Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Cummings reversal

I have been amused to see on social and MSM media today that there seems to be a quite substantial overlap in that

The people who, while Dominic Cummings was the PM's principal advisor

  •     regularly called Cummings a liar
  •     said that Boris Johnson's failure to sack Cummings would undermine him

appear to be the much the same people who have been posting today, some time after Boris did indeed dispense with Mr Cummings' services, and after DC turned on his former boss, and

  •    now say that they believe Cummings
  •    suggest that his attack on Boris might undermine the PM.


It is not exactly unusual on either side of the Atlantic for former aides, advisors or even former ministers whose services were no longer required to publicly attack their former boss.

Nine times out of ten such attacks do far more damage to the reputation of the person making the attack than to the person attacked. The people who believe it are mainly those who already desperately wanted any possible reason to believe something bad about the former boss.

The main exception, the point when an attack by a former colleague can be hugely damaging, is when it comes in a resignation speech  - and even then I can recall only two really devastating resignation speeches in my adult lifetime (from Sir Geoffrey Howe and Robin Cook.)

Margaret Thatcher was brought down by the former. 

Blair survived the latter but it was the first really serious torpedo hit below the waterline in the decline which took him from being a colossus who bestrode British politics as no more than half a dozen people have in the past century to the figure who David Cameron summed up in the phrase "He was the future, once." 

I don't think Dom Cummings is another Geoffrey Howe or Robin Cook. We will never know whether the Brexit campaign won because of his leadership or in spite of it. I thought during the campaign that he had blown it: I described his atrocious session giving evidence to the Treasury select committee in 2016 as "shockingly divorced from reality" at the time, and I still stand by that opinion. 

However, given the outcome of the referendum, you can with 20:20 hindsight make an argument, which I assessed here, that the Cummings strategy actually worked. But at the price of heavy reputational damage, particularly to the reputation for integrity, of all those involved.

Last year a number of readers of this blog asked what I thought of Mr Cumming's conduct at the start of the pandemic and I replied that I didn't consider myself able to give a view as I didn't know the facts of the case. However, I now find the sight of a man denouncing the former boss who stood by him when half the political class of this country were calling for his head to be unedifying at best.

He will be remembered - if he is lucky enough to be remembered at all - for a misleading slogan on the side of a bus which provided the Brexit campaign with a new version of the "dead cat strategy."

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