Dominic Cummings pulls back the curtain and declares his genius

Dominic Cummings had clearly given his interview with Laura Kuenssberg some careful consideration, because he was dressed in recognisable clothes rather than his normal sartorial enquiry, “what would happen if Anya Hindmarsh designed a prison jumpsuit?” But had he thought this all the way through? We all know about the multidimensional chess, but had the man really nailed down the implications of what he was about to say?

Having tried and failed to get the people of Britain interested in the fact that their prime minister lacks any human empathy – “OK, it’s not great,” we shrugged from our different pockets of the political spectrum, “but also, we already knew that” – Cummings decided to try a new tack: radical openness. What if everyone could see what was really going on behind the curtain? Would we still be using words like “yawn” and “priced in” then?

So he revealed that, within days of the 2019 election, he and the rest of the Vote Leave team were already discussing how to get rid of Boris Johnson and get someone else in as prime minister. There’s no reason to disbelieve his version of events; it’s not as though there’s a queue of more credible sources lining up to dispute it. But it does sound a bit like a nine-year-old trying to explain the plot of The Godfather.

So, there’s the civil service, and there’s Dom and the Vote Leave team, and one of them has to be in charge, and Carrie chooses Dom because he’s more likely to get her into Downing Street where she believes there’s urgent decorating to do (I’m just trying to flesh out her motivation, there), but then once Dom’s triumphed, Carrie is immediately thinking “why shouldn’t it be me pulling the strings?”

She’d sucked him dry of his wisdom, and now needed somewhere to discard his desiccated bones; we’re invited to think of her as a cross between Martha Stewart and a praying mantis. The words “Lady Macbeth” come up a lot around Carrie, but the latter does from at least some angles appear to have loved Macbeth, whereas Carrie thinks her husband is an absolute idiot.

This is also what Cummings thinks. “I had a plan, I was trying to get things done, he didn’t have an agenda, you know 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.”

It’s a shame Carrie and Dom couldn’t have got along better, being of such similar mind.

Back to those implications, though; it feels almost vulgar to point out, but doesn’t this amount to something like a coup? A shadowy group of ideologues orchestrates the ascent of a man they know to be inadequate to this or any task, to the highest office of state, and within the week are discussing who to elevate to this not-insignificant role next? Does that sound very much like a functioning democracy?

It didn’t help that Dominic Cummings’s eyes were so wild as he described it. Our nine-year-old Godfather narrator has reached the bit about the decapitated horse in the bed, and now you’re a bit worried about his levels of arousal.

Kuenssberg didn’t call it a coup, she went with “con”: by his own description, he had scammed the British public. “I don’t think it’s a con,” he replied, “we were trying to solve very hard problems in the order that we can solve them in.”

Her words were very harsh, but the exchange was not: it felt as though he’d said ahead of time, “you’ll have to go in very hard on me, here”, and was relishing the experience, not because this fierce questioning wasn’t well-founded, but because yet another person was taking his advice.

As for those very hard problems; this is where it all gets metaphysical with Cummings, however many words of his blog you choke through. What are they? There’s Brexit of course, and anyone who’s sure that’s a good idea “has got a screw loose”, he said, poking himself in the eye – unfortunately only with his finger and not with a burnt stick. Yet, for his own part, he said: “Obviously I think that Brexit was a good thing.” Ambivalence is for little people, any of whom would be insane to state as certainty a thing of which he himself is certain.

So let’s just leave aside any very hard problem that Dominic himself has caused: what are the others? It’s never plain, not in the interview, not ever: he is nothing but a revolutionary Oakeshottian. Michael Oakeshott, you’ll remember of course, infected the conservative worldview for decades in the middle of the last century with his deep cynicism and profound lack of purpose. Politics is no great project, but rather, the men in it “sail a boundless and bottomless sea… There is neither harbour nor shelter, neither starting place nor appointed destination.”

Cummings takes this one intoxicating step further – not only is there no vision for change or betterment, not only is the entire purpose just to keep the thing afloat, but everyone steering it is an idiot. That’s his very hard problem that he can only solve one nefarious step at a time: that everyone is stupid apart from him.

You can see why that problem would seem rather insurmountable, and see, too, why Boris Johnson would look like some kind of an answer. Dominic Cummings is the two-eyed king in the kingdom of the blind, he could poke one clean out and still have more eyes than you – from his point of view, one blind person is as bad at seeing as any other.

“That’s OK?” Kuenssberg asked, of his grand con.

“That’s politics.”

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