Richard North, 21/07/2021  

Much against my better judgement, I watched the Cummings interview yesterday. And, of all the extraordinary things the failed prime minister's adviser told Laura Kuenssberg, top of the list for me was his complaint that Johnson didn't "have a plan".

This is from a man who, in the lead-up to the EU referendum, rejected the idea of an exit plan, telling us: "there is much to be gained by swerving the whole issue", suggesting that "a 'no' vote really means that a new government team must negotiate a new deal with the EU and they will have to give us a vote on it".

This unforced expression clearly signalled his expectations of a successful referendum campaign. He did not intend us to leave the EU. Rather, the vote would trigger a new round of negotiations, from which a new deal would emerge which would then be subject to another referendum.

Now - after five years of botch, not least occasioned by his refusal to countenance any plan - Cummings asserts: "I think anyone who says they're sure about questions like [Brexit] has got a screw loose, whether you're on the remain side or our side".

Posing the rhetorical question of whether Brexit is "a good idea", he went on to say that "No-one on earth knows … what the answer to that is", before effectively contradicting his own assertion. "I think that obviously I think Brexit was a good thing", he added. "I think that the way in which the world has worked out since 2016 vindicates the arguments that Vote Leave made in all sorts of ways. I think it's good that, that Brexit happened".

If nothing else, Cummings's lack of clarity underlines the limits of, and the shallowness of his thinking. He appears to speak to an inner truth when he conceded that "no-one on earth knows" whether Brexit was a good idea. That truth is that Brexit was never really the objective of the Vote Leave campaign. He'd never thought through the merits or otherwise, as there was no expectation that it would happen.

Another interesting insight comes with Cummings retailing that Johnson spoke of The Daily Telegraph as his "real boss". And although this might have been spoken half in jest, this too speaks to an inner truth. Of all the groupings in society, Westminster politicians are one of the very few left who take seriously the views of the [London-based] national media. Each have their own favourites and it stands to reason that Johnson, as a former Telegraph employee, would be unduly influenced by this title.

For the rest, one returns to his Cummings's comments about Johnson: "he doesn't know how to be prime minister and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country".

It is the Guardian that pick up this bit of the interview for special attention, where Cummings asserts that, by January 2020, people inside government began privately speculating that "either we'll all have gone from here or we'll be in the process of trying to get rid of [Johnson] and get someone else in as prime minister" and discussed ways to oust Johnson.

This was after he perceived that the prime minister's paramour was actively plotting her own takeover, filling Johnson's policy vacuum. He "didn’t have an agenda. The prime minister's only agenda is buy more trains, buy more buses, have more bikes and build the world's most stupid tunnel to Ireland, that’s it", Cummings sniffed.

This was in January 2020, though. But I recall what I wrote the day after the Conservative collective lost any sense it might ever have had, in electing the man as its leader and thus, through a broken and terminally inadequate political system, making him prime minister.

"For my part", I wrote at the time, "there is little more I can say to convey my utter detestation of this man who is so wholly unfit for any office, much less that of prime minister, that I would struggle to recommend him for the post of public toilet attendant".

"For the tenure of his occupation of the post of prime minister", I added, "we will watch his posturing and prancing, not in the expectation of anything coherent emerging, but with the sense of frozen horror that one watches a major accident". I had, I concluded: "no expectations from Johnson other than of incompetence, and cannot wait for this nightmare to be over".

But now, Cummings is thinking of creating an "entity" that could take over from [Johnson's] government. Better late then never, one might observe, although one could also say more "late" than "better". But Cummings wants to create different kinds of "networked power" in the world, that can do things without necessarily have in to control directly the existing parties – or the civil service.

Nevertheless, to gain this "power", Cummings asserts, you either have to take over one of those parties, or create a new one that displaces them, or create some other kind of entity which ends up assimilating or disrupting that power.

As to creating a new party, well Farage has been involved in creating three in his time and all he's got to show for his efforts is a lousy slot on GB News. As for assimilation, the Borg apparently have other plans which don't include Cummings. That leaves him "talking to people" about "things".

Clearly, he says, there are "opportunities" to build something (other than bridges to Ireland) which can actually solve problems for people outside of the existing current power structures.

Asked by Kuenssberg whether it was part of his plan to hasten Johnson's exit from Downing Street, Cummings conceded that "the sooner he goes the better". But the man who himself swerves round plans could only offer, by way of doing things to make that happen, that he was explaining what went wrong.

There's an irony in all of this. Cummings says. If last summer, Johnson had gone down the route that he'd started to go down, which was "the system's failed, let's be honest about the system failing and let's rebuild it, remove people, create new things", things might have been alright.

Unfortunately, for a whole set of reasons, the prime minister decided not to go down that route. He's decided to go down the route of essentially completely inventing. And the people like me, Cummings declared, who know what happened have a duty to speak out and tell people the truth about what actually happened in there. Not because it is revenge, but because if we don't learn, history tells us the same disasters will happen again.

Predictably, the Telegraph was not terribly impressed. Cummings, it decided, has started to resemble a crazed cult leader. Not since Prince Andrew's Jeffrey Epstein interview has self-importance so completely obliterated self-awareness.

Smirking at his own brilliance throughout his BBC interview, the paper says, Cummings clearly thought he was taking a giant step towards ousting the "duffers" he so despises, including the prime minister himself. But the all that happened was that viewers got the chance to stare into his soul. The more he spoke, the more he resembled a crazed cult leader as he revealed his grandiose plans to overthrow the system.

That left Zoe Williams for the Guardian to suggest that Cummings's version of events "does sound a bit like a nine-year-old trying to explain the plot of The Godfather", as he "pulls back the curtain and declares his genius".

In other sense, his great coup is about as credible as the Daleks' plans to conquer the planet Earth, in the very first episodes of Dr Who, which foundered when these all-powerful aliens confronted that most fiendish of man's inventions – the staircase. Little Dom's own "staircase" is his giant ego, on parade yesterday – so formidable an obstacle that he never stood a chance of overcoming it.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

comments powered by Disqus

Log in

Sign THA

The Many, Not the Few