Most aspects of this present emergency are complex and resist easy solutions. Only a handful are elementary but one of these, and quite obviously so, is the Dominic Cummings affair. He must go and he must go now. There is no alternative, no other way out, no means by which this ship can be saved. The only question is the number of casualties Cummings will take with him.
Judged by the cabinet’s performance on social media this weekend, the answer to that question is also simple: all of them. It cannot be stressed too often that the government’s authority during this crisis is moral much more than it is legal. The lockdown measures were presented as a great national collective endeavour and they were accepted by the public on those terms too. Now it seems they were optional so long as, that is, you have the correct connections.
Advisors are, by definition, disposable. When they become the story, you cut them loose. That is the rule and it exists for a very good reason. Otherwise, attention soon shifts from the advisor to their masters. Right now, the government appears to believe Cummings is indispensable and, consequently, more important than the coherence and credibility of the government’s own messaging. That is quite a conclusion to reach and one unlikely to be shared by the general public.
This government now suffers from a credibility gap and the problem with such things is that, once opened and apparent, these gaps never close. The longer Cummings remains in post, the surer it is that the government will become, at best, a laughing stock.
It doesn’t even matter if what he did was appropriate or sensible or a reasonable means by which an awkward or complicated situation might best be managed.