It is an embarrassing moment for the Prime Minister of Britain. If Boris Johnson is today on a sticky wicket after his victory in the third election in 2019, followed by the momentous fruition of Brexit (January 2020), it is primarily because his chief aide, Dominic Cummings, has unwittingly or otherwise let him down and irresponsibly so.
The reflection is on the government that Mr Johnson helms. Hence his appeal to the nation on Wednesday to move on from what he described as a “very, very frustrating episode” centred around his closest adviser who has provoked outrage and scorn for travelling during the coronavirus lockdown.
In point of fact, a worthy of the establishment did violate the certitudes of closure in the wake of a health emergency. Imagine the surprise across the nation, therefore, that the Prime Minister has consistently backed his adviser.
If Cummings resigns, it will jolt Whitehall to its foundations and 10 Downing Street no less.
The continuing presence of the Prime Minister’s chief adviser in No. 10 emits a direly distressing signal at a vital moment.
Cummings has refused to quit after it was revealed that he had driven 400 km from London to Durham in northern England in March with his wife and 4-year-old son. Mr Johnson’s ratings have plummeted after the venerated The Guardian and Mirror broke what has come to be known as the “Cummings story” last Friday.
Both the Prime Minister and his adviser have been stoutly lampooned in the social media. And in a rare moment of candour, Johnson has told a parliamentary committee on the pandemic that “this country is going through a horrendously difficult time and what we need to do really is to move on”.
One must acknowledge the inbuilt resilience of British democracy that the reaction to Cummings’ long drive has been greeted with vehement scorn.
Not the least because the country’s 70 million citizens have endured the most stringent lockdown in post-war history.
The pandemic has surpassed the humanitarian crisis of 1939-45 and the 1947 partition of India. Small wonder that the news that the second most powerful man in the British government had undertaken such a long road journey was received with almost nationwide dismay.
After having defined the lockdown certitudes for the nation and then operating according to his own, very different, set, Cummings has indubitably acted against the interest of the common good.
This is the trust that he has betrayed.
The Prime Minister’s chief aide has outraged wider public sentiment at a time of acute hardship and stress.
A YouGov poll on Tuesday indicated that a huge majority in the country think Cummings should leave his role as chief adviser to the Prime Minister. Both Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings ought to realise that there is no scope for a muddled praxis.
The Prime Minister has advanced a feeble response to an unpleasant truth.