British Plague Puts Super-Rat On Show In Parliamentary Hearing

Photograph Source: Chatham House – CC BY 2.0

It’s completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there, just as the same as it’s crackers that Boris Johnson was in there.

– Dominic Cummings

Last week the House of Commons provided a moment of delicious theatre—actually 7 hours of it– when Boris “BoJo” Johnson’s former de facto chief of staff, the Rasputin-like Dominic Cummings, gave evidence to a parliamentary committee on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One newspaper described his testimony as “incendiary” and “explosive”.

Cummings had masterminded the Brexit campaign and BoJo’s election as prime minister, but they fell out when the ratty adviser got himself into a rivalry with BoJo’s current concubine, Carrie Symonds, and was given the boot when he referred to her as “Lady Nut Nuts”. At the time of writing there are rumours indicating BoJo and Lady Nut Nuts got married “in secret”.

Cummings began his testimony with a show of faux contrition. The entire government had failed “disastrously” in its response to the pandemic, and this included himself. He even apologized to the families whose relatives “died unnecessarily”. But this soon gave way to the pugilist well-known to spectators of the British political scene. Here are some highlights from Cummings’s testimony:

+ BoJo never took Covid seriously, even after he was hospitalized with the virus. He joked that he should have the UK’s chief medical officer inject him with the virus on live TV, to show that Covid was nothing too serious. BoJo dismissed Covid as just “the new swine flu”. Downing Street has refused to comment on this claim.

+ Cummings said the cabinet’s initial strategy did not include a lockdown, in the (mistaken) belief that the UK would ultimately gain “herd immunity” to the virus after a single drawn-out crest in infections and deaths. This despite lacking a vaccine to spur immunity, which in previous pandemics has only occurred as a result of vaccination. The failure to impose a quick lockdown caused thousands more people to die.

+ Cummings saved some of his biggest punches for the long-discredited health secretary, Matt Hancock, saying Hancock lied repeatedly in meetings, had lost the confidence of the civil service, and should have been sacked early in the crisis. To quote Cummings: “I think the secretary of state for health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly”. Cummings alleged that BoJo decided not to sack Hancock “because we need a person to fire when the inquiry happens”. Many fatalities occurred when untested elderly patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes in England, causing Covid to spread in a highly vulnerable section of the population. Cummings said Hancock lied to BoJo when he told the prime minister that hospital patients were tested for Covid before being sent to care homes.

+ “I wish I was the Mayor of Jaws”, said BoJo, expressing his desire to keep beaches, restaurants, and shops open. BoJo can never restrain himself when it comes to inappropriately facile humour (it will be recalled he termed the effort to speed-up the production of ventilators “Operation Last Gasp”), and according to Cummings BoJo joked about letting “the bodies pile high” and that the virus was “only killing 80-year-olds”. BoJo was questioned about the latter in parliament by the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, and it is telling that the habitual liar BoJo did not deny making this claim.

+ Cummings also said that BoJo “changes his mind 10 times a day”, and was “just like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”. BoJo also took-off on holiday at key moments during the pandemic. Cummings said these disappearances weren’t so bad, after all— BoJo was regarded as so maladroit by his aides and civil servants that they rather he didn’t show up for work. Keir Starmer asked BoJo about Cummings’s damning admission: “When the public needed us most, the government failed”. BoJo looked as though he’d seen a deadly ghost as Starmer posed the question.

Since Cumming is a proven fantasist and liar (an “unreliable narrator” in the generous assessment of a newspaper), bent on retaliation for his sacking by BoJo, major media outlets did a detailed fact-check of his testimony.

The usual fact-checking method is to find independent corroboration of claims made by individuals such as Cummings, and here he fared surprisingly well. Not least because members of BoJo’s own party have long been willing to brief, on and off the record and more or less credibly, about the prime ministerial shortcomings now identified, under oath, by someone generally seen as the human approximation of a distempered rodent.

While the brouhaha surrounding Cummings’s testimony was going on, the controversy over the expensive remodelling of the prime minister’s Downing Street flat was being played out. What had long been alleged was confirmed: that the Tory Party and its donors did indeed fund this upgrade initially.

A report by the government’s new ethics adviser, Lord Christopher Geidt, said Johnson acted “unwisely” by embarking on the renovation without “rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.

Apparently, BoJo was not aware Tory donor Lord David Brownlow had settled the bill for the upgrade– estimated at £200,000/S284,000. This was on top of an official £30,000 annual grant for maintenance of the prime minister’s flat. A trendy interior designer was given the job for the upgrade, and the outcome was the source of much mockery on social media—the final result had distinctively1970s Taj Mahal curry house & takeaway vibe.

When a public outcry started over this display of prime ministerial extravagance, BoJo settled the bill himself. Given this last-minute bill-settling, the ever-accommodating Lord Geidt ruled that the “unwise” BoJo did not breach the ministerial code.

Hardly anybody believes BoJo wasn’t in the know when it came to Lord Brownlow’s generosity.

BoJo is an insistent grifter and sponger, and is more than likely to have a mental tally of those who opened their wallets on his behalf.

In the midst of all of this, Lady Nut Nuts became Mrs. Johnson is a secret marriage ceremony.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.