Westminster watchers will need a trip to Barnard Castle for an eye test after that committee session, for surely this wasn’t the same Dominic Cummings who was at the heart of government throughout the pandemic?
Listening to the former adviser at today’s marathon seven hour evidence session you would believe he was a bystander reflecting on what shoulda, woulda, coulda, not the Downing Street Svengali who was running the show with his chums.
Cummings, who shamelessly undermined the ‘stay at home’ message last year with a family trip to County Durham, was in full blame mode at the science committee.
The nation hearing Cummings make multiple Independence Day references when talking about a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands pic.twitter.com/ec1eTg44Zf
— Dan O'Donoghue (@MrDanDonoghue) May 26, 2021
He was the Downing Street Cassandra, ignored and powerless to stop the impending disaster, or so his story went.
Boris Johnson was not fit to lead, Matt Hancock should have been sacked 20 times, the UK civil service was disastrously unprepared, the media was irresponsible, the scientists underestimated the risk – all were essentially asleep at the wheel, Cummings told MPs.
“It was like a scene from Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum saying the aliens are here and your whole plan is broken and you need a new plan”, he proclaimed.
“You’re like a whistle-blower who forgot to blow the whistle”, committee chairman Greg Clarke wryly commented.
At certain points during the session, the former aide was good enough to acknowledge a few of his own failings – telling MPs it was “crazy” he was in a position of power.
But crucially when pressed and asked why he didn’t take more personal responsibility and admit he was out of his depth and resign, Cummings offered only mealy mouthed excuses.
No matter how many ministers Cummings throws under a bus, he can never escape the fact that he was arguably the second most powerful man in Britain at the time of the crisis. A crisis which has claimed 128,000 lives.
That said, his evidence session will probably prove one of the frankest accounts of what was going on in the corridors of power at the height of the Covid pandemic – and that should worry us all as it raises serious questions about the competence of the UK Government, civil service and apparatus of the state.