For a few days at least the news became tolerable. The man-baby was defeated and, just for the moment, the fat boys cuddling their unfeasibly large weaponry haven’t wreaked their revenge. The weeds and nerds in Downing Street, for whom playing with people’s lives and livelihoods was never more than a creepy game – and to whom the results were a matter of detached indifference – have been shown the door. Let’s not worry that it is the latest of the Prime Minister’s paramours who temporarily appears to be the loudest unelected voice in his ear. Just enjoy the moment of Cummings and Cain lugging their meagre cardboard boxes out of Downing Street. Dom was, apparently, very fond of informing people that if they didn’t like how he did things, they knew where the door was. Oh, Dom; you make me shudder when you’re so masterful. (Or maybe you’re doing the trembling to yourself).
Perhaps the loudest sniggering might be coming from Sonia Khan, the aide sacked so unceremoniously because of accusations of leaked information. Rather than have their clumsy misdemeanours aired in public, her employers have elected to avoid an employment tribunal and paid her a sum running, allegedly, into tens of thousands of pounds as compensation. Maybe Cummings and Cain had one of their ‘weirdos and misfits’ lined up to take her place, but I think we could be forgiven for questioning how the boyos splashed taxpayers’ money by sacking an accomplished professional and then paid her thousands of pounds once their macho posturings caught up with them. But then, it won’t be them forking out the compo. They don’t do taking responsibility for your actions – that’s so last century and carries the stench of public service. Ugh.
As it happens, this is all quite familiar territory for Dom. He enjoyed some destructive time in the Department for Education where he cut his teeth working with the Tories’ favourite runner-up, Michael Gove. Along with his chum, James Frayne, he landed his employer with another five-figure payment when a department employee (yes, female, of course – they like to pick on girls) complained of a ‘macho culture of intimidation, favouritism and laddism’. That’s not a great look for any workplace, but it’s genuinely alarming when it’s taking place in the government department charged with the education and welfare of the nations’ children.
And all of that after we heard the best news of all. With extraordinary speed, a viable vaccine seems to be on the horizon. What follows is not an attempt to take the shine of this truly wonderful, game-changing achievement, but early doubts have begun to surface. The simplest, if rather unflattering, way to express these is to ask an innocent question. Would you trust Hancock, Raab, Gove, Patel and Sunak, the holders of the great offices of state, under the guidance of the now unfettered Prime Minister, to make suitable arrangements for its manufacture, distribution and application to the general populace? While you’re pondering that, here are a couple of supplementary concerns.
From his newly isolated bedroom, we have to hope that the Prime Minister is putting the final flourishes to the trade deal that he will pull out of the fire in the next few days. No? Me neither. However, unless all the vaccine doses are going to be rolling off 24-hour production lines from the premises of Britain’s pharmaceutical establishments, we’re going to have to import some. We’ve just got to hope that this process won’t be held up by the lorry park that will soon go by the name of Kent. Or that tariff-free stuff becomes taxable.
And to whom will he look to solve the logistical problems that need to be addressed? I’d like to think that before he reaches for Dido on speed-dial, he might have quick look at the efforts of Harvard scholar, Sophie Hill. She has put together her My Little Crony map which reveals, in all its self-satisfied shamelessness, the bare-faced cheek of this government’s chumocracy. Whatever happens, we shouldn’t be surprised. Brazenness is the one thing this lot really do deliver on a world-class level. Robert Jenrick makes a dodgy development proposal to an old buddy at dinner. What to do? Sack him? Nah – make him the minister for housing. Gavin Williamson plays fast and loose with confidential state secrets. Boot him out? Nope. Put him in charge – and I use the term loosely – of education.
So, let’s enjoy a few moments of good news at last. But let’s not lose sight of the woeful ineptitude that has bedevilled us for months and which all of us need to call out at every turn.