repeatedly told Boris to sack Hancock, but said the PM wanted the Health Secretary to stay in the job so he could take the majority of the blame whenever the whole affair eventually receives a public inquiry; Cummings more or less said Hancock was an incompetent liar and declared he should have been fired multiple times. Hancock’s hilarious, hurried response when briefly ‘door-stepped’ by a camera crew yesterday was to claim he was too busy ‘saving lives’ to react to Cummings’s accusations. Yes, our Health Secretary is actually a superhero armed with a super-power with which he heals the sick, dashing from one quarantined household to another. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Super-Cock! Super-Cock was forced to defend his record in the Commons today – a tough call considering his disastrous care home policy at the height of the pandemic, not to mention his jobs-for-the-boys approach to dishing out Covid-related contracts; Cummings’s assessment of Hancock is one few would dispute, though there was plenty of stating the bleedin’ obvious during the performance. It was just unusual to hear it coming from someone who had been there.

For a man who was hysterically denounced as an untrustworthy, bare-faced liar during the period in which his lockdown trip to Northumberland was exposed, it’s amazing how many Boris-haters on social media now suddenly believe every word Cummings says just because he’s saying what they want to hear. Most of us recognise Cummings’s agenda and though a lot of what he said was unarguable, particularly when it comes to the incompetence of the PM and those around him, let’s not pretend Dominic Cummings was some blameless voice of reason in the eye of the storm. Yes, John Dean was as keen to save his own skin in 1973 as Dominic Cummings is in 2021; but whereas at the Watergate hearings Dean didn’t shy away from his part in what went on in the Nixon administration, with Dominic Cummings it felt more like a case of ‘Please, sir – it wasn’t me.’

© The Editor


CummingsI guess at one time it must have been relatively easy to avoid the news. All you had to do was not switch the telly on at 9 or 10 in the evening and not buy a newspaper. Even if one adheres to a similar principle now – as I do – being online makes it much harder; after all, the news is always just a click away. Opening my inbox is a bit like living on a cul-de-sac with only one way in or out, and I have to walk past Yahoo News every time; even if it has an inexplicable obsession with Amanda Holden and no longer allows comments (which were the one thing that made a story there worth reading), it serves a purpose of sorts. Sure, it helps to have some kind of awareness of what’s going on out there, and Yahoo News headlines can sometimes pique my curiosity; this here blog would simply be a nostalgia/pop cultural fest all the time otherwise. But I do have an inbuilt system that keeps the news at a distance unless required – a well-honed instinct that also suggests which story can be written about; this comes in handy when there’s such an overwhelming amount of information available.

You know that feeling when a rumbling in the tummy heralds an imminent fart? The genesis of a Winegum post is a bit like that. Yes, there are occasions when posts are planned in advance – marking a particular anniversary, for example; but most just materialise out of nowhere, sparked by a story that catches the eye. I always know when an article is on its way due to this early warning system. Phrases, analogies, sentences and paragraphs begin to formulate in the head, and once they’re jotted down I glue them together by adding further content, confident the separate segments will gel and constitute a satisfactory whole. The average gestation period is around a couple of hours, and when I feel no more can be added I press the ‘publish’ button. If there’s any delay once the piece has been written, it usually comes from not being able to find the right picture to illustrate it or failing to come up with a suitably snappy title featuring a classic tabloid pun.

Whichever story I write about tends to pick me rather than the other way round; and this method means certain topics on the online radar which one might assume will provoke a comment on my part sometimes fail to appear. A lot can depend on my mood at the time of writing and whether or not I’m feeling fatigued with an ongoing narrative, something that can make it difficult to motivate my mojo. Race-baiting mob rule in the US dictating the outcome of a jury trial on the promise that the wrong verdict will bring about anarchy – as threatened by astonishingly irresponsible Democrats who accused Donald Trump of a similar crime not so long ago, and pre-empted by the prejudicial dodderer masquerading as the President – is an important issue, of course; but I’m so weary of the whole business that penning a post about YouTube (see last time) seems so much easier when there are a thousand-and-one other things to attend to. Handing over the creative section of a full day to researching and composing a response to the preordained outcome of the George Floyd trial is not an appetising prospect, to be honest; and let’s face it – everyone else has covered it to death, anyway.

