On Easter Saturday, my partner’s beloved mother died before her time with COVID-19. She lived less than seven miles away but in the preceding days and weeks, we could not visit or even see her through a window from out on the street because Boris Johnson, the prime minister, had told we ‘must stay at home.’ Health Secretary Matt Hancock then told us staying home was not a request, it was ‘an instruction’. Despite the terrible pain this inflicted on the family, we followed the rules because we love our family, we love our friends and we do not want to risk infecting them, or anyone else for that matter, with a potentially fatal disease.
By and large, we have followed the rules throughout and any infractions have been very minor and have not involved breaching social distancing. We have stayed at home in order to save lives and not a single other person has entered the household since the semi-lockdown began. It has been hard, absolutely heartbreaking but we believed that we were doing the right thing. We would have done it regardless of concerns about being fined.
We attended a small, socially distanced funeral, with pall bearers wearing full PPEs. There were no hugs, there was no wake but we did the best that we could. Then we went to our separate addresses. Both our sons were present. We said goodbye to them as if they were minor acquaintances and not the most important people on earth, which is what they are. We did it because we believed we were doing the right thing. We are all in it together, right?
Then, the story about Dominic Cummings emerged. Cummings is not just the power behind the throne of Boris Johnson’s government, he is the unelected power on that throne. He is not just the most powerful unelected figure in government, he is the most powerful figure in government full stop. He is the architect of Brexit and was the key player in Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory last December.
Rules have never applied to Cummings. He is by nature a disrupter, an enthusiastic believer in the chaos theory. And he is the smartest political messenger of his age.
The slogans trip of his tongue with consummate ease. ‘Take back control’, ‘Let’s spend the £350 million we give to Europe every week and give it to the NHS instead’, ‘Get Brexit done’ and more recently the skilfully colour coded ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’ recently amended to the ‘Stay alert. Control the virus. Save Lives’. We fell hook, line and sinker for all of them. And then, in the most arrogant way possible, Cummings ignores the slogans he created and the instructions given to the country by the prime minister and the health secretary by driving on a number of occasions to Durham, once when his wife was suffering from COVID-19, which he himself later developed.
This is ‘do as I say, not as I do’ on steroids. What on earth are mere plebs like me meant to make of what has happened? Cummings and his wife Mary Wakefield are multimillionaires and it is simply beyond belief to imagine that his only source of childcare would be 246 miles away from his home in London. His sister lives two streets away for goodness sake.
It’s something like a five hour drive from London to Durham. Did Cummings and his wife stop for a toilet break en route? With a four year old child on board, it’s hard to believe they made the trip in one go. There aren’t just more questions than answers, there are no answers at all.
My family is not alone in having suffered heartbreak because of COVID-19. Every single life lost has been a family tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected. Most of these people have still followed the government rules. And most people who had COVID-19 symptoms isolated at home, just like Dominic Cummings’ slogan told them to. But when the illness struck his family, he fragrantly and arrogantly concluded the rules were only for the riff-raff and not the illiberal elite like him.
If Cummings survives in his job, the matter will not disappear. Because people will not forget the sacrifices we have made while the elite do what the hell they like. If the semi-lockdown was breaking down before this revelation – and the scenes last week at various tourist attractions and beaches up and down the land suggest a growing minority have had enough – how long before the minority becomes a majority? And all this at a time when many hundreds of people continue to die every day from a virus for which there is no cure and no treatment.
For those toadying Tory ministers accusing people of ‘politicising’ this sordid episode, let us be very clear: Dominic Cummings has blatantly, brazenly and arrogantly broken the instructions laid down by the government that pays his wages. If in the unlikely event Jeremy Corbyn had won last December’s election and his head honcho Seumas Milne had done something similar, the outcry would be similar, probably even worse. And anyway, Dominic Cummings’ entire career has revolved around ‘politicising’ anything and everything. It’s what he does and the accusation is nothing more than a red herring.
The government has completely lost any vestige of moral authority it might once have had. Cummings and those lickspittle brown-nosing MPs who continue to defend him treat us like fools, but we aren’t fools.
I keep going back to the passing of my mother in law and how it impacted on family and friends. The emotions are still raw and the pain of loss will never go away. Before she died, we didn’t travel the short distance to wave through a window or even say goodbye in person. We stayed at home to help save lives.
For once, the media has done its job. Whilst certain newspapers like the Sun – obviously – all but ignore the story, even Murdoch’s Sunday Times has moved for the kill, along with the Telegraph, which until recently employed Boris Johnson to write for them.
Cummings simply has to go. If he doesn’t, he may bring Johnson down with him. I hope so. These men are at the very heart of the gross mishandling of the COVID-19 epidemic which has given us the highest death toll in Europe. And my partner has lost her mother.
Tomorrow, we are going to visit my youngest son, albeit from a safe distance. We will also see my partner’s sister and stepfather, again from a safe distance. Send for the police if you like, Boris. We are going to break your rules just a little bit. Come and arrest me, lock me up in prison. You know you want to. A Bullingdon Club bully wouldn’t want it any other way. Behind the clown mask lies a posh boy narcissist with an infinite supply of self-entitlement. If people still can’t see by now the sort of people Johnson and Cummings actually are, there’s no hope for us.