Here’s a thought. For a whole week now, Dominic Cummings has been mocked and excoriated for his Covid road trip. The story has caused no end of grief for the Prime Minister, for the Government, and of course for Mr Cummings himself.
But what if this was his plan all along?
Think about it. This is a man, don’t forget, with a deserved reputation as a modern-day Machiavelli, a schemer supreme, a grandmaster of 4D chess. I posit, therefore, that Mr Cummings’s delightful motoring tour of northeast England was not, contrary to popular belief, a ruinous political blunder. Quite the reverse. It was, instead, a dazzling strategic masterstroke.
Let us place ourselves, for a moment, in the great man’s shoes. We see the devastation being wrought upon the British economy. We observe the despair of honest workers who through no fault of their own have lost their livelihoods. We note the misery of pensioners unable to see their grandchildren. The time has come, we decide, to end the lockdown, reopen the economy, and return everyone to normal life.
But how? Our characteristically persuasive messaging – “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” – has proven all too successful. Millions now appear terrified to leave their homes, or go to work, or send their children back to school. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has grown frustratingly nervous about loosening restrictions. What is Westminster’s most brilliant thinker to do?
Simple. Break lockdown himself – and then, when the breach is inevitably exposed, refuse even to apologise.
The result: the British people are so indignant, so appalled at the injustice, the sense of “one rule for the elite and another for us”, that they refuse to accept lockdown a moment longer. It’s over.
And so, in a single, inspired move, Mr Cummings achieves precisely what he wanted.
The man’s a genius. But not just a genius. He’s also a hero. Think how selfless he has been.
In the interests of the British economy, Mr Cummings has willingly turned himself into a national laughing stock. He has permitted himself to become the butt of jokes about eye-tests for the rest of his life. He has even managed to radicalise the Daily Star, a newspaper that normally ignores politics altogether, and yet this week, for three days in a row, devoted its front page to ridiculing him without mercy – while giving away, to each of its 300,000 readers, a free Dominic Cummings mask (caption: “Can’t be —– to stick to the rules like the rest of us? Simply wear this handy Dom face covering and you’ll get away with murder”).
A strategist like Mr Cummings, you can be sure, will have war-gamed all the possible outcomes, and foreseen every word of the humiliation now being visited upon him. But, for the sake of the greater good, he went ahead with his plan anyway. Look what he was prepared to sacrifice. Obviously not his £99,000-a-year taxpayer-funded Government job, but, at any rate, his reputation. His reputation as a master of public relations. His reputation as the Conservative party’s most prized asset. His reputation as a man of above-average intelligence. He gave all of that up. For us.
He will never now receive the acclaim he deserves. But, for a man as noble as Mr Cummings, the knowledge that he has his served his country will be reward enough.