Similarly, the return of Sleaze to the Conservative Party in Government should serve as the cue for a forensic dissection, yet there’s an inevitable shoulder-shrugging reaction that online discourse used to sum up with a solitary word, ‘Meh’. Come on – the Tories bogged-down in scandal; I mean, what’s new about that? Every bloody time the Tories are running the country there’s some sort of sleazy scandal; if it’s not connected with sex, it’s connected with money. And hearing SNP and Labour MPs attack Boris Johnson’s failure to address the issue when neither opposition party can feasibly lay claim to the moral high-ground – Alex Salmond or Peter Mandelson, take your pick – is hilarious hypocrisy beyond parody. Any idiot knows by now that the incumbent occupant of No.10 is one of the most untrustworthy individuals ever to occupy the office, but the electorate knew that before it gave him a handsome mandate when the alternative was Comrade Corbyn. Therefore, is it any wonder that the only people who appear to be getting their knickers in a twist over recent developments are the MSM and, in particular, Fleet Street? The fact is that both have been so nauseatingly supine in their attitude towards the powers-that-be during the pandemic (and uncritically supportive of Project Fear) that nobody takes their opinions remotely seriously anymore.

The ghost of a former PM haunting Boris was, again, no shock revelation; David Cameron’s crooked lobbying – who saw that coming, eh? Matt Hancock having shares in companies benefitting from Covid, companies run by someone he was at school with or is related to – yeah, big deal. The Prime Minister allegedly promising tax breaks to Brexit exile Sir James Dyson – so what? Does anyone really expect anything better from this shower? And then we have rumours that Boris intended the refurbishment of the Downing Street to be paid for by Tory donors – and who did these rumours come from? Yes, the former Public Enemy No.1 (in the eyes of the media), Dominic Cummings. The ex-puppet master of No.10 has resurfaced to wreak revenge upon his one-time marionette by claiming the PM attempted to prevent an official inquiry into leaks concerning Lockdown Mk II once he was made aware such an inquiry may well implicate a close friend of Carrie Symonds. That there is little love lost between Boris’s other half and Cummings obviously had no bearing on any of this, naturally.

The Cummings missive appeared on the former Svengali’s blog – though as he apparently has a habit of doctoring his posts on there when they later contradict changing opinions, it may not remain in its current form for long. The buddy of Ms Symonds is SPAD Henry Newman; Cummings claims it was Newman and not him who was responsible for the leak last October that precipitated the second lockdown, an error of judgement that would presumably lead to Boris having to fire Carrie’s chum; far easier to pin the blame on Cummings, with him now safely out of the way. Preventing an inquiry into the leak would also keep a lid on the truth. ‘It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,’ writes Cummings; perhaps Cummings’ damning indictment of Boris and those around him would carry more weight had the competence and integrity the country deserves not been so noticeably absent when Cummings was pulling the strings.

Boris himself has publicly responded to Cummings’ outburst by saying, ‘I don’t think people give a monkey’s about this issue’, and in many respects I think the PM is right; it does have a very ‘Westminster Bubble’ feel about it. The majority of the public just want to get back to a semblance of normality, even if that may prove difficult for some with the reported presence of ‘Covid Anxiety Syndrome’ symptoms that are a direct consequence of a full year of being bombarded with a steady stream of panic propaganda. A timely open letter signed by 22 (non-SAGE) scientists and academics has appeared in the Telegraph, criticising the Government management of the pandemic and demanding an end to social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing and all restrictions by the end of June. The letter suggests the widespread take-up of the vaccine, along with falling death rates, should accelerate the end of lockdown measures as well as negating the introduction of ‘Covid passports’. All very laudable, but feasible? We shall see – and no doubt I’ll end up writing about it…or not.

© The Editor


The once-popular soap ‘Downing Street’, having taken a backseat of late, has recaptured the public’s imagination in recent weeks. The dramatic downfall of Dominic Cummings – the JR Ewing/Nick Cotton/Alan Bradley bad guy of the series ever since his unforgettable entrance as the Vote Leave villain of 2016 – has been one notable ratings-grabber; the sudden rebranding of Carrie Symonds as the Lady Macbeth of No.10 (a role so memorably defined by the legendary Cherie Blair back in the 90s) is another – and her character’s life-affirming ‘journey’ has come a long way since she was portrayed as being in an abusive relationship; the arrival of another privately-educated metropolitan posh girl character in the shape of ex-‘Newsnight’ hack Allegra Stratton as Boris’s new press secretary means Carrie now has an ally she can go riding and discuss pressing Woke issues with. The introduction of fresh faces into a long-running series is vital to its survival and to keep the audience interested.

