Tell us, Boris, the purpose of Dominic Cummings – Bernard Ingham

What is the role of the PM's chief aide Domniic Cummings?What is the role of the PM's chief aide Domniic Cummings?
What is the role of the PM's chief aide Domniic Cummings?
WE shall find out today – just after noon to be precise – whether Boris Johnson can move on from the Dominic Cummings affair or whether his critics are determined to get him – Cummings at least, if not the Prime Minister.

This is the reality of Parliamentary life and the press gallery will be quivering with excitement over Prime Minister’s Questions. Blood sport is alive and well in the House of Commons.

It is too much to hope that it 
is all over bar the shouting. The test is not whether Boris is pestered but how much Labour leader, Keir Starmer, will set the tone.

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Is it to be all-out war on the Durham “weirdo” or just bear-baiting?

Was Boris Johnson right to back Dominic Cummings?Was Boris Johnson right to back Dominic Cummings?
Was Boris Johnson right to back Dominic Cummings?

Some people will find all this unedifying since Durham police are not to pursue Cummings’ minor breach of the lockdown by going for a drive to Barnard Castle to see if he could cope with a 260-mile drive back to London.

But the truth is that the Opposition scent a wounded PM. They may well be encouraged to harry him since reports suggest he has given Cummings the hard word about his future conduct, and that Cummings is contemplating jacking it in at the end of the year when we are scheduled to leave the EU.

We are told that he will think his mission is accomplished if his shake-up – what shake-up? – of Civil Service mandarins is complete by then.

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This begs the question as to what on earth Cummings is supposed to be doing.

The Dominic Cummings lockdown trip to Durham is likely to dominiate PMQs.The Dominic Cummings lockdown trip to Durham is likely to dominiate PMQs.
The Dominic Cummings lockdown trip to Durham is likely to dominiate PMQs.

Is it to help us through the virus he himself feared he caught, regenerate the economy, get us out of the EU on time and secure Boris’ re-election?

Or is it just to recruit fellow weirdos to think outside the box, as they say, and, unhelpfully, to put the fear of God into mandarins? I think we should be told.

The last thing we need, given the coronavirus-induced problems facing the nation – and the PM – is somebody at the heart of government de-stabilising the machine.

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Not since the Second World War have we needed such a single-minded effort in the interests of every living soul in these islands. The effect of a three-month pause in economic activity and the consequent budget deficit from supporting workers, commerce and industry is the stuff of economic nightmares.

The burden of repaying debt will fall on future generations and their interest alone demands we all pull together to get us out of the mess left by the pandemic.

Against this background the distracting outrage over Cummings’ trip to Durham to isolate himself and immediate family in a cottage on his father’s farm looks over the top, whatever the frustrations of lockdown.

The fact that some Tory MPs have joined in is par for the course. As I often told Margaret Thatcher, the Tory Party was her worst enemy.

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The time has come as we emerge progressively from lockdown for all of us to demonstrate conclusively that we are concentrating on essentials: getting children back in school, people back at work and businesses recovering and generating the resources to advance.

Before coronavirus nearly claimed our PM, he faced a mammoth job in repairing our social fabric from the NHS and welfare of the aged to fighting a bloody crime wave.

We also urgently need to look to our defences, whether cyber or military, given the disarray in Europe, the mindless Twitter from US President Donald Trump and the very real menace of Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, both of whom wish to dominate the world.

We stand at one of the more perilous moments in our history and all we are doing is wittering about an admittedly controversial prime ministerial adviser who, so far as anybody knows, has not infected a soul with the virus.

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In short, it is time we recovered a sense of proportion. Is there enough of the statesman in Keir Starmer, given the immoderate pressures within his party, to help us do this?

But, perhaps more importantly, does No 10, the Government machine and the Tory Party recognise the need for Cummings to be clearly seen to be concentrating on priorities and not roughing up senior civil servants?

He may think they have exhibited in their overall approach to Brexit the national defeatism that Mrs Thatcher did not quite eradicate.

But that is no reason when we are on our way out of the EU to take his eye off the ball. We need to know – and soon – just what Dominic Cummings is up to.

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