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Many years ago, I worked for a while with someone who, as a young man, had, as far as any of us could understand, found himself at one point or another, fighting on every single side of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. None of us knew why. None of us even knew how. Every so often he tried to explain, but it was just much too complicated. Too many causes, too many factions. Certainly none of us had a clue if he had won or lost, and neither did he. The only thing that was certain was that he had seen, and quite probably done, some very bad things.
Which brings us, in a very roundabout way, to Dominic Cummings’s latest blog. Is there any point trying to understand why he’s written it? Will we get anywhere, trying to decipher whether any of it’s true? Whose side is he on? Whose side are any of us on anymore? All we can know, and we really can know as Downing Street has not denied it, is that the prime minister really did describe his own health secretary, in two separate WhatsApp messages, as “hopeless” and “totally f**king hopeless”.
Cummings, unlike my former colleague, who was simply a young man in the wrong place and time, wages total war as a matter of personal choice. It is the only methodology he knows. He is out to get Boris Johnson, presumably for sacking him, even as he claims that he wasn’t sacked and left at a time entirely of his choosing. He was willing to turn his country into a tornado of mutual hatred as an acceptable price to pay for the chance to reform some parts of the civil service, but also never intended to stay in his job long enough to do any of it.
He is throwing every last fistful of excrement he can place his hands on in the face of Boris Johnson. We learn that Boris Johnson can’t chair meetings because he just reduces them to a farce by telling anecdotes and jokes. All of which Dominic Cummings must certainly have known before he decided to work for him, before he strategised to deliver him his massive majority. Which he did, apparently, in order to serve in his government, but not for long enough to do any of things he wanted to do.
Everything that went wrong, in the entire pandemic, now appears to have been Matt Hancock’s fault, even though Matt Hancock was the only senior cabinet minister who seriously believed that vaccines were the only meaningful way out of the Covid mess. Rishi Sunak, pioneer of the “Eat Out to Spread It About” campaign, and advocate of a reopened economy before any vaccine had even been found, has escaped all criticism.
And the prime minister can only repeat that he has “full confidence” in Matt Hancock, at the same time as not denying that he called him “totally f**king hopeless”.
Naturally, there’ll be no consequences for any of this. It’s just another day of the rolling psychodrama. The ups and downs, the ins and outs, the he said and she saids, the he lied, no she lied. It’s unfortunate that the backdrop to this particular one is that 130,000 people or so have died, tens of thousands of whom, at least as far as Cummings is concerned, did so “needlessly”.
We’re all entirely inured to it. So far down the rabbit hole that no one can even really remember if it even counts as hypocrisy, to have full confidence in the guy you called “totally f**king hopeless”.
Because no one knows what to believe, no one trusts anyone, and no one has a clue who’s meant to be on whose side anymore. They just know that a lot of bad things have happened, and a lot of people died. But at this point, it’s best to just not even try to pretend to understand.