Hello all. It’s good to be back here after a week which – even by the standards of this year – has given us some truly incredible moments. It’s good to be back after a week’s absence thanks to my friend’s four-year-old being dropped on me at the last minute. Still, it was either that or a drive to Durham, and we’ve all got to come together in these tough times.
Top Reads Of The Week:
There have been many excellent pieces on Dominic Cummings, but none better than Emma Burnell’s piece on just where ideology has driven us for The Article. Well worth a read if you want to understand a bit more about why the Government has stuck with him so much.
Another piece on that note – but also taking into account many other big issues – is Polly Mackenzie’s look at why simplicity might be at the root of so many policy failures for UnHerd, drawing on some very personal experiences too.
Away from the Cummings matter, Ailbhe Rea’s interview of Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds is a really intriguing and detailed piece about a politician who could end up playing a bigger role in the months and years to come than many would suggest – and I think it’s fair to say she’s filling some big shoes (for better or worse?)
One of the aspects of life most impacted by Coronavirus is that of education – and Universities are going to be changed forever. Chris Cook’s investigation for Tortoise on where we are with Universities in such an unprecedented time is a terrific two part long read (at the time of writing, as there well may be more) that it’s worth making proper time for.
This really spoke to me – a powerful rallying call to help the people of Hong Kong, from Matt Kilcoyne in the Telegraph:
And just for fun, Rory Cellan-Jones’s takedown of an anti-5G memory stick is just an absolute joy.
Top Listens Of The Week:
There are a million and one daily podcasts but the Guardian’s Today In Focus does a tremendous job of moving across all the issues and their summary of where we are with Brexit (reminder; heading towards a No Deal situation, in the middle of a Global Pandemic). Props to Rachel Humphreys, Lisa O’Carroll and Jennifer Rankin (who’ll you’ll hear from) and production team Elizabeth Cassin, Nicole Jackson and Axel Kacoutié.
Tweet Of The Week:
Someone said do a Cagney & Lacey one so I did a Cagney & Lacey one pic.twitter.com/BIrNLldLeq
— Darren Dutton (@Darren_Dutton) May 25, 2020
News Story Of The Week: This mad, mad Mark Zuckerberg interview on the totally normal situation of The President of the United States threatening to shut down social media.
Word Of The Week: Breach (noun): An act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct. “a minor breach of lockdown”
Much of this week’s column – an intensely political one, by the way, although hopefully impartial in your view – is going to be dominated by one subject, but we really shouldn’t lose sight of what’s happening in Hong Kong right now. Dominic Raab has announced that 300,000 British National Overseas passport holders living in Hong Kong that they could get a ‘path to citizenship’ in the UK if China pushes ahead with new security laws – but this idea from Sam Bowman could have even more merit:
Cummings and Goings
By now you’ve read, listened to and watched enough Dominic Cummings material to last a thousand lifetimes. The whole saga tells us so much about many things – and I’m sure you’ve read enough about that too – but it does provide us with a very interesting trial. That trial is of what happens when the Government does something that upsets its own supporters, and the results have been notable.
Initial poling on Cummings as a specific issue was bad enough for the Government – but the more detailed polling this week has suggested a serious issue. Firstly, is the damage – likely temporary, but for how long exactly we do not know – to general polling, or Westminster Intention Voting. The two most recent polls do not stack up well:
Just one poll but by a mile the smallest Conservative lead since the general election. https://t.co/3CfDNc7V2u
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) May 26, 2020
Westminster voting intention:
CON: 46% (-2)
LAB: 33% (+3)
LDEM: 8% (-)
GRN: 4% (-1)
via @Survation, 22 – 26 May
Chgs. w/ 28 Apr
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) May 26, 2020
Obviously we are years away from the next election, but we have the first example of a story where the ‘needle’ has moved significantly.
The other issue – and this is where the real effect could take place – is the damage to the Conservative Brand and , the public perception one rule for those Tories (those in power) and one for joe public!” This doesn’t help in the ‘them and us’ debate. Regular readers and those who follow political polling closely will know how badly Labour and the Liberal Democrats have suffered when the party brand has taken a battering, and indeed it’s one of Sir Keir Starmer’s big challenges to rejuvenate the Labour Party’s brand over the next four years.
Boris Johnson and The Government appear to believe the case is closed – and it’s hard to imagine them stepping down from their pedestal now – and in time people will move on, but will Johnson or the brand recover from this? It remains to be seen.
Science, Trust And Faith
Earlier today we had one of the most important daily briefings from the Government of the whole Coronavirus crisis, led by Boris Johnson. The announcements about the easing of lockdown – you can now go to the back garden of your friends, see your grandparents, meet and upto six people outside in a group assuming you maintain social distancing – are all huge, although I send best wishes to those who are still shielding for various health reasons.
The other big moment – and it’s sure to have a mini news cycle of its own – was the moment when Laura Kuenssberg asked about an earlier statement from Durham Police which said that Cummings had committed a ‘minor breach’ of lockdown rules. For those who missed, a quick recap:
Laura asked the PM and the experts why people would stick to the rules if Cummings didn’t.
Boris Johnson: “I have said quite a lot on this matter already and noticed Durham Police said they were going to take no action, adding – not for the first time – that he “intended to draw a line under the matter.”
Then, before Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance can answer, he stopped them, saying he wanted to “protect them [as it is] unfair and unnecessary to ask them a political question”.
"If one of your most senior team wasn't paying proper attention to the rules, why should anyone else?" asks @BBCLauraK
Boris Johnson replies Durham Police said they would take "no action" and that the "matter was closed"
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) May 28, 2020
Kuenssberg was denied a follow up – although ITV’s Robert Peston didn’t let up, asks the government experts if Mr Cummings’ behaviour will undermine government messaging on the lockdown.’
Boris Johnson answered for them once again – saying it would not be appropriate for advisers to be “dragged into political controversy.”
Sam Coates then went straight in, asking Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick if they are comfortable with not being able to answer the questions about Mr Cummings – at which point both stated very clearly they didn’t want to get involved.
Now this moment isn’t significant because of the fact neither advisor answered – indeed that’s what you’d expect from Civil Servants – but because if there’s any way to measure just how far the Government have defended Cummings, it comes from the Prime Minister cutting out a follow up question and then again speaking over the country’s premier scientific experts, all live, and all on the record.
Again it should be said that Whitty and Vallance are scientific experts, but again it shows how the Cummings issue is about much more than just politics or policy,, especially when this is the public response; And let us not forget that public health is nothing if not political – and plenty of people have found that out to their cost.
Will be back next week! Ask in all the usual places if you have something you’d like answered for then, but for now – Stay Alert, Stay Safe, and Stick With Star Sports!
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.