Dominic Cummings in the garden of 10 Downing Street yesterday. Pic: Irish Times

Some thoughts from the journalist Harry Mottram

In any other circumstances Dominic Cummings’ explanation of his trip to Durham and even Barnard Castle may well stack up as a kind of understandable blokish folly. His story of a family crisis, the offer of a country retreat and an extended family on hand to childmind while and he and his wife regain their health could seem plausible. And despite doubts over the wisdom of the trip to Barnard Castle it could all make sense except for the fact of the nationwide lock down and Dominic Cummings being one of the architects of the policy.

In his extraordinary and highly unusual press conference in the garden of number 10 Downing Street he fronted up to the media in a way nobody in the Government has been prepared to do during the Covid 19 crisis. Compared to the staged and frustratingly non Q&A sessions held daily by members of the cabinet and the Government’s health officers this was a frank and open press conference. Instead of journalists appearing on TV screens and unable to look the interviewee in the eye and get in a quick follow up question they were able to hold the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief advisor to account.

Daft dad

His explanation was thorough and up to a point convincing except for the context of the time in which the events and his actions took place. And there was also a question of judgement which most will question. He panicked, he did a daft dad thing – run to his parents and the family farm because he could, whilst failing to understand how his actions have been received. He had the excuse of media intrusion and of wanting to protect his family although these don’t stack up as nobody was outside his house at the time pointing cameras and microphones at his front door and pretty well 99 percent of the population were staying put and struggling through with sickness, a lack of family support or childcare. It’s this part he fails to grasp using a legal loophole as a get out of jail free card or rather a stay in his job card. One which many in the Conservative Party don’t buy.

Class act of denial

It was a class act in denial despite his shifty eye movements and contrite body language but no apology and the arrogance of the privilege that comes with being part of the ruling elite. You can see why Boris Johnson relies on him as he doesn’t give an inch – and he is clear about what he says. No waffle. But so wrong in his judgement – which is a concern since he has the ear of the PM. And his unflinching position on his actions in the face of near universal condemnation shows his strengths and his weaknesses as an advisor. The issue is that Boris Johnson seems prepared to believe his view rather than the British people and has not ordered an enquiry or suspended him which many had expected in order to keep those doubters in his own party onside. But like all advisors from Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII to Nick Timothy and Teresa May they are expendable when things go wrong. If the opinion polls show a drop in support for the Tories and a rise for the Labour Party then Boris Johnson’s loyalty to his right hand man could disappear.

Holed below the water line

For the Labour Party and its new leader Keir Starmer along with the other opposition parties Dominic Cummings’ endorsement by Boris Johnson is a Godsend. They may demand an enquiry or his resignation or sacking but the longer he stays in post he detracts from the once invincible position the Conservative Government enjoyed at Christmas. But it will leak away like that of a holed cruise liner, slowly getting lower and lower in the water over the next four years ahead of the next election. And no advisor can allow that to happen – and if they do they will be axed.

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit