For a man who professes to despise the media, Dominic Cummings is certainly adept at courting it. The former No 10 chief special adviser has given his first, long-awaited interview since storming out of Downing Street some eight months ago. In an hour long grilling with Laura Kuenssberg which will air tonight, Cummings will set out his case against the Prime Minister's handling of the Covid pandemic.
Several clips have already been aired by the BBC with most attention thus far focusing on the claim that Johnson was reluctant to tighten Covid restrictions as cases rose last autumn because he thought people dying from it were 'essentially all over 80.' However Steerpike's eye was caught by another startling claim – namely that Cummings had to stop Boris Johnson on March 18 last year from going to see the Queen in person at the beginning of the Covid pandemic.
At this point staff in Number 10 were already falling ill and the Prime Minister had already instructed the public to avoid all unnecessary contact, especially with the elderly. But Johnson was determined to go for his weekly meeting with the monarch. Cummings relays the incident as follows:
I said, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I’m going to see the Queen' and I said, 'What on earth are you talking about, of course you can’t go and see the Queen.' He said, 'Ah, that’s what I do every Wednesday, sod this, I’m gonna go and see her.' I said to him [Boris Johnson]' 'There’s people in this office who are isolating, you might have coronavirus, I might have coronavirus, you can’t go and see the Queen. What if you go and see her and give the Queen coronavirus? You obviously can’t go'... I just said if you, if you give her coronavirus and she dies what, what are you gonna, you can’t do that, you can’t risk that, that’s completely insane. And he said, he basically just hadn’t thought it through, he said, yeah, 'holy shit, I can’t go.'
Unsurprisingly Downing Street denied that this incident took place while, as usual, Buckingham Palace declined to comment. It would be a rich irony if the most iconoclastic figure to work in No. 10 was to thank for the safeguarding of the British monarchy, that most venerable of stately institutions. Mr S wonders if such consideration will be rewarded in some way by Her Majesty, perhaps with an honour that No. 10 cannot block. Certainly it should make for an interesting next meeting between Boris and his sovereign.
The programme 'Dominic Cummings: The Interview, BBC Two' will air tonight at 7 p.m.