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Corona Diaires: why the Clinton Defence won’t work for Dominic

May 26, 2020

I was wrong about Dominic Cummings. A couple of days ago I suggested that “while Boris feels that he needs him, the feeling isn’t necessarily mutual”.

Yes, it clearly is. Cummings really wants to keep his job. Why otherwise would he go through a humiliating, lawyered-up charade in which he matched every sighting in Durham and Barnard Castle with a narrative seemingly designed in excruciating detail to fit the known facts?

If he is the arrogant prick he’s made out to be in some quarters, it must have taken every ounce of self-control to go through his “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” gambit without telling his inquisitors to piss off and die.

Bill Clinton could attempt to carry off the argument that technically oral sex with Monica Lewinsky didn’t amount to sexual relations because of his charisma, authority and mastery of communications. But faced as he was with impeachment, Clinton surely wouldn’t have tried a story about driving twenty miles with Hillary and Chelsea in the car to test his eyesight. Apart from anything else, Hillary would have filleted him for his gross irresponsibility in even suggesting the idea.

There was another reason why Clinton got away with it and Cummings might not. Clinton was President of the United States, and Cummings is a mere adviser.

Anyway, either Cummings was telling the truth, in which case he’s an idiot (which also reflects on his wife, whose reputation will equally suffer for letting him drive to Barnard Castle), or he’s a liar. Being a liar doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from working in government – especially for the current lot. But there are lies, and then there are stupid, implausible lies that reveal the idiocy of those who tell them. And if the narrative was constructed with the advice of lawyers and the approval of his boss, that makes them idiots as well.

As I was watching him go though his litany, I thought to myself that never in my wildest dreams would I put myself through such an exercise under the guise of “explaining myself”. Unless, of course, I was on trial for murder, in which case I would have hired a far better lawyer than the one who advised Cummings.

What really amazes me is that they ignored a get-out-of-jail-free card waiting to be played.

If I was his communications adviser – which I accept I could never be because the man sees himself as the ultimate master of communications – I would come up with the diminished responsibility argument, which goes like this:

I know now that I was suffering from the coronavirus. Many of those who have been infected have as a result suffered from cognitive impairment. Looking back, I’m convinced that my poor judgement in taking the actions that I did was the result of my illness.

I accept that what I did was irresponsible, but I hope that those who are concerned about my behaviour will understand that my actions were the result of an impaired state of mind. I am now fully recovered, and thankfully so are my wife and son.

I offered my resignation to the Prime Minister. He declined to accept it.

The result? No need for a detailed explanation of his itinerary, of walks in the woods and toilet breaks for his son. A blanket insurance against further revelations. By this statement Cummings would have portrayed himself as a victim of a very scary illness. A sufferer, worthy of public sympathy, not an arrogant rule-breaker.

By offering his resignation to Boris, without having to say so he would have reminded his audience that the Prime Minister was a fellow-sufferer who would have instantly understood the effects of the illness, and was not prepared to let his adviser go because of a mistake made while struggling with the same condition. From which, by the way, he has fully recovered, but only after a spell of convalescence at Chequers.

A written statement to that effect might well have put the issue to bed there and then. Even if there had been questions about why he didn’t go to hospital or otherwise seek medical advice, he would have been able to say that he was in denial – further evidence of cognitive impairment. A perfect defence, because whether it was true or not would have been unknowable.

Thus his extended family would have been spared the intrusive scrutiny they subsequently underwent. He would have been able to continue in his job without the current shadow hanging over him.

But perhaps the one thing I haven’t considered is the power of the ego. To admit to an error of judgement, even one made under the duress of an illness, might have been a step too far for a person who, on the evidence of his blog, is clearly someone with strong opinions, especially about his own abilities.

I may be getting him wrong. He may have been reluctantly dragged into yesterday’s set-piece. But I suspect that he was happy to go along with it on the grounds that it was his opportunity to bask in the sunlight and “set the record straight”.

I also suspect that Boris’s minions in parliament, who have been tweeting with identikit phrases their pious hopes that the whole episode can now be laid to rest, are wrong.

The story is not dead yet.

From → Media, Politics, UK, USA

8 Comments
  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    My brother got married at Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. Now he’s divorced. My uncle also died there aged over 90, having caught a hospital infection. I rest my case, m’lud.

    There is a beautiful 18th century mechanical silver swan in the museum which has less brass neck……. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9dcg-o4efg

  2. deborah a moggio permalink

    a request: For those of us outside the lush environs of jolly old… a video or written version of what he said? Please?

  3. deborah a moggio permalink

    Sounds like he’s on the wrong side of the pond. You keep telling us it’s the same there AND here, but oh dear. I couldn’t believe it.

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