Dominic Cummings’s long drive up to Durham and Barnard Castle probably didn’t actually cause any deaths, but it’s a reminder to Londoners of how right we were to vote against his regime.
In the grand scheme of things, Cummings’s flagrant flouting of the lockdown rules, his ridiculous excuses, and the line-up of government ministers to defend him – including chief performer Boris Johnson – is arguably not such a big deal. Cummings headed up north knowing members of his family were ill with the virus, and if he stopped off on the way, for fuel or at a service station, he may have spread it to a few people. Not nice, but insignificant compared to the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths which his government’s stupidity, arrogance and incompetence have caused.
We have argued that an autonomous London, more agile, more alert, would have acted faster and more effectively than England's blundering regime. We believe that if London had been free to act for itself, we would have had far fewer deaths, and be emerging from lockdown by now.
But aside from its hidebound incompetence, what is now showing very badly is the government’s barefaced contempt for the people of London, and indeed the whole UK.
To comply with the lockdown, Londoners have had to stay apart from their loved ones for months now, communicating only by phone. To comply with the lockdown, Londoners have had to die alone, and be buried without the kind of funeral and last respects they deserved. To comply with the lockdown, Londoners have put off weddings and important family gatherings. To comply with the lockdown, Londoners have had to celebrate communal festivals, such as the recent Muslim Eid, in isolation. We have endured these hardships to protect the community at large.
But while the rest of us were making these sometimes heart-breaking sacrifices, the government’s backstage director goes off on a jaunt up north. When asked for an explanation, he turns up contemptuously half an hour late to his own press conference, and doesn’t even apologize for breaking the very guidelines that he himself helped frame. We apparently are expected to observe the lockdown (and indeed we need to continue doing so), while our masters swan about the place to test their eyesight, and don’t seem to care that they are endangering other people by doing so.
London: it wasn’t us who voted for this regime. The sooner we are free of them the better.