There is something deeply dissatisfying about the latest No. 10 psychodrama. Given this is a crisis that could end Boris Johnson’s political career, it should feel like more of a pivotal moment than it does. Part of the problem is that if you’re a Remainer or a Labour supporter, whose side of the story do you trust here?
Do you believe Boris Johnson, the man who fronted the Leave campaign and whose support probably swung the referendum? Or do you believe Dominic Cummings, the evil genius who supposedly manipulated the masses via technical trickery to vote to leave the EU? Of course, ‘neither’ is an option, but not one that seems to be getting a lot of pick up in Remain-land or Labour circles.
In fact, when you think about the whole thing in any depth it becomes impossible not to get behind one of the participants a little. Do you feel closer to Cummings’s side of the story, given he describes a simultaneously corrupt and incompetent Downing Street operation? This feels enjoyable to your average British Remainer — until you realise you are buying into the narrative of the guy who thought up the £350 million for the NHS bus logo. Do you instead feel like Cummings is finally getting his comeuppance, exposed for his treachery at long last? Then you have to at least partially buy into Boris Johnson’s story, which is unsatisfying for all sorts of reasons.
Part of the problem is that the current crisis seems extremely unlikely to lead to the end of Tory hegemony. Even if somehow this ended Boris Johnson’s premiership — and the chances of that still feel slight given everything he has survived to date — it would simply lead to a new Tory prime minister who could well be much less liberal and more right-wing than the current inhabitant of Downing Street.