I’ll be upfront. I don’t like Cummings, I don’t like what he stands for and I don’t like the amount of power and influence he has as an unelected bureaucrat. There is a part of me that would like to see him thrown to the wolves.
However, in all his disembling, his excuses and his frequent revision of his story and his inability to offer an unconditional apology, there is a reflection of many of us writ large.
I used to joke with my daughter that my superpower was the ability to make anything look like someone else’s fault. No matter what, nothing was my fault. And she developed that skill as well. It was at that point, when I heard my daughter trotting out excuses and making us feel at fault for her failures that I realised how wrong I was. I had somehow come to the conclusion that being wrong, being in the wrong, that making mistakes was a bad thing. I realised that, among other things, my inability to say sorry was putting a strain on my marriage, damaging g my relationship with my children and harming my mental health.
So I learnt to say sorry without excuses. It was a hard journey. When you make a change like that it takes time for people to believe it. It was worth it though. It probably saved my marriage.
Dominic Cummings is in a difficult position. He has angered and upset so many people in his rise to power that there are few people who honestly feel any sympathy for him. He has amended his story as new elements have come out. He has offered a multitude of excuses for not following his government’s instructions on not travelling, childcare and self isolation. He has glossed over the suffering of thousands who would have made similar trips if lockdown hadn’t been in place but he has not put up his hand and said “sorry! I was wrong.”
An honest apology would probably still have led to demands for his sacking but it would have limited the fallout. The truth I learnt was that this kind of behaviour has a ripple effect that hurts more than the person at the centre. Cummings actions, and those of the PM in supporting him, have consequences.
There is a degree to which this is personal. Cummings is not well liked by the press and there is more than a hint of schadenfreude in their pursuit. It goes beyond that though. When living through this pandemic we have to be able to believe that the government is acting in our best interests. We may not agree with their decisions but so long as they follow them too we can at least imagine they are trying to do what needs to be done. One mistake like supporting Cummings damages any trust. And right now, if we don’t trust what they say and follow guidelines and rules then people die.