Today’s interview with Dominic Cummings was mesmerizing. A combination of weak questioning and a certain amount of groping around, by Kuenssberg, for answers to suit a narrative that would make Cummings look self-obsessed and lacking in credibility and a real insight into Cummings’ personal agenda and sense of entitlement. Perhaps even more shocking is the implication that the British political system is run by a bunch of people with an overblown sense of entitlement, including many unelected individuals, who seem to be focused on their own interests, rather than what’s best for the country.
- Boris Johnson once jokingly told him it would be “ludicrous for him to be PM” and that he thought the idea that David Cameron was PM and that George Osbourne wanted to be PM was also ludicrous.
- Laura Kuenssberg repeatedly accuses Cummings of making things “personal” and suggesting that he’s only speaking out because he wants “revenge”, which he repeatedly refutes. Essentially attacking him personally and undermining his credibility rather than investigating and questioning his claims.
- On the govt’s handling of Covid, Cummings is clear, the people in charge were simply not fit for the job and Johnson wasn’t taking the threat seriously. Johnson was effectively expecting business to continue as normal, cabinet ministers were still meeting face to face and Johnson insisted on meeting the Queen, in person, for his weekly visits.
- Cummings claims the government’s initial plan for ‘handling’ the Covid outbreak (Plan A) was to pursue a herd immunity agenda.
- Kuenssberg then repeatedly accuses Cummings of lying because he didn’t tell the whole truth about his trip to Durham, again attacking his credibility. Cummings insists everything he said at the time was true but that he’d left out the primary reason for him leaving, which he said had something to do with security issues at his home – issues he didn’t wish to talk about publicly at the time.
- Kuenssberg continues the attack on Cummings’ credibility by questioning the claim he made about trying to test his eyesight by driving his car around Durham. Then she flat out accuses him of lying and suggests that the truth was that he had just decided to go on a family trip for his wife’s birthday.
- Cummings then tells us that Johnson initially did not want the country to go into the first lockdown and that he said this repeatedly at various meetings. Then, after the first wave had passed and Johnson returned to work, having recovered from Covid himself, he seemed convinced that it had been a good idea to lockdown. However, according to Cummings, Johnson quickly changed his tune, again, after “the Telegraph and various parts of the media and the Tory party started screaming” and decided that it would have been better to run with the herd immunity strategy, let Covid “wash through the country” rather than handicap the economy.
- In September, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whittey told Downing Street of their concerns, suggested we needed an ‘icebreaker’ and that we should “consider hitting it hard and early” but Johnson was refusing to bring back restriction because he didn’t want to be seen to be in agreement with Keir Starmer. He also had a number of Tory MP’s demanding that he reject another lockdown – MPs who, Cummings claims, were spouting all kinds of fake news about Covid – and then he had the Telegraph screaming at him, which, Cummings says, Johnson would refer to as “my real boss”
- According to Cummings, even by October, Johnson was saying “it’s all nonsense and lockdowns don’t work anyway” and his attitude was “well, this is all terrible but, the people who are dying are essentially all over 80 and we can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80”
- Cummings is clear, Johnson “put his own political interests ahead of people lives”
- Talking about Brexit, however, Cummings is unnervingly non-committal .. “no one on earth knows” if Brexit was a good idea but then insists it was a good thing that Brexit happened.
- He then admits that the £350Million a week figure emblazoned on the side of the Brexit bus was essentially a lie but they did it anyway because they knew it would send the Remain campaign into meltdown. Of course, getting Cummings to admit that he had lied (as had others, including Johnson of course) and demonstrating that he is thus capable of lying is about the most damaging thing you could do to his credibility.
- Cummings admits that he supported Johnson’s leadership campaign, even though he knew Johnson was useless, because he felt that it would be easier for Cummings to be able to manipulate him and get him to do what he wanted him to do. He adds that he only decided to support Johnson in the 2019 election because the choice was between Johnson and Corbyn and he preferred Johnson.
- Cummings then goes on to admit that there’s a network of a few dozen, really influential, people (including himself), who had been involved in the Leave campaign, who made the decisions, for the country, as to who was going to be the next PM.
- He then claims that Johnson came to him, shortly before he was going to be appointed Tory leader & PM, and asked him to join his team and help him to get the party out of the mess it was in at the time. Cummings adds that he only agreed to do it as long as Johnson agreed to his terms. He suggested that he wanted Johnson to agree to “a serious agenda”. The question Kuenssberg failed to ask was “whose agenda?”
- Cummings then also admits that he was behind the strategy adopted by the team negotiating the Brexit deal – demand a good deal and threatening Brussels with ‘no deal’ if they didn’t meet their demands. His guidance to ministers at the time was to “keep bulldozing, prorogue, refuse assent… use extreme measures”
- At one point, Cummings describes some of the MPs, even on his side of the debate as “absolute morons”
- On why he left Downing Street, Cummings states that Johnson was unhappy because the media had labelled Johnson a puppet for the vote leave campaign and because Cummings was pursuing his own political agenda rather than working on the things that mattered to Johnson – i.e. handling the media and campaigning. Johnson, he says, had no real political plan other than “buy more trains, buy more buses.. build a tunnel to Ireland”. They had also fallen out over Johnson’s handling of Covid and Cummings was unhappy about Johnson’s then girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, interfering with appointments.
- Cummings claims that Carrie had decided, after the 2019 election, that she wanted to be the person pulling the puppets strings, not Cummings and his Vote Leave network and not Whitehall.
- Cummings then admits that within days of the 2019 general election, Carrie had started to make moves to try and get rid of him (and many of the people he worked with) so he and his Vote Leave network immediately began to discuss how to get rid of Boris Johnson.
- Cummings then goes on to describe the current political system, across all parties and in Whitehall, as insular and rigged – where only MPs get to decide who scales the greasy pole.
- Cummings admits that he did have to break with norms in order to get things done and gives an example that, allegedly, due to EU Bureaucracy, PPE shipments from China would have been delayed by months if he hadn’t intervened. He explains that he had no choice but to intervene given that we had a PM who behaved like “a shopping trolley”
- The interview ends with Cummings describing ways in which to change the political system in this country so that we can “actually solve problems for people outside of the existing current power structures” He suggests that it might be possible “to create different types of networks of power in the world, that can do things without necessarily having to directly go and control the existing parties now, or the civil service.. so you either have to take over one of those parties or create a new one that displaces them, or create some other kind of entity which then ends up kind of assimilating or disrupting that power” Cumming finishes by admitting that he and his network are working to try and remove Johnson as PM because Johnson is now just “inventing”, by which I think he means ‘making things up’, and Cummings believes people deserve to know the truth or otherwise we are all doomed to keep making the same mistakes, over and over again.
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