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Cummings and goings

November 14, 2020

I can’t get excited by the thought of flashing knives in Downing Street. Those who have made their exits from the British government will be replaced by others, and life will go on. Not a particularly good life, as it happens, with worse to come.

I suppose you can’t blame our troubles on a guy who once dressed as a chicken at the behest of a national newspaper and door-stepped David Cameron. After all, if Caligula (a statue claimed to be of him sits in the British Museum) could think of appointing his horse as consul, why not put the government communications apparatus under the control of a chicken?

As for Dominic Cummings, much as I fundamentally oppose the cause for which he successfully campaigned, and ultimately brought to fruition, he shouldn’t be trashed and never heard of again because he road-tested his eyesight and lived to tell the tale. He’s far from stupid. He has ideas, whether you like them or not, but he’s failed to learn the art of the possible.

By pissing off everybody who could harness his ideas and help him make them a reality without making those who oppose them feel small and despised, he became the biggest obstacle to his personal success beyond delivering a project that ultimately might prove ruinous.

I sometimes think that Winston Churchill would have appreciated having Cummings on his team during the Second World War. Winston loved contrary individuals and was never afraid to back oddball scientific and military initiatives, even if some of them came back to bite him on the backside. The difference between him and Boris Johnson is that Winston would never have allowed Cummings to be more than one among many advisers. Churchill was a believer in teamwork, which was why he succeeded in keeping such a diverse group of individuals with different political persuasions and philosophies focused on one overriding objective.

There should always be a place for disruptive thinking in government. But if the disruptor brooks no argument, the ideas they espouse simply become a new orthodoxy as sclerotic as the one they replaced.

I have no great hopes for Boris Johnson’s government now that Lee Cain (Cameron’s chicken) and Dominic Cummings have departed. Boris is still there, and I suspect that he will prove no more adept at leading a new team than he was the old. It would probably help if he negotiated a year’s delay of Brexit on the grounds of the unprecedented instability caused by the pandemic.

But I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m resigned to the possibility that 2021 will be one of the worst years, politically, socially, financially, in living memory. What’s important is where we go from here. Are we to become a nation of scientists, solution providers and creative thinkers, or a fragmented society full of bitterness, envy and grudge-bearing, diminished by the loss of wealth, influence and soft power?

Right now, it seems as if we’re both at the same time. The question is which of the two states will become dominant in the future.

Of one thing I’m certain. We shall not become that creative nation by casting people with awkward personalities, like Cummings, into the outer darkness because our leaders put them into roles for which they are manifestly unsuited. We need to find round holes for everyone, and I’m not talking about dustbins.

Perhaps we should pay attention to the recruiting policies of one of our undoubted centres of excellence, GCHQ, who deliberately seek out people on the autistic spectrum, because their talents lend themselves to decryption and pattern recognition.

We need horses for courses, and leaders who can forge teams that work to achieve common objectives. Are those leaders to be found in our current government? Far from proven, unfortunately. But that’s not to say they don’t exist across the political spectrum. It’s time to seek them out and recognise them, hard a task as that is given the current climate of distrust, media fog and divisive politics.

And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t try.

From → History, Politics, Social, UK

7 Comments
  1. The first requirement of democracy is integrity and honesty. I know all governments tell white lies. That’s run of the mill stuff. But to base your whole approach on lies and propaganda as he has done? You can’t build effective policy on that because it will all come tumbling down when the truth comes out. The country is still waiting for what it was promised, and won’t be happy when it doesn’t get it.

    • Not the whole country, Colin, just the 52 percent of those who voted in 2016, and the 40-odd percent who voted for Boris. I for one would be delighted if we emerged from the chaos and decided to re-join the EU. Though I hope the EU will emerge intact as well.

  2. The 48% were promised the same things as the rest. By the way I didn’t give my name!

    • True. Sorry if I assumed your name was the the same as in your email address. S

      • No worries Thanks I didn’t realise that was getting sent out it says it’s private.

      • I think it’s only visible to me as the site administrator. Fear not! S

      • Thanks. I’ve changed it to make it a bit more anonymous

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