In the past, investigative journalism yielded significant scoops of great public interest which exposed major corruption and dodgy deals. What do the leftist heavyweights at the Guardian and Daily Mirror produce today? The striking revelation that a man drove to his parents to seek childcare for his young son!
And he had absolutely every right to do so. A man doesn’t drive a considerable distance across the country without a good reason. In the midst of a precarious pandemic, it is understandable that you’d rather not resort to strangers taking care of your four year old child. Throughout his stay there he maintained full social distancing and not once during the journey did he expose himself to anybody else. This course of action was careful and reasonable. Cummings wasn’t off partying; he was looking out for his child as a committed father should do.
For any legislation, including something as expansive and hastily drafted as the Coronavirus Act, there needs to be an application of common sense. The bill grants leeway for extraordinary circumstances and the Secretary of State for Health is on record saying that concerns over the wellbeing of small children is a valid reason for movement. As external observers we are simply unaware of the intricate details of Cummings’s family life. Ultimately, only Dominic and his wife are responsible for the welfare of their son and they did what they thought was best for him: nobody else has the right to judge. Indeed, the Durham Constabulary who investigated this matter concluded that no further action was necessary.
Listening to the tone of the news media and certain politicians, you’d think the man got away with embezzlement. Why has such a relatively trivial family matter been exaggerated into Watergate? On the one hand there’s the arrogance of Britain’s mainstream political journalists—they despise Cummings for dismissing their deluded sense of self-importance and assumption of quasi-constitutional duty. This is the first government in a long time which won’t bow to the pressure of columnists and commentators, many of whom have a staunch ideological antipathy towards Boris Johnson and Brexit. In an era of fierce competition from smaller publications online and falling readership, the traditional political news media is like a cornered rat lashing out at the loss of their monopoly over public political discourse. This is a trend that a man like Dominic Cummings understands and cherishes, hence he is a target for their vitriol.
On the other hand, are the MPs looking to score cheap political capital at Mr. Cummings’s expense. This includes anybody in Labour, deep behind in the polls with a new leader so dull he’d put cokeheads to sleep, but also some voices in the Conservative Party too. Some of the latter are just the weaker willed of the parliamentary group, elected but not on board, duped into thinking appeasing the mob will diminish the pressure. Then there are those like Steve Baker, Eurosceptics bitter at the reality that Cummings did more for Brexit in a few months as head of Vote Leave than they did in their entire careers (a point the chief adviser has made less politely). Either way none of it is justified and in sticking by his man, Boris has drawn a commendable red line showing you can’t topple an elected government by whinging.
To avoid situations like this in the future the government must take a more confrontational approach against the media, calling out third-rate reporting and blatant character assassination. The public have never been more dissatisfied with the state of journalism, this sentiment must be reflected by their representatives. Tory MPs who broke rank and joined this circus should be reminded of the necessity of unity; there are tough times ahead post-lockdown and they cannot indulge themselves in silly charades or pander to the dramatisers of British public life. The PM’s chief adviser acted in the best interests of his family amidst precarious circumstances. His detractors manufacture the veneer of wrongdoing to serve ulterior motives. We must not fall for their games.