Thankfully, we can still thrill to the ongoing saga of the programme’s resident Alexis Carrington-like power-bitch Priti Patel kickin’ ass at the Home Office for a bit of old-school excitement, even if it now has the strong scent of just another desperate plotline designed to win back audiences wooed away by the new kid on the block, ‘Covidnation Street’. This gate-crasher has also affected that other never-ending soap set in and around the inner-M25 intrigues of the wealthy political class called ‘Champagne Socialist Street’; that show even had to scrape the anti-Semitic barrel in order to get viewers interested again. Alas, the departure of the cult character Jezza and the arrival of bland new leading-man Keir Starmer has seen a loss of student viewers and the series is struggling in the ratings.

There’s a degree of competition from US imports like ‘Pennsylvania Avenue’, though the imminent exit of that show’s most popular villain, Donald Trump, and the return of veteran character Joe ‘Blake Carrington’ Biden, just seems like an uninspired move by producers to rekindle some of the old magic. North of the border, STV provides its own serial called ‘Holyrood’, in which a comedy Minister proposes people should be arrested for something offensive they said out loud in the privacy of their own homes, whereas the long-running Welsh language soap with the unpronounceable name on S4C now features a country sealed off from its neighbours, reduced to an extreme Royston Vasey where not only will you never leave, but you’ll never get in either. The lockdown plotline has run through all these shows this year, but the Welsh one has taken it and run with it to the point whereby bored viewers have begun switching off in their droves.

It’s a curious form of escapism, this; because it doesn’t venture into the fantastical or supernatural, it could almost pass for reality – if reality itself hadn’t become so removed from what we’ve always recognised as such. Perhaps we’re receiving a revival of the Westminster soap opera because the MSM senses there could be a nostalgic desire to reconnect with the memory of reality now that what passes for reality feels closer to a Dystopian JG Ballard novel as Chernobyl ensembles dominate the urban catwalk. According to the current headlines, Westminster is apparently an exciting powder-keg of old-fashioned melodrama that isn’t dominated by those depressing real world totems of 2020 such as mask-wearing, social distancing, social isolation, shop closures and suicides; it looks like life used to be, albeit slightly heightened. As if to maintain this theme, the prospect of the annual ‘Worst Winter Since 1963’ (along with the similarly recurring favourite, ‘Crisis Christmas for the NHS’) promises the traditional seasonal plot in which several outcomes have been filmed and the audience is left wondering which leading character might meet an untimely end; it should keep the country distracted and the broadcasters happy.

After all, ‘Downing Street’ ratings have plummeted ever since the heights of the BAFTA-winning Brexit narrative, a slow-burning plot which gathered pace over three years and reached a climax with the classic ‘Proroguing Parliament’ episode last year. Even the drama of a leading character on his potential deathbed a few months ago failed to win back the audiences of old. However, enough time has passed and enough brows have been beaten to ensure these audiences are now far more pliable and trained to respond in a Pavlovian manner to whatever morsels of rationed fun the PM deigns to throw in their direction. As astonishing a revelation as this may be, quite a few people actually spend Christmas alone most years and consequently aren’t especially concerned with the festive season and the nonexistent flood of family and friends into their chilly homes. These folk might not be overwhelmed with gratitude that they’ve been given permission to breathe for a couple of weeks in December, knowing full well the drawbridge will come crashing down on life again as soon as we enter January. Not everyone has yet to succumb to the Stockholm syndrome symptoms that render our leaders benign captors in whose hands our lives gratefully reside.

Let’s not spoil the show by focusing on those antisocial saddoes, though. They received enough attention before, back when we were reliably informed that loneliness and social isolation were more damaging to an individual’s health than smoking, excessive drinking or a bad diet. We don’t hear that so much now, do we? No, suddenly being afflicted with alienation from one’s fellow man is a design for a healthy life and staying safe. Don’t love, don’t touch, and stay away from everybody just in case you kill them. Even if your granny’s already dead, you could still kill her, so steer clear of her grave. You are King Midas with the Plague and must never come into contact with anyone ever again. Lock your door, save the NHS and go back to the Westminster soaps; boo and hiss Priti; cheer Carrie; and count down the days to Christmas as though you’re sharing a mulled wine with Noddy Holder.

