“If Dominic Cummings isn’t gone today,” a palliative care doctor tweeted yesterday. “Boris Johnson is insulting every grieving relative I have had to call to explain why they can’t visit their dying loved one in hospital. Every distraught family member at a funeral. Every frontline worker risking their life.” But today Cummings is still very much in position as Johnson’s chief advisor. Johnson has not just insulted every grieving relative: he has given them the middle finger, too. Looking at the world through the thick fog of depression, with a brain that sometimes feels like a clump of papier-mâché, I wonder at what we have become and I despair.
To some extent, Boris Johnson’s so-called lockdown is over for me. I’ve seethed quietly, tut-tutting at the actions of others allowing families from outside their homes to pay lengthy and frequent visits, at the crowds gathering on the beaches and sunbathing in parks and families and friends hosting barbecues in apparent defiance at government rules, rules that, Matt Hancock described as not a “request” but an “instruction”. Indeed, up and down the land whilst the majority of us were, by and large, following government rules, a sizeable minority simply ignored them. You only had to look around my local Tesco this morning with men walking around with what was obviously professionally cut hair, where I walk around increasingly resembling Worzel Gummidge. Many people were fined for ignoring the rules. Yesterday, the prime minister did not sack or even criticise his friend and chief advisor for brazenly breaking the rules, for which he provided the ‘stay home’/’stay alert’ slogans,. He actually praised him. If I had been fined by the police for breaking the rules, I’d be asking Boris Johnson for my money back.
I am not going to do anything recklessly dangerous, but no longer am I going to adhere to the stay at home message that we are still advised to do by Johnson and his ministers. What did that do for me? I was desperate to see friends and family but, because of the greater good, I went along with Johnson’s “you must stay at home” instruction. I understood why the message, if not the actual lockdown rules themselves, was so specific. The message had to be simple for everyone to understand. We knew that by visiting friends and family at a distance, whether it would be outside their front door, in a park or even in a garden it would make little difference to society’s ability to ‘control the virus’. But we went along with it. This ‘stay at home’ message left no room for ambiguity for the majority of people, but how should we feel today?
I can only speak for me. I feel angry, upset, depressed, betrayed, let down and shat on by the prime minister and his senior advisor. For me, as for many others, this has been a painful and difficult period. And now we learn that the rules, which are instructions to the public, are optional for the prime minister’s mate. I can’t go on like this.
From now on, the lockdown rules will become optional for me, too. I will stick to many of them because I want to protect my fellow man and woman. Social distancing will still remain a thing and I know I won’t be able to hug or even shake hands with loved ones for the foreseeable future, but if I want to drive a few miles, with my partner, to see our son or other family members and friends, we’re just going to do it. If Johnson can say that Cummings “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity, and with the overriding aim of stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives” then if I am invited to attend a socially distanced barbecue at someone else’s house, I think I may just go. I might even hold one myself. These are ‘ifs’ today and who knows how I might feel tomorrow? This is a moment in time. If something changes, I’ll tell you.
One aspect of Johnson’s outrageous defence of Cummings almost literally makes my blood boil. That by breaking the rules, Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and every parent”, thus implying very strongly that anyone who did not act as Cummings couldn’t love their children as much as he did. Cummings tried “to find the right kind of childcare”, indeed. He didn’t use any childcare, he didn’t need any. He drove his wife, who was sick with COVID-19, 264 miles to his parents’ home, where we are told he stayed in some kind of outhouse. This was not his ‘primary residence’. It’s bullshit.
In terms of saving lives and not spreading the virus, I think I have done my bit. And not very much in my life is going to change, despite the coming national breakdown of Johnson’s lockdown. But no longer am I going to stay away from my family and friends.
If the government rules don’t apply to Boris Johnson’s best mate, why should they apply to me? From now on, for me it’s ‘Stay at home (mostly), see my family and friends from a safe social distance (always), help save lives and sod Boris Johnson.’