31 May 2020
Life isn’t fair, my mother used to say, and the reaction to Dominic Cummings’ admissions on Monday show that, not only is this a truism but many people are trying to make it fairer, including my new hero.
Despite being on the Downing Street payroll and therefore paid by us, he was half an hour late for a press conference held in the garden behind his office, about 50 yards from his desk as the crow flies. “I’m sorry I’m late” he said, but didn’t make any attempt to look it.
He then read a statement recounting the story of his 550-mile return visit to Durham in late March and early April. Strangely, some important detail differed from those written in an article by his wife, Mary Wakefield, published in the Spectator magazine (the UK’s weekly summary of Conservative party policy) some weeks earlier. For instance, she had failed to mention that he’d had any problems with his eyesight, which he was now claiming had been why they’d driven an extra 30 miles to Barnard Castle.
What idiot wonders if their eyesight is good enough for them to drive safely, then decides to test it by putting their nearest and dearest into a car and driving them for 60-miles on main roads? Well, OK, apart from Michael Gove who has since admitted doing the same thing.
Cummings refused to express any regret for his actions, or to apologise, and said he hadn’t offered the prime minister his resignation. A friend of mine who actually votes Conservative (yes, I have a friend who votes Conservative) muttered something about the Peter Principle but thought we should now let the whole thing drop. (The Peter Principle explains how the prime minister and his cabinet (and Cummings) got their current jobs.)
Emily Maitlis joined the list of my heroes on Wednesday night when she opened the BBC Newsnight programme by saying “Dominic Cummings broke the rules” and criticised Boris Johnson for ignoring it. Her remarks predictably led to a spate of complaints to the BBC about her comment, followed by even more complaints about the BBC reprimanding her for it. To be fair, the original complaints did include some from other journalists worrying about the BBC’s independence but all journalists have their own partialities and I found myself thinking of pots and kettles.
Cummings own approach to the truth was revealed by his claim that he’d warned about the “possible threat of coronaviruses” in March 2019 while he’d actually only inserted a backdated reference to the “Sars coronavirus” in April 2020 and, while some still seem to believe he’s the government’s contact with ordinary people, a new poll shows 68% of ordinary people think he should resign.
Another of my heroes, Jacinda Ardern*, New Zealand’s prime minister, was being interviewed live on television this week from the main parliament building (known locally as the Beehive) when there was an earthquake. “We’re just having a bit of an earthquake,” she told the show’s host as the television camera jolted. “Quite a decent shake here, but if you see things moving behind me, the Beehive moves more than most,” she added, before saying “We’re fine,” as she looked up and said. “I’m not under any hanging lights.”
There was more support this week for my suggestion that the pandemic is a microscopic conspiracy (see my blog of 8 March) to leave just enough humans alive to provide sustenance while Covid-19 takes over the world: research has shown that all of us are already likely to be infected by between eight and twelve viruses and bacteria at any time without showing any symptoms and Rein Houben, an infectious diseases researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, says this makes perfect evolutionary sense for the microbes because “making people infectious but not ill is an excellent way to spread and persist in populations.”
They’ve even got rats on the payroll: deprived of their usual diet of discarded food and restaurant leftovers, rats in American cities are becoming much more aggressive and eating other rats, leading to unconfirmed reports of rats protesting about the lockdown and demanding people are let out again to drop hot dogs and burgers, but go easy on the chilli please.
South Korea, one of the countries that has been quite successful in containing the virus, has recently seen a new increase in the number of infections and has reintroduced some lockdown measures. We’ll find out in a week or two if we’ve been let out too early.
But there are advantages in physical distancing – just think of all the frotteurs who are beginning to foam at the mouth.
Kindnesses this week include J K Rowling’s publishing a new book, The Ickabog, free online for children; it won’t be available in the usual formats until the autumn; and she’s giving all her royalties to projects helping people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
You may also remember I mentioned last week that a Fijian veteran of the British army was being asked to pay £27,000 to the NHS for his treatment following emergency brain surgery, and how unfair it is that the UK just casts off Commonwealth citizens who have fought for our country but get no support after they’ve left the military.
Well, a bunch of them is taking on the government to get what they are surely due and, in the meantime, a crowdfunding effort by sympathisers has raised more than £30,000 and Taitusi Ratacaucau said “Thank you very much for your support, compassion and kindness. I feel humbled and relieved that there are people out there that care …”
Come on Boris, you weed, need to redeem yourself somehow and you’ve bottled over Cummings. Do something decent for a change.
* My wife has asked if all my heroes are women and I had to admit that most of them are.