And, lest we forget, there’s a Happy New Year hovering on the horizon in the shape of The Vaccine! That’ll sort out the men from the boys – or the rams from the ewes. A rushed-released serum injected into the bloodstream of a grateful nation without the due development and testing that any successful antidote to a virus has traditionally required; sounds sound. And, of course, it will henceforth be the badge of honour that grants its wearers access to the life they’d previously been able to access quite easily without the need for a Government-sponsored syringe stuck in their arm; those who express reservations as well as those who are vehemently opposed – file alongside Brexiteers, Tory Scum, Nazis and assorted racists, naturally – will be blacklisted and excluded from the Christmas party.

The vaccine stamp of approval looks set to be the American Express of inoculations, guaranteeing unlimited entry to everywhere for those eagerly volunteering to be drugged into obedience – a drug administered by yet another private company owned by someone who went to school with Matt Hancock or is married to a member of his family instead of being handled by the GPs who once saw their patients as people rather than numbers. Those who refuse shall henceforth be cast out into the wilderness; they shall be barred from patronising the corporate chain-stores that will be the sole retail outlets mysteriously still standing in the dust-settled, curve-flattened future. Not to worry, though – ‘Downing Street’ will keep our spirits up in the same way Gracie Fields did in WWII; stay tuned.

© The Editor


Perhaps one reason why the national outbreak of weekly clapping caught on was that it helped generate a sense of community – however superficial – at a moment when many suddenly felt extremely isolated and detached from wider society. However, it’s arguable that in many cases the lockdown merely lifted a lid on pre-existing isolation and detachment rather than manufacturing them from scratch. Along with the pre-Cummings ‘were all in this together’ mantra (which a majority desperately wanted to believe, if only to give credence to the sacrifices being made), there was a hope that the polarisation exacerbated by Brexit might just be put into perspective. If we were all in this together, we could stop hurling poison darts at each other from either side of the tribal barricades; we could cease hostilities and, even if we couldn’t shake hands due to social distancing guidelines, we could at least stop screaming at one another.

There was a very brief moment early on when it looked as if all the fatuous issues that had dominated discourse on social media for the past couple of years had mercifully been put to bed; there was a new, far more dramatic issue to capture the imagination. The extreme decision to bring everything to a grinding halt should, in theory, have united the warring factions; this was far more serious than gender pronouns or whatever else had provoked such inexplicable anger online and, unlike trivial first-world obsessions, it affected everybody. But it was naively optimistic to expect those who have an investment in division to abruptly abandon it. It feels now like the polarisation runs so deep that not even an event as life-changing (or threatening) as a global pandemic can overcome enmities that seem set in stone.

It wasn’t long before the familiar racial and gender factors began to surface in the coronavirus narrative, almost as if it wasn’t enough that we were all in it together; some of us had to be in it more than others as the Oppression Olympics proceeded regardless and the scramble to grab the gold medal of victimhood reasserted itself. Those who see everything through such distorted prisms simply couldn’t help themselves from applying their usual worldview to the picture once the momentarily unifying shock of the lockdown subsided. Even when faced with the greatest leveller of all, there has to be an Identity Politics angle to hone in on; it appears to have become the default setting, whatever the circumstances.

And then it took the Dominic Cummings revelation, hot on the heels of Neil Ferguson’s exposure, to bring the full polarising fury that characterised the Brexit saga back onto the front pages. Remoaners never forget, and the prospect of hanging out to dry the detested Svengali regarded as an architect of the peasants’ revolt of 2016 was too good an opportunity to resist. The staggeringly disproportionate coverage by, and behaviour of, the mainstream media over this issue has demonstrated that what divides us will continue to do so even when attention should really be focused elsewhere. It was the final nail in the coffin of a promising pause that had suggested a major event like lockdown would lead to a temporary ceasefire that, in time, would become permanent as people gradually grew-up and moved on. No such luck, alas. Twitter today is just as packed with vicious, vociferous fanatics on both sides as it was before Covid-19 winged its merry way from east to west.

