Bagehot – Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson: united by a shared contempt for rules | Britain

Bagehot – Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson: united by a shared contempt for rules | Britain

May 28th 2020SENIOR ADVISERS are supposed to act as lightning conductors for their bosses. Dominic Cummings is a lightning generator. He has repeate

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SENIOR ADVISERS are supposed to act as lightning conductors for their bosses. Dominic Cummings is a lightning generator. He has repeatedly produced sparks that have badly singed Boris Johnson—by arguing that Parliament should be prorogued, picking fights with every institution in the land and trying to hire an infant eugenicist as a Downing Street adviser. But nothing he’s done has matched his decision to drive his family 270 miles north during the lockdown, defying the government’s slogan at the time, “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”, that he helped devise.

On May 25th Mr Cummings tried to defuse the crisis by conducting an hour-long press conference in the Downing Street garden. But like so much that Mr Cummings does his intervention only added to the brouhaha. Why was the prime minister allowing a back-room aide a platform that is usually reserved for visiting dignitaries? Why did Mr Cummings’s account of his movements, which involved the bizarre claim that he took a side-trip from Durham to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, make so little sense?

Britain is obsessed by the Cummings affair because it turns on two things that are noxious in all democracies, but doubly so in one as class-obsessed as Britain: entitlement and hypocrisy. Caroline Nokes, one of many Tory MPs who have criticised Mr Cummings, proclaimed that “there cannot be one rule…



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