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  • Lawrence Bailey

We’ve never all been in this together

A clever friend of mine has been telling me how ‘projection’ is a human condition that emerges at times of personal or political crisis. Basically, we seek out hate figures to blame for our problems.

For the moment, a certain Dominic Cummings seems to be fulfilling that role nicely for a lot of people.

There’s an extraordinary level of resentment out there. It’s not helped in any way by the passive-aggressive stance coming daily from Downing Street.

There’s been such a clumsy shuffling of feet between denials to dismissive shrugs about a round trip to Durham that is now feels that the ministerial brief is to take the piss

Let me state that that, speaking professionally, I regard Cummings as an accomplished influencer. His record made him an obvious choice for Boris Johnson, although he was never going to be exactly manageable. Indeed, most people think the relationship is symbiotic in Cummings favour.

In that regard, and for all his rehearsed verbal hostility towards bubble politics, it very much looks like the ex-Vote Leave maestro succumbed to the age-old hubris of thinking that unrestricted access to No.10 endows you with superpowers – plus a cloak of invisibility.

Maybe this explains a basic lack of empathy presumably behind an astonishing strategy of telling the public they’ve all misunderstood a very basic principle of lockdown.

Something else that arises from admissions about motive is whether it’s a good idea to have someone who purportedly acts out of instinct at times of crisis occupying such a senior and sensitive advisory position.

Where does this leave Boris Johnson? He claims to understand the public anger involved, but it’s evident that he doesn’t; either then or now – and that’s a flaw he can’t readily fix on his own.

Millions of people, including those who would never think of actually voting for him, have nonetheless been willing to apply the benefit of the doubt.

They squinted past the embarrassing hand-waving and Churchillian posturing in the belief that this was someone who appeared to be attempting to do the right thing by everyone.

He now comes across as someone with dependency issues and who is more than a few steps behind the rest of us. That's a pity as he was supposed to be leading.

As recent polls now show, personal backing for Cummings has cost Johnson credibility and damaged his party. Half of his parliamentary majority want his sidekick sacked and there's been at least one ministerial resignation at the time of writing.

What this means in the short term at least is that the press and media will continue to smell blood in the water. They will keep asking inconvenient questions and do all the things that so irritate people in power.

It’s been interesting to see how the no-nonsense brigade who rock on regularly on Twitter about “the will of the people” have suddenly gone all snowflake and want to “move on” whenever someone tries to subject the government to scrutiny.

So far this Trump-esque approach has not extended to claiming that it’s all fake news, but give it time. Nothing would surprise me these days.

Similarly, I hear that the prospect of a ‘Cummings Defence’ in respect of appealing lockdown violations runs the risk of actually becoming a thing.

If history is about milestones then ‘Dom-gate’ is a significant one. It won’t bring down the government and I doubt that it will result in resignations.

What it will mark for many however is further confirmation that we have never all been in this together. Keep safe.

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