Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Downing Street as Dominic Cummings gave his evidence to the science and technology and the health select committees this morning. As it happens, we had the chance to see Boris Johnson reacting almost in real time to the revelations and allegations from his former aide, because he was taking Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, with the main exchanges with Sir Keir Starmer falling conveniently in a 15 minute intermission in the evidence session.
And the Prime Minister was clearly rattled. He resorted to many of the stock phrases that we have come to associate with him trying to avoid difficult questions, such as complaining that this was not what the people were interested in, and that the government was entirely focused on ‘delivering the people’s priorities’. He went through his usual routine of listing all the ways in which Starmer had vacillated in his response to the pandemic, which he uses as a distraction from the fact that he is the Prime Minister and the one whose response matters, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, who is merely auditioning.
‘He vacillates, we vaccinate,’ and the European Medicines Agency came up as well. What was different about this repetition of old techniques was that Johnson produced them in such a fast succession and with so much energy that it was difficult to conclude anything other than that he was really unsettled by what was being said in the committee room across the parliamentary estate.