Richard North, 21/04/2016  

Dominic Cummings has at least absorbed some of the lessons we've been so laboriously posting on this blog, not least that much of the regulation currently comprising the Single Market originates at global level.

Thus, in his evidence session on the Treasury Select Committee yesterday, he was able to concede that this type of law would not be removed on Brexit. However, the extent of his knowledge proved to be embarrassingly superficial.

Committee Chairman Andrew Tyrie unwittingly illustrated that point as he probed Cummings's views on the cost of "EU Regulation", asking whether the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD) should be retained. Admitting to being unfamiliar with the Directive, Cummings was more interested in preventing Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan bribing Brussels with cash "to decide our financial regulation".

Had he paid a little more attention to this blog, he would have known that CRD was implementing the Basel III package, agreed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, with global application. With or without the EU, we'd be implementing it, or something very much like it.

It says something for his profound ignorance that he had to be informed by Tyrie of its origins, only then for Cummings to argue that this was a good reason for leaving. The assembled MPs, however, failed to pick up the other example cited, one of Cummings's 2001 Clinical Trials Directive. That, he claimed, illustrated the absence of the EU's error correction system. Had they known that it was in the process of being replaced by the 2014 Clinical Trials Regulation, they could have had a field day.

This was Cummings's main objection to the Single Market, which he bizarrely defined as including the Schengen area and the euro. It took Tyrie no end of time trying to extract a simple admission from the man that Vote Leave didn't want to be in the Single Market. Cummings's first inclination was to deny that we were actually in it.

Then another of his obsessions emerged – the impact of the Procurement Directives, the costs of which, he asserted, were being "covered up" by the Civil Service. Little did he realise that these too have their roots in the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. They too have global reach.

Such niceties, however, are totally beyond the ken of mere MPs – or the legacy media, and especially the cowardly Telegraph, which chose to ignore this event. But enough of Cummings was showing for the Committee to be singularly unimpressed. To watch his "defence" of the Vote Leave £350 million claim is an education in its own right (see the video above). For a reality check, see here.

His behaviour got him a report in the Guardian which revelled in reporting Labour member Helen Goodman's views. After questioning him, she posted a message on Twitter saying: "Genuinely alarmed at the behaviour of Dominic Cummings who runs Vote Leave. He seems to have no grip on reality at all".

Tyrie accused him of playing "fast and loose" with the facts, but then had the questionable pleasure of having Cummings accuse the Bank of England and the Treasury of "scaremongering", describing Treasury civil servants as "charlatans" and accusing the Cabinet Office of threatening people who did not support it.

With the real fun now to come, with a recall in prospect, Tyrie said these were "truly extraordinary claims" and challenged him to provide evidence to back them up.

With more than three hours on Parliament TV the train-wreck session had Cummings being variously truculent, sneering, aggressive, rude and abrasive. At least the man took no trouble to hide his true character, demonstrating for all to see quite what an impossible man he is.

This gave the Guardian exactly its opportunity, opening its print report with a narrative from John Crace that has to be read in full. You get the flavour of it here, with: "Only when Cummings was certain he had got the backs up of everyone in the room, did he eventually slump into his seat like a moody adolescent". He "had a reputation to maintain. He hadn't yet found anyone he couldn't pick a fight with – any mirror would do – and he didn't intend to start now".

In terms of the narrative, we get the sense of the querulous interviews, as Tyrie asked Cummings "whether we could talk about some of Vote Leave's figures".

"As it happened, we couldn't", writes Crace. "We could talk about why the EU was the most corrupt organisation on Earth, we could talk about why Boris Johnson and Michael Gove weren't actually members of the establishment, we could talk about why everyone in the Treasury and the Bank of England were complete morons, we could talk about all sort of secret threats that secret people were making about secret things that he would have to keep secret, but talking figures wasn't on the table".

The narrative continues:
"I don't think it's Vote Leave's job to provide figures", Cummings announced triumphantly, his eyes swivelling manically. "But Vote Leave quotes numerous figures on its website", said Tyrie, "Most of them misleading or inaccurate".

"Accuracy is for snake-oil pussies", Cummings hissed under his breath. "And besides, I've got a really bad memory".

“Is it not true that you only provide the costs of the EU and none of the benefits? You make the same mistake as Boris Johnson. You don't read carefully enough. Wouldn't it have been useful to have done some of the maths".

"It's just a matter of a few decimal points", Cummings said.

Tyrie blinked. Earlier on he had been prepared to accept he might have been dealing with an idiot savant. It only now dawned on him that he was just dealing with an idiot complete. "There are quite a lot of decimal points between £33 billion and £16 billion", he pointed out.

"When you're sitting in your slippers chatting to Mrs Tyrie..." Cummings diverged, worried that he had not yet been sufficiently offensive.

At this point several members of the committee started wondering if there was a doctor on call nearby, but Cummings was only just warming up. No, he couldn't confirm whether a Vote Leave advert had been deliberately designed to look like an NHS brochure.

No, he couldn't confirm Britain was in the single market, because we definitely weren't even though we definitely were. No he couldn't confirm why Vote Leave was claiming that intra EU trade had fallen since 1999 when official figures showed it had actually gone up by 39 percent.

So it went on. No, he couldn't confirm when Vote Leave would make the macro-economic case for Brexit because these figures were obviously top secret and if he were to make them public then they wouldn't be secret any more.

No, he couldn't name the Goldman Sachs operatives who had bribed everyone in Brussels, because he'd be killed. No, he couldn't name any of the umpteen ambassadors who had told him at secret trysts that they really hated the EU because if he did they would all just say he was crazy.

"You're not wrong there", Labour's Rachel Reeves observed drily, before leaving to lie down in dark corner.
It would be easy to dismiss this as hyperbole, but if anything it errs on the side of generosity. Crace does not even begin to convey the sheer nastiness of Mr Cummings, a man who has made being unpleasant his trade-mark, and honed it to perfection.

Yet this is the man hailed by the chatterati as some kind of genius, the man who The Times thought, would have Cameron "quaking in his boots". The "logic" - if that's what it is - seems to be that someone as outrageous as he, who stomps around Whitehall being obnoxious and difficult just for the sake of it, must be a genius. No one else would dare to behave in such a fashion.

But Cummings is the ultimate fraud. He has learnt how to do the "mad genius" act, sufficient to fool those who confuse Noddy books with PhD material – i.e., the bulk of the Westminster bubble. Put to the test, though, he's been found wanting. He's quite obviously an imposter and no-one can now pretend he's a genius. But we're still lumbered with him as campaign director for Vote Leave, a bed-blocker extraordinaire.

That tells us we're not going to get anything sensible from this quarter - Vote Leave is a useless appendage to the campaign which is doing us nothing but harm - as Pete once again points out. We're on our own, as we always thought we would be. Interestingly, Matthew Elliott, Arron Banks and Richard Tice were all supposed to be giving evidence yesterday, but they too deserted Cummings.

This is the man that left us with the thought that Cameron was "crazy" to say that he would trigger article 50, starting the two-year withdrawal process from the EU, immediately if Britain voted for Brexit. That's fair enough but he then said there was no need to act that soon. In fact, there might be no need to trigger article 50 at all, he argued, "because an alternative withdrawal process might be possible".

With only weeks to go to the poll, there is no Cummings back from that. We are truly in the hands of an idiot.

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