Thursday, 28 May 2020

Something rotten in the state of DurhamGate

This Prime Minister and his Special Adviser (SPAD) are proving to be both unaccountable and irresponsible. It’s time for the nearly powerful to exercise what power they still have, if we are to avoid becoming a “rotten state”

The current saga of Dominic Cumming’s Lockdown behaviour #DurhamGate is a SYMPTOM of a deeper CAUSE.  That is we now have  2 men, one unelected, de facto, running the country.  Indeed, there are occasions when the unelected man admits making key decisions, without reference to others.

Another symptom spawned from the same cause, which caused a similar public outcry, was the prorogation of Parliament and it that case it required a  Supreme Court Judgement to correct it. 

In both cases, the news of what was happening was kept close to very few and the Cabinet was not initially informed.  In the second case, they were unaware. In the first case, there was public unrest and demonstrations - it’s unlikely there would be with #DurhamGate, the irony is Lockdown rules, if obeyed, forbid them. 

The cause in for both and the most significant issue here is that normal British governmental checks and balances were not used, or ignored.  Significantly, in the #DurhamGate” scandal, for that is what it is, not only did the PM’s SPAD, take action but he did so without informing the PM,

“I did not ask the prime minister about this decision. He was ill himself and he had huge problems to deal with.” (Statement by DC in No 10 Press Conference”)

Dominic Cummings added a comment that should concern us more because it highlights the more significant cause...

“Critically every day, I have to exercise my judgment about things like this and decide what to discuss with him...."

This is the nub of the systemic rot.  An unelected, and because he is not a Civil Servant, unaccountable, Prime Ministerial Special Adviser, at the heart of Government, is making decisions, without informing the Prime Minister unless he deems it necessary.  Note too this the closest Dominic Cummings approaches to an admitting a mistake.

"Arguably, this was a mistake, and I understand that some will say that I should've spoken to the prime minister before deciding what to do.”

What other decisions and actions has he taken? What actions might he, further emboldened, take in future?

In this latest symptom, the Prime Minister and his Adviser refused to answer legitimate Press enquiries, pre-publication. This would have allowed them to correct fake-news they retrospectively abhor.  Then when, what was known, was published, the PM made his own enquiry and, despite obvious disquiet, refuses to involve the Cabinet Secretary.  In the absence of any independent investigation, we see the problem, the cause, the rot, laid bare.  There are allegations of impropriety and no objective scrutiny, so far.  There is more than a whiff of irresponsibility and no accountability.

So, what happens next?  Who is looking at these symptoms and diagnosing the cause? An apposite metaphor is Covid19 - Where is the testing, tracking, tracing and remedial action? Who is responsible for that? Yes, we are all in this together but who will, “Take Back Control?”

The Cabinet?  So, far all supportive of the PM’s stance, if not his SPAD’s actions.

Government Ministers and MPs? 40+ Conservatives now openly asking for DC to resign, or be sacked, many MPs in other parties want him to go.

The Press and Public Opinion?  It rumbles on in its usual murmurations - seeking direction - lacking agreed direction - rolling about an amorphous mass.

We shall see whether these groups take any further action.

My simple argument here is that we must not see #DurhamGate in isolation, that would be dealing with a symptom.  We must check our collective eyesight and see the CAUSE and deal with it.  An unelected SPAD acting unaccountably and many feel irresponsibly at the heart of our Government is driving his passenger on...

We must not focus on just this instance - we need long sight.  DC resigning, or being sacked will not deal with the cause because another SPAD could be appointed and act with identical impunity.

Finally, before I am accused as being party political... imagine a new different Government (and as this festers on that becomes more likely) imagine a Labour Government with a PM refusing to allow his chosen SPAD to be investigated for alleged impropriety... How would that be greeted in the court of Public Opinion?

We must take back control...