Dominic Cummings knows all about how perception damages public confidence in political parties. Here he is in June 2017:
‘People think, and by the way I think most people are right: ‘The Tory party is run by people who basically don’t care about people like me’. That is what most people in the country have thought about the Tory party for decades. I know a lot of Tory MPs and I am sad to say the public is basically correct. Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don’t care about the NHS. And the public has kind of cottoned on to that.’
And this is what he said yesterday about why it was OK to walk in the Durham woods, when he should have been strictly quarantining because of his Covid-19 symptoms.
‘At one point the three of us walked into woods owned by my father, next to the cottage that I was staying in. Some people saw us in these woods from a distance, but we had no interaction with them. We had not left the property. We were on private land.’
To labour the point, Cummings is obliged to cite the privileges of his family as justification for his conduct, for proof he didn’t break the rules: (‘We were in the garden – but the garden just happens to be a wood.’)
The point is that this crisis has shone the brightest light on what many would see as the grotesque inequalities in this country. Cummings’s ability to convalesce on a property with at least three separate houses and extensive land, when many couples and single mothers with children who contracted the illness had no outside space at all, is by no means the worst manifestation of this unfairness.
But his self-appointed mission in government – as someone who refused to join the Tory party – was to persuade those on lower incomes that Boris Johnson is not an ‘us and them’ PM.
And if anything is causing him angst and self doubt (remember yesterday he said he has not for an instant contemplated resigning) it is that he – the supposed scourge of putative Tory self-entitlement – has become this epidemic’s symbol of very British inequality.
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