Dominic Cummings isn’t going.
The scandal, while huge, is not enough to push him out the door. Even his presence getting in the way of the Government tackling a pandemic he is staying. Those of use who think he should go won’t get our wish.
Boris wants us all to move on, but Boris hasn’t got his wish either. The Government and the majority of voters are at loggerheads and neither of them are budging.
Some people have suggested that Cummings can’t be sacked because he has some kind of hold over Johnson – compromising information, revelations of past skullduggery, or photos of him doing sexy things with an animal.
I am sure that there are plenty of skeletons in Boris’s cupboard, enough to fill a wardrobe and spill out into Narnia, but generally people knew about Boris before he was elected and didn’t really care. The risk to Boris of his past lies coming out is low. People knew he was a liar and a cheat and still voted for him.
That is not to say that there are no secrets. Of course there are. But keeping Cummings in place does not stop those secrets from surfacing, in fact the opposite – we will forever wonder what other lies he has told, what else is being covered up. And in time the truth will leak out, each bit chipping away a bit more of the Governments credibility.
While the fury towards Cummings and Johnson is intense this isn’t actually an unusual situation. For most of my lifetime politicians have had scandals, and most of the time those scandals have originated in the clique they have gathered around themselves:
Margaret Thatcher surrounded herself with gang of people who were ideologically similar to herself but utter rotters. Cecil Parkinson, Jonathan Aitken (who she tried to persuade to marry her daughter to create a dynasty), Jeffery Archer, Neil Hamilton, and her son Mark were only the most memorable of the dozens of scandals that haunted her Government. Most of John Majors time as PM was spent dealing with sleaze stories emanating from Thatchers favourites.
Blair had scandals with Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, Gordon Brown with Damian McBride. David Cameron appointed Andy Coulson as his press spokesman despite knowing that he wouldn’t pass vetting due to his involvement in the phone hacking scandal. More worrying Cameron appointed Dame Pauline Neville Smith as National Security advisor even though she too failed vetting due to her “relationship with Russian businessmen”.
It’s not just Prime Ministers that have this problem. Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition surrounded himself with a clique of people from the fringes of the left, who dragged him into the worst racism scandal in the parties history.
Cameron Brown and Blair were smart enough to realise that advisors who caused scandals had to go. Major, although a nice man, was weak, and ill equipped to sort out the mess Thatcher had left him.
The rest were self-styled outsiders or maverick, even though they were comfortable establishment figures (Corbyn and Johnson) or could bend the establishment to their will (like Thatcher). They lacked the judgement and life experience that would have allowed them to see how their ghastly their mates antics looked to ordinary people.
But this isn’t just a political thing. There is a classic management problem here too. The story of the close team who works short term miracles then suddenly falls apart.
It starts with a small tightly knit group of liked minded men (it’s almost always men) who work brilliantly and achieve great things. Eventually they find a problem which requires a wider range of thinking. The team can’t accommodate outsiders that bring fresh thinking, nor can they see the need to expand their ideas. The inability to shake up the team membership to bring in new skills, concepts and talents cripples their ability to function.
One of the best examples of this comes from football. Sweary football maverick Peter Reid and his close knit team took Sunderland from the bottom of the Championship to a top 6 Premier League finish. He did so with a team of like minded coaches who he was fiercely loyal to. It was a footballing miracle.
And then, one day, it stopped working. Opposing teams worked out the tactics, and they started to lose games. Swearing at players brought diminishing returns.
There were people around who could have added to the thinking, in particular veteran defenders Thomas Helmer and Steve Bould, but their opinions weren’t welcomed. Reid and his mates couldn’t change and they wouldn’t admit anyone into their circle who didn’t think like them.
Getting through this kind of challenge takes experienced leadership not least to recognise the nature of the problem. But more than that it takes diversity. Sustainable high performance needs diversity. A diverse senior team, with a diverse range of talents and views will out perform a gang of testosterone soaked shouty boys every time, given time.
This is where we are now.
Boris’s gang of testosterone soaked shouty boys desperately need to dump Dom and bring someone into the team with fresh ideas. The team that was so effective in short term campaigning is utterly rubbish at governing. They desperately need someone to come in who is good at running things, and who doesn’t share the limited mindset of the current clique. But Dominic won’t go, and won’t accept anyone in who might be a rival, while Boris is too inexperienced to spot the problem and too weak to do anything about it. The person they bring in should be someone diverse bringing a fresh outlook and perspective as well as talent. But Boris team of top blokes won’t accept someone like that as their equal.
Without these changes Boris’s government will never move on. They will simply stagger from crisis to crisis, hopelessly out of their depth.
The biggest issue is where this leaves Government efforts to tackle Coronavirus.
Track Trace and Isolate was due to start on the 28th, but the systems aren’t ready until next week. The app doesn’t yet work, and the human systems haven’t been set up.
Crucial meetings with Public Health England and the team leading TTI haven’t happened because someone forgot to do organise it. It really is as shambolic as that.
TTI involves sending a message to people telling them to self isolate for 14 days. The recipient has no way of checking the message is correct, or finding out who they have met. Messages are being sent out by text but not by DH. Scammers are sending out fake messages to harvest private data. The recipient had no way of knowing if their text is real or a fraud.
The system requires a huge amount of trust. Sadly that trust isn’t there, and as a consequence TTI won’t work either. Businesses can’t function not knowing who will turn up to work each day. Care Homes will have no staff within a few weeks of the system going live. Lots of people who have just been told by Boris that they can start returning to normality won’t go back to isolation just because they got a text.
I suspect the Government knows that TTI is doomed, and when it fails will blame the voters not themselves. It’s hard to see that going down well. DH are already planning for the 2nd wave to arrive at the end of August.
This is where we are heading:
So if this isn’t really anything new why has it aroused so many emotions?
Most people aren’t really interested in politics. That is to say that they are not really interested in the detail of policy. Instead most people, including those who talk a lot about politics, have strong view on politicians. Lots of people who had strong negative views about Jeremy Corbyn agreed with lots of his politics, and lots of people who were passionate advocates of Corbyn disagreed with lots of his policy positions, or didn’t care what they were.
Lots of people voted not for the Conservatives but for Boris and for his slogans, particularly “Get Brexit Done” and “Oven Ready Deal”, helped by Corbyn’s incompetence and petulance.
This scandal puts Johnson in huge trouble because it changes peoples perceptions of him in a very negative way. Not everyone will feel this way, but this issue cuts across issues of politics and shapes what people thing of him and his entire Government.
While Dominic and Boris stagger on we have the worst death toll in the world
While Ministers behave like this: