Why Dominic Cummings deserves sympathy and support – Bill Carmichael

Should Boris Johnson have sacked his chief aide Dominic Cummings?Should Boris Johnson have sacked his chief aide Dominic Cummings?
Should Boris Johnson have sacked his chief aide Dominic Cummings?
“A HIDEOUS ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

Sound familiar? That is actually a description of the “Two Minute Hate” in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, but it could easily be a depiction of Britain over the past week – only today the Prime Minister’s chief adviser has replaced the fictional Emmanuel Goldstein as the “Enemy of the People”.

Anyone who can view footage of Dominic Cummings carrying his four-year-old son through a snarling, screeching mob outside his home – every last one of them ignoring the social distancing rules they self-righteously accuse Cummings of breaking – without feeling physically sick has a stronger stomach than me.

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But apparently this is acceptable because he is “evil Tory scum” and his wife and child are fair game too, and also his family up in County Durham. And at that point we all need to sit ourselves down, take a deep breath and ask ourselves what sort of country have we become?

Dominic Cummings is accused of breaching lockdown rules.Dominic Cummings is accused of breaching lockdown rules.
Dominic Cummings is accused of breaching lockdown rules.

Look, I can well understand that many people are genuinely upset and angry over what they perceive as double standards over the lockdown rules. And many gullible people have been whipped up into a frenzy by fake news peddled by some national newspapers.

Remember, for example, the front page stories about a mythical second trip to Durham and the police questioning Cummings about breaking lockdown rules? They turned out to be entirely 
false but have not been retracted or corrected.

And Cummings has certainly made mistakes – as he candidly admitted – not least the fact that he badly misread the public mood, which is ironic when you consider he is widely regarded as the UK’s premier expert in reading the public mood. He should have spotted this trouble coming earlier.

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But the unhinged level of outrage is simply out of proportion to the alleged offence. What we have witnessed in recent days is nothing short of an unrestrained, sanctimonious bullying and an outpouring of bile and hatred that has brought deep shame on our country.

Dominic Cummings has been at the centre of national attention this week over the lockdown.Dominic Cummings has been at the centre of national attention this week over the lockdown.
Dominic Cummings has been at the centre of national attention this week over the lockdown. | 2020 Getty Images

And what makes it infinitely worse is that senior Church of England bishops, at a time that should be reserved for prayer and preparation for the festival of Pentecost, have instead placed themselves at the head of the howling mob. Bitterly disappointed doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Let’s get a few simple facts straight here. Despite countless allegations, the police are taking no further action against Cummings. The regulations specifically allow the rules to be relaxed in “exceptional circumstances” to protect vulnerable people. This isn’t even disputed – it’s there in black and white.

At the time Cummings had received death threats, his family felt unsafe in their own home, his wife was ill, and he suspected, rightly as it turned out, that he was also about to succumb to the pandemic too, leaving the couple with no way of caring for their child.

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If that is not “exceptional circumstances”, then I don’t know what is. So it was reasonable – and entirely legal – for him to drive to his parents’ farm where he could maintain social distancing rules in a separate property and have his son cared for by family members if necessary. In his shoes, I would have done the same and I suspect so would millions of other people, including many of his fiercest critics.

There is no doubt the affair has damaged the Government, with poll ratings in freefall and Tory MPs spooked by the reaction of the public. But the last thing Boris Johnson should do is sack Cummings. It wouldn’t placate the outrage mob for a second. They’d just move onto a new target. The most vociferous attacks come from bitter Remainers who have been screaming at the moon since 2016 and just can’t accept defeat.

Conservative MPs should hold their nerve and stick to the facts, replying courteously to constituents upset by what they have read, and correcting the record.

There’s a massively important job to be done getting Britain moving again after the pandemic. It is time to unite as a country, reject the hatred and division, and hope that decency and honesty will prevail.

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