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Saturday, May 22, 2021

Smoking gun or damp squib?

The Guardian speculates that Dominic Cummings' evidence to MPs on Wednesday about Boris Johnson’s role in making key decisions that critics say may have cost many thousands of lives promises to be the parliamentary event of the year so far – and may yet determine the fate of the prime minister.

They say that hurt by the manner of his departure from No 10, alongside Johnson’s longtime aide Lee Cain, and by the briefing war that then ensued, Cummings seems intent on doing maximum damage to his former boss:

“He doesn’t like the way he left: he thinks he should still be there,” said one senior Tory who knows Cummings well. Asked about Cummings’ intentions, he added: “I think he wants to get Boris out.”

So febrile is the mood at Westminster about the eagerly anticipated hearing that Downing Street was forced to deny on Friday that Johnson is planning a reshuffle on Wednesday, solely to draw attention away from his former aide. “We are not doing a reshuffle,” insisted a No 10 source.

One cabinet minister fretted that Cummings could use the cloak of parliamentary privilege to disclose confidential information about key discussions last year – including potentially handing over documents, something Cummings has suggested he is prepared to do.

The timing of the decisions to implement the lockdown in March 2020 and again in October – weeks after it was recommended by the Sage committee – are likely to come under close scrutiny.

In a recent tweet highlighting the health impact of Covid, Cummings wrote: “Many thousands will have serious health problems for years because of our failure to act faster/harder in Feb/March and Sep”.

The government’s border policies throughout the pandemic are also likely to be examined: Cummings recently described them as a “joke”.

Border restrictions remain contentious, with MPs questioning why Johnson waited until 23 April to put India on the red list – a decision that appears to have been a factor in allowing the variant first identified in India, B.1.617.2, to take hold.

If Cummings delivers as some hope then it may well be spectacular, the question though, must be if it will actually damage Johnson in the polls. So far his popularity appears to be immune to these sort or revelations. How long can that immunity last? We will have to see.
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