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Editorial: Cummings’s confessions show the government has failed and continues to fail

DOMINIC CUMMINGS was Boris Johnson’s pick as consigliere and it is on the head of the capo dei capi that responsibility rests.

Cummings is cast in the role of penitente and his confessions add only density and detail to the indictment which public opinion has already prepared.

This government, by errors of omission and commission, with mendacity and criminal neglect, has compelled the British people to endure a year or more of death and disease at a scale unparalleled in recent history outside of catastrophic war.

Johnson may find that, while in the short term his ministers and MPs will gather to his defence, over the longer stretch they may prove deficient in that vital quality, loyalty.

Johnson was never the unqualified choice of the key decision-makers in the Tory Party and, even in his shameless opportunism, he does not represent its political centre of gravity. 

Beyond the formal structures of his party and deep into the nexus of ruling-class power he is valued only for his utility in exorcising the ghost of the Brexit Party.

Johnson is lucky that in this pandemic the serial failures of his government are obscured by the more or less complete absence of an opposition and by the consequent failure to hold him or his ministers to account.

It is a tragic commentary on the status and credibility of the parliamentary opposition that neither Johnson nor his his hapless Health Secretary have faced much in the way of a parliamentary assault.

It must have occurred this week to thousands of football fans — and especially the supporters of Liverpool — that a complete lack of accountability is becoming the defining characteristic of the British state and its servants.

Bent cops, lying lawyers and a judiciary blind to justice have failed to hold to account the people responsible for the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans while the two houses of Parliament between them cannot find reason or resolve to hold the government to account over the deaths of 128,000 people.

Johnson and Matt Hancock have calculated that any communication carried by a courier as compromised as Cummings will have a limited effect. 

Initial polling evidence gives some support for this proposition, but they may well have underestimated the British public who view these questions from the standpoint of practical experience gained in over a year of tortured travail.

The Prime Minister and his Health Secretary may well calculate that they can ride this one out without immediate consequences, but people are quite able to make a distinction between the compromised character of Cummings and the truthfulness of his account.

The steady accretion of evidence is that this government has failed and continues to fail, even as it dresses itself in the successes of a vaccination programme driven by an NHS that was denied the public funding that swelled the bank accounts of ministerial cronies by billions.

Like Lucifer, the fallen angel, Cummings is consigned by his rebellion against authority to eternal damnation which, in his case, is exclusion from government office.

Lucifer thought it better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. Cummings’s evidence reveals that the No 10 in which he served was a hellish pit of indecision, ignorance and a patrician disdain for evidence and expertise.

Westminster Labour has sought to gain the initiative with calls for an immediate inquiry rather than the late summer one proposed initially by Sir Keir Starmer. 

This is good, but the demand would resonate more clearly with the public if the actions of the government over the past year had been subjected to a sustained barrage of parliamentary criticism and a mass campaign for public health to be prioritised.

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