This Bank Holiday weekend has been one to undoubtedly forget, over at Tory HQ. The news emerged on Saturday morning that the prime minister’s most trusted advisor, or more accurately, conspirer, broke the lockdown rules he himself was the architect of. The country has since reacted in a more united sense than they have in the last five years, when Cummings orchestrated a methodically intense culture war over Brexit which has since dived the country left to right, young to old, more than at any other time in recent history.
It is as if the entire frustration of nine long weeks of mourning, disruption and irritation have been channelled into Cummings, and he has rightfully been the focus of concentrated and prominent attention. Every major paper has led with an image of Cummings this weekend. He has been trending on twitter for at least 48 hours and the subject of intense scrutiny by journalists camped outside of his ritzy London address.
Boris and his cabinet (who championed Brexit with their impetus on the will of the people) have scrambled desperately to defend an unelected bureaucratic aid above the duty of supporting the will of the people. We cannot underestimate this. This is but one further example in a long line of Tories backing Tories and putting party politics above the country. Cummings moving freely sets a precedent for the rest of us: the end of lockdown. Cameron put the party first in 2015, and we’re still paying the price for it. Johnson, in defending Cummings is doing the same, but this time it’s as literal as life and death.
The hypocrisy of the government is unambiguous. They have enforced one law on the society they represent and followed another for themselves. In doing so, they have, at least for now, at least for this very fleeting moment, unified a country they so wilfully separated in a bitter culture war for almost half a decade. The only issue for them, is that we are now unified in our complete disparagement of our leaders.
But this is what happens when those in charge have absolutely no concept of the society they are governing. Take Boris Johnson, a public school boy, Eton no less, Oxford alumni and with a net worth of approximately £1.6m. He’s never in his life had to want for anything, he’s never experienced the poverty that 22 per cent of UK residents experience on a day-to-day basis. Johnson’s upbringing is one of privilege and academia. He has never gained the invaluable life-experience of basic management which so many of us succumb to on a daily basis; of time-management in avoiding traffic on the way to work, of money management in ensuring you have enough money to pay your bills each month, or of parental management in ensuring you do the best by your children given your means.
Johnson’s naivety in the face of the great British public is amply personified in the waffling tirade of books, quotes and articles he has written prior to his premiership. In 2005, writing for the Daily Telegraph, Johnson called the poorest 20 per cent of society: ‘chavs, losers, burglars and drug addicts’. In 1995, Johnson also wrote that working-class men are, ‘likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless’. Just last year, Johnson Sr. went on national television to say the majority of the country were too dumb to spell Pinocchio (thank god for spell check).
The majority of the current cabinet have come from extreme privilege. A notable 69 per cent are privately educated, compared with 6.5 per cent of the population — the highest number since John Major’s cabinet. What’s more, 50 per cent are Oxbridge graduates, in contrast with 1 per cent of the general population. How can a cabinet which does not accurately understand nor represent the average person in this society, have its best interests in mind?
Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock have all consistently voted against welfare benefits, against paying higher benefits over longer periods to those unable to work due to illness or disability, and consistently voted down allocating money to help create jobs for young people.
In 2013, Michael Gove hinted at the idea that poor people were to blame for food banks, claiming that families only needed them due to a ‘failure to manage their finances’.
Leader of the commons, Jacob Rees-mogg, once used the word ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ in open parliamentary debate, (a word seemingly only understood by Etonian peers) in itself grotesquely arrogant. Mogg has such a high disdain and condescension for the country he serves, that he once claimed that the deceased victims of the Grenfell disaster died because of their own lack of ‘common sense’.
If Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Cummings in Brexit: The Uncivil War is even remotely accurate, then Cummings really is the career psychopath David Cameron Labelled him as. In 2017, he even admitted in plain English that Tory MPs do not care about poor people or the NHS, citing his own vast experience with them as evidence for his claims.
‘Caring for your wife and child is not a crime’, Tweeted Gove in defence of Cummings’ actions this weekend. The irony of this is palpable. This comes some five days after the passing of a momentous immigration bill which will quite literally criminalise immigrants from abroad for caring for their families and seeking a better life on our shores.
This government must learn about the people they serve. They must understand what goes on in working-class households and they must, above all, stop thinking that they are above the law and better than us all.