Following representatives of the two extremes on Twitter, I observe this toxic tennis match between left and right with increasing despair; it’s a grand-slam final that seems set to play on with little prospect of ever reaching match-point; both opponents are refusing to concede an inch. The loss of a middle ground not only in politics, but in society as a whole, has helped generate a scenario in which one has to take an extreme position on every burning issue. If one attempts to be balanced and see the good and bad in everyone, that’s not acceptable; the enemy must be utterly condemned. If one says anything remotely positive about a policy decision made by Boris or Trump – not easy, I admit, but not impossible – one is immediately shot down and branded a ‘Nazi sympathiser’ or whatever chosen insult is trending this week. It’s like a kid in the playground who intervenes when another kid is being picked on, and then those doing the picking instantly accuse the kid who intervened of harbouring unrequited love for the kid being picked on. It’s that infantile.

Mind you, it doesn’t help when Mr President so often exhibits the same childish combative approach to any crisis. He could have phrased his intention to curb the rioting in Minneapolis better, of course, but few expect dignified gravitas from a man who lacks the eloquence of tact. It’s a given that the National Guard are going to be called in when civil disturbance grows so serious that the situation necessitates their intervention; but there are ways and means of calming chaos. What provoked the anger that inspired the rioting in the first place was undoubtedly horrible if sadly unsurprising where the attitude of some US police forces are concerned; the sadistic idiot responsible for the death of George Floyd is one more contaminated product of America’s ongoing problem with race, a problem that stretches from inbred racial prejudice on one side to the assumption that every non-white has to vote Democrat as part of their duty as oppressed minorities on the other.

And as so often happens in the aftermath of such a gruesome incident as the killing of George Floyd, professional agitators move in to exploit and enflame the anger. The likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter give every impression of being partners in anarchy whose ultimate aims may differ, but whose means of achieving those aims are similar; if they share anything beyond capitalising on discontent, it is to enhance and widen even further the divisions that would only render their respective organisations null and void if – God forbid – they should ever be healed. The former seek to destabilise the system whenever they sniff a powder-keg bubbling and sod the consequences for those caught in the crossfire; the latter have an investment in the continuation of racial tensions that justify their own existence. Neither group is concerned with the genuine grievances that they hitch a ride on; like a nihilistic travelling circus, they arrive in town, stoke unrest and then depart when the town is in ruins.

The message is drilled into the masses via generous MSM coverage which preaches the narrative that skin colour or sexual preference utterly define an individual above all else and will naturally divide us because we’re not all the same. Mankind will never progress beyond the barrier of colour if it is constantly being reinforced by those who require its perpetual presence in order to survive and prosper. Social media is currently awash with race-baiting propaganda appealing to the guilty consciences of the self-flagellating white Woke folk who carry the crimes of their forefathers on their backs. You are a racist and 2+2=5. To dispute this logic is to place you in sympathy with the cop who killed George Floyd; and Donald Trump; and Boris Johnson; and Nigel Farage; and Vote Leave; and so on and so on. What timing, mind – a frustrated people driven half-crazed by lockdown measures were primed for parasites preying on their grievances, and the plan is working. We are divided and we are falling. At least it’s not that long a way down, though.

© The Editor


And we’re back to life imitating art imitating life again. Yes, the episode of ‘The Thick of It’ in which feared Downing Street attack-dog Malcolm Tucker is manoeuvred into submitting his involuntary resignation as MPs cowering in the shadows suddenly emerge as fearless critics of the PM’s Rottweiler is currently being restaged for the benefit of bored viewers of rolling news channels. I guess it’s the political equivalent of those struggling theatre companies performing socially-distanced plays online because nobody can go and watch them live anymore. Maybe we can look forward to similar remakes of other classic crisis moments from British political history in order to break-up the relentless tedium of the same story dominating every day’s headlines? Perhaps Boris could commandeer the airwaves and inform us we are now at war with Germany – or he could entreat the public to rejoice at the recapture of Port Stanley.

As has been pointed out several times by various observers, ‘stir crazy’ symptoms seem to be infiltrating public discourse after two months of lockdown and are responsible for an upsurge in hysterical behaviour online. This is quite possible, though it’s difficult to tell from a cursory swipe through the output of our most vociferous tweeters, most of who have simply carried on where they left off with Brexit. Nobody really appears to be acting out of character on Twitter, for those who were already foaming-at-the-mouth fanatics have merely transferred their obsessive manic tendencies from one issue to another; and Piers Morgan never needs much of an excuse to turn his oily countenance a sweaty shade of tomato. Ditto the mainstream media, whose propensity for sensationalism and OTT overreaction has been energised anew by every coronavirus-related development.

