[Originally written for and published for Empoword Journalism]
Recent allegations made against Dominic Cummings and the resulting surge of government support for his actions have shrouded the Prime Minister’s chief advisor in a cloak of invulnerability. While many have criticised Cummings’ behaviour, the response has raised questions that go beyond the chief aide himself: are our (mostly) elected representatives becoming a group of untouchables?
Following the tragedy of the Titanic, American socialite Margaret Brown’s volunteer efforts and sheer survival saw her nicknamed “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. After being rescued herself, she had protested that the lifeboats should return to the decimated ship to find survivors, and she later led the effort in providing aid to those who lived.
Another figure has now emerged in showing a similar ability to keep their head above water in surprising circumstances, however it is not for gallant deeds that the untouchable Dominic Cummings has gained his title.
The last 48 hours have seen the collaborative efforts of papers the Mirror and The Guardian shed unwanted light on the various goings-ons of the Prime Minister’s senior advisor. Allegations made against Johnson’s chief aide orbit around two reported trips to a relative’s house in Durham, which happens to be 250 miles from his London home.
The first trip was exposed on Friday 22 May, and many senior Conservative MPs were quick to show their support for Cummings as he faced an onslaught of criticism. They reiterated that his movement for the sake of childcare was indeed “essential travel”.Dominic Raab✔@DominicRaab
It’s reasonable and fair to ask for an explanation on this. And it has been provided: two parents with Coronavirus, were anxiously taking care of their young child. Those now seeking to politicise it should take a long hard look in the mirror. https://twitter.com/iainjwatson/status/1264124644191277057 …iain watson✔@iainjwatsonFirst official @10DowningStreet statement on Dominic Cummings : ‘mr Cummings Believes he acted responsibly and legally’11.3KTwitter Ads info and privacy21.1K people are talking about this
Once the likes of Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab had come out and openly backed the senior advisor, the papers further bolstered the already raging fire with allegations of further trips made to the city. These didn’t come with any trace of a childcare-based disclaimer.
The 24-hour gap between the two reports had a booby trap-esque quality to it, as it had the potential to have MPs eating their words within hours depending on the outcome of Johnson’s daily briefing. This never materialised of course, as the nation sat baffled on their sofas as the Prime Minister continued to support his chief aide.
Many parallels can be drawn between the well-studied tropes of the dystopian and what we are currently facing as we live through a global pandemic. But for many this incident has brought the narrative of the likes of 1984 and Animal Farm a little too close for comfort.
Each day we now seem to sit down to watch politicians speak in a manner closer to Orwell’s Doublespeak than plain truth. If the government is so quick to defend something that the public finds so positively indefensible, how can we hold these figures to account?
While Molly Brown was admired for her ability to stay afloat, the untouchable Cummings’ stubbornness and apparent unsinkability are unlikely to win him any fond nicknames. The advisor has got away with it for now, but the next couple of days will show whether the British public decides to mimic the advisor’s behaviour and whether, like trips to Durham, untouchability will be a privilege extended to the many or continue to be a prerogative only for the entitled few.