This evening, Cummings enjoyed a one-hour prime-time slot, interviewed by his chum, Laura Kuenessberg.
In this blog, I’ll set out Cummings’ broad thesis.
- The party system is flawed.
As Cummings put it, any political system which provides Johnson and Corbyn as the only realistic options is – without doubt – broken. Hobson’s Choice, he says. Cummings highlights that, for MPs to climb the ladder, then they must play the party political game. This game does not promote the best people that the country has to offer.
- Whitehall is broken.
One plank of Cummings’ three-pronged deal with Reckless Boris – or “The Trolley” as he prefers to call him (noting that, like me, and unlike Starmer, Cummings wants a name to stick in the mind of the people) – was that he would only enter government if he could smash and then rebuild the civil service. His other demands were: that he could “get Brexit done”; and that he could heavily promote science.
- People are generally either competent or incompetent
Time and again, either in interviews or in his meandering tweets (rarely seized upon by the media, so frenzied they read), Cummings takes the view that either you’ve got it, or you haven’t. Accepting that it’s an unfashionable view, Cummings’ elitist position will win him few friends. For it is he and his coterie of “a few dozen Vote Leave key personnel”, he says, who make these decisions of far-reaching consequence for the rest of us. This Illuminati of British politics, he reckons, determine a key person’s ability to govern, casting aside “losers” and promoting their own.
- Johnson is clueless and dangerous
Devoid of any plan to govern, and “ludicrous”, said Boris of himself, that he was PM, Cummings admitted that his intention was to steer The Trolley. Post-2019 General Election, however, Cummings says that Carrie – Reckless Boris’ umpteenth partner – commenced a purge to remove all of the Vote Leave executives, supplanting them with her friends.
- To make an omelette, eggs need breaking
Explaining the nadir to which our politics sunk, with the unlawful prorogation of Parliament, the misleading of the Queen and the firing of multiple high-ranking Tory MPs, Cummings defended his tactics. His view was that he was without options: that the establishment had lined up to thwart Brexit and, in a political war, no prisoners could be taken.
Let’s quickly examine his positions.
Incontrovertibly, on counts 1, 2 and-4, Cummings is right. And he may well be correct on point 5, too. With point 3, surely people are on a sliding scale of competency.
The party system rejects the independent-minded. The brightest and the best don’t apply. Wannabe MPs have to fight unwinnable seats to prove their mettle, often taking decades to secure election, finding themselves in a seat which they don’t know. Once an MP, though the salary is double the national average, for many MPs it’s a pay cut – a pay cut coupled with a schizophrenic existence: Parliament and the constituency. Few sane people would wish for such an existence, all the while pilloried on social media, or under constant scrutiny, or threat of real danger, as what happened to Jo Cox MP.
Unlike in Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and other countries, the British response to Covid was lamentable, almost genocidal in its effects. At the feet of Reckless Boris, I lay a good chunk of the blame. Time and again his instincts and slow decision-making costs thousands of lives. The last 11 years of Tory mismanagement of healthcare must shoulder a sizeable amount of blame, too, with the rest lying squarely at the door of the senior civil servants. As Cummings points out, when Covid came, the plans were deficient. The wrong stats were used to determine policy. Senior mandarins have had centuries to improve this process, failing us all at the most urgent of times. The deliberately delayed inquest into this carnage will not be kind to the zenith of our civil service.
Reckless Boris’ every key move during Covid has been wrong, or wrong as well as being too late. What Reckless Boris somehow has evaded blame for – though he should face trial for – was ramming home Brexit in the midst of this pandemic. Not even Farage could have blamed him had he pushed it back one year. Worse still, he threatened a No-Deal Brexit at this time, with the concomitant upsetting of our EU friends. When we needed cooperation, Boris sowed division. This is reckless in the extreme, utterly unconscionable, though brilliant. Such malevolent shenanigans unidentifiable through the Covid fog.
To make the omelette – to “get Brexit done” – essentially Cummings took the view that this was war; that the moral political equivalent of carpet bombing was permissible in the circumstances. On this, I shall ponder his view, which has the hallmarks of Machiavelli’s recommendations to statesmen in The Prince, together with Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Whilst considering the ethics of Cummings’ approach, I shall also contemplate the possible return of one, Tony Blair.