MSM scalp-hunters got what they wanted via the story of Neil Ferguson’s not-so clandestine dalliance with his married lover; despite admirably punching above his weight re the lady in question, that particular Government ‘expert’ was forced to fall on his sword when the revelations broke, though perhaps his dodgy track record of widely overestimating the scale of pandemic fatalities should have precluded his hiring in the first place. Several other political figures and experts have also been exposed as purveyors of the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ school of hypocrisy since we entered lockdown, though now that one of the architects of the entire policy has allegedly been caught out, those with scores to settle aren’t even bothering to contain their evident excitement.

Journalists, cultural commentators, Labour MPs and – especially – ex-Ministers sidelined for their Remainer stance are screaming in unison for Dominic Cummings to quit, yet all appear to me to have a pre-existing axe to grind where the PM’s very own Goebbels is concerned; they may be selling themselves as moral spokespeople for the people, though one can’t help but feel they aren’t so much expressing outrage on behalf of Lockdown Britain as relishing having Cummings on the ropes because they dislike him and everything he represents. Fair enough; Dominic Cummings certainly doesn’t come across as a particularly likeable individual and, if the stories are true, he exhibited appalling double standards when the country was being ordered to stay at home and anyone venturing outdoors stood to be confronted by an emboldened Gestapo masquerading as policing-by-consent Bobbies.

It seems odd that a man in Dominic Cummings’s powerful position, who must boast an extremely wide social network, couldn’t have placed his child in the care of someone in London rather than driving all the way up to his parents’ place in County Durham. Lest we forget, this was at a moment when many believed driving no further than the local retail park could risk an encounter with roadblocks and a police approach towards motorists inspired by the kind pioneered by the British Army at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. And, of course, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock was castigated in the right-wing press for making a similarly lengthy journey to visit his own aged parents in Wales around the time Cummings is alleged to have committed his particular crime. Indeed, if events proceeded as the allegations made by the Mirror and the Guardian claim they did, Cummings clearly gives the impression he regards himself as very much part of the political class and therefore doesn’t have to abide by the rules and regulations laid down for the plebs. He’s hardly unique in that case, though; the political class of all colours have repeatedly shown the same attitude for a long time and we didn’t need a lockdown to highlight that. We were never all in it together.

If anyone beyond media bubbles – both mainstream and social – actually gives a flying f**k about this story, the level of their interest would probably be determined by how greatly their life has been disrupted by the lockdown. If they have lost loved ones whose last few precious moments they weren’t able to share due to the restrictions, they’re going to be upset and angry as it is; therefore, excessive media coverage of what Dominic Cummings did or didn’t do – and it being presented as a heinous misdemeanour that spat in the face of a nationwide sacrifice he himself wasn’t prepared to make – then I would imagine they’d be quite pissed off about this, and rightly so. If, on the other hand, they’ve been spared any bereavement and are just fed up with being stuck at home, chances are they’ll simply shrug their shoulders and see Cummings’s actions as one more example of the ‘they all piss in the same pot’ syndrome; their lowly opinion of the political class will merely have been confirmed yet again.

The lockdown itself and the Government message – whether it be ‘stay safe’, ‘stay alert’ or ‘do as you’re told, finish your Frosties and go to bed’ – is undoubtedly undermined by this story and perhaps might just accelerate the end of the whole saga. And there’s an irony of sorts in that those who have adhered to the lockdown with such extreme compliance that they have had their nosy neighbour habits legitimised may well have helped expose the man partly responsible for encouraging their behaviour. Mind you, some of the anonymous snitches in Durham – probably (as tends to be the case where the Grauniad or BBC are concerned) Labour activists on the quiet – did cast doubt on the authenticity of their stories by claiming they recognised the registration plate of the Cummings car; hardly likely when these are always pixelated on TV and nobody outside of the police force can find out the owner of a vehicle from one.

The media is certainly demanding we be outraged by this story, if only because the media itself is. It has fostered the ‘we’re all in it together’ narrative by relentlessly promoting the doorstep clapping and the deification of the NHS; the Government has largely followed where the media has led, and I doubt Boris would be clapping on a weekly basis and allowing the ground-floor windows of No.10 to resemble those of a primary school classroom had not the media established the social mores of the lockdown community spirit. Wicked Mr Cummings spurning those mores when the salt-of-the-earth Great British public have largely done as they were told is consequently punishable by resignation. Failing that, just lift the lockdown.

© The Editor