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Do no wrong Dom
Written by Katie Stanton, senior associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
26 May 2020
Yesterday, while my household and I were busy scoffing sausage rolls and generally lolling in the sunshine at our first nervous picnic of the summer, Dominic Cummings was busy putting something rather less savoury in his mouth – namely, his foot.
Actually, I’m doing a disservice to Dom’s foot, it may well be delicious, but he definitely ate it. Whole. And then he ate the other.
He’ll get by fine feetless though, I should think. Partial blindness and a deadly virus did little to stop him road-tripping up and down the A1(M) during lockdown, jamming to Americana, chain-eating crisps and rubbing his grubby paws together at every Welcome Break and market town he happened to stumble upon.
Yes, the senior adviser to the prime minister gave his reasons for breaking lockdown restrictions to drive 260 miles to his parents’ farm in County Durham at a press conference yesterday.
In short, he made the drive to secure childcare when his wife became ill, which he believed constituted “exceptional circumstances”. He also notably drove himself and his young family around 30 miles from his family farm to the town of Barnard Castle – 15 days after first displaying symptoms of Covid-19 – on Easter Sunday to “test his eyesight and readiness to drive back to London” for work, which he then did the following day.
Yes, you heard that right. He tested his eyesight, with an hour’s drive, to a popular attraction, with his son in the car. In a happy coincidence, it was also his wife’s birthday.
Meanwhile, the rest of the UK was under lockdown.
Throughout Monday’s press conference, Cummings said he had no regrets, that he believed he had acted “reasonably” and within the law. He also added that he had not considered resigning over the issue, and that it was ultimately up to Boris Johnson to decide his fate.
I don’t want to dwell too much on this one; there are far more qualified people who will have a far more insightful take. But I can offer some personal reflections.
To be unsure of something as dangerous as coronavirus, or even the condition of your eyesight, and still risk it all is the height of arrogance (I’ve written before about this here). It’s no surprise that he refused to apologise or show any humility.
Even worse though is dishing out advice and flouting it based on your own feeling of self-importance and instinctive correctness, while others are resigned to die alone, grieve alone, care alone.
There may be more that we don’t know, so I am hesitant to proffer a final verdict. What I can say is that, with any luck, this will finally convince Cummings of his own capacity for failure.
The UK government is to try to shift focus away from the Dominic Cummings row and on to plans to further ease restrictions in England. The senior aide’s statement yesterday overshadowed Boris Johnson’s new plans to reopen all non-essential shops in England in June. Johnson said shops will be able to open if they meet safety guidelines.
Ireland has recorded no deaths linked to Covid-19 for the first time since March. The country’s leader, Leo Varadkar, said yesterday was a “day of hope” as only 59 new coronavirus cases were detected, and the death toll remained at 1,606.
A senior Chinese official has said that Hong Kong’s democracy protests are fanned by “terrorists” who pose an imminent threat to national security, as Beijing paves the way for a crackdown on dissent. (£)
Business and economy
The New York Stock Exchange is set to reopen its trading floor today after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The exchange will look and feel very different as new rules come into effect, with only a quarter of the normal workforce allowed to return to work. Traders must also avoid public transport, wear masks and follow strict social distancing rules.
Customs and haulage industry leaders have warned that the UK government is falling far short of a target to train the estimated 50,000 new customs agents that will be needed after Brexit. (£)
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean. The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbo jets, which had been specially converted for the task. The rocket ignited its engine seconds later, but an anomaly meant the flight was terminated early.
Columns of note
In today’s Times, James Kirkup argues that the eight million workers currently on furlough need new skills and experience if they are to survive the recession– and the mental health implications of being without work. Volunteering to help charities, to tutor children virtually who can’t go to school, or to clean up parks will help the UK’s workers to fill a gap in their CVs with skills, better equipping them for a rapidly evolving job market. (£)
Writing in The Atlantic, Tom Nichols ponders why Donald Trump’s supporters don’t hold the president to their own standard of masculinity. A cohort of his voters are rural, working class men “whose fathers and grandfathers came from a culture that looks down upon lying, cheating, and bragging”, who have no affinity for the elites or cosmopolitan living, who admire and value understated swagger, and believe in an honest day’s work for a day’s wages. And yet many of these men expect none of those characteristics from Trump.
The week ahead
The European Commission this week prepares to table detailed plans for the €500bn recovery fund and upcoming multiannual financial framework, which runs from 2021 to 2027. The fund still needs agreement from all 27 EU member states, and a fractious debate rumbles on, with Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden opposed to the landmark Franco-German plan to offer grants to hard-pressed nations.
Back in the UK and Michael Gove will face questions from MPs on the overall progress made during three rounds of Brexit talks with the EU. The cabinet office minister is joined by the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost.
On Thursday the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility is due to publish estimates for the cost of the unprecedented measures to keep Britain’s economy afloat during the Covid-19 crisis.
What’s happening today?
In 2014 Nepal launched a TV show called Integrity Idol, which is inspired by American Idol but instead of rewarding pop stars, it rewards honest government employees.
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