by Colin Campbell
APPARENTLY a million people have now signed a petition demanding Boris Johnson should sack Dominic Cummings. I’m surprised it’s not more. Signatories will include every reader of the Guardian. Every member of the political staff of the BBC, with disgracefully biased Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis who ranted on air against Bojo and Cummings sneakily signing it multiple times under different pseudonyms.
Every contributor to the social media madhouse which has generated a trillion vile expressions of hatred against Johnson, Cummings, and against everyone who voted Tory in the last election.
Every nationalist north of the border who agreed with silver-tongued warthog Ian Blackford that Cummings’ position was “unsustainable”.
And of course a large number of very reasonable people who genuinely believe Cummings has done damage to efforts to control the virus.
But still the PM has stood his ground. As I said here a few days, Cummings – disgraced or otherwise – is going nowhere.
One feature of this furore which has pretty much gone unnoticed but which is the most significant element of all is – he has also faced down the Daily Mail.
Seeing off the Guardianistas and social media lunatics is one thing.
But a Tory Prime Minister rebutting the Daily Mail is something else altogether.
Fact: no Tory Prime Minister in the past 40 years has refused to buckle to strident and incessant demands from the hugely influential Mail.
In the 1970s, when its then editor David English decided he wanted to enhance the paper’s profile in a glorified stunt by importing a planeload of Vietnamese boat people, all normal immigration restrictions were swept aside to accommodate him; the same happened when in the same era the Mail wanted to adopt South African runner Zola Budd and bring her here to compete in the Olympics for Britain. In subsequent decades, the Mail barked and Downing Street jumped. No to joining the Euro; yes to famously changing the law to nail the five thugs who murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence; other examples of compliance arose time and again, right up to recent times, when it was the Mail that drove the case for Brexit, and it was the Mail’s support that played a huge role in getting Theresa May elected as Tory leader and PM. Ban plastic bags…the Mail demanded three years ago. Within a couple of weeks legislation followed.
So what about Johnson? The Mail began demanding Cumming’s resignation almost immediately after the story broke, and for six days in a row continued with its campaign, devoting page after page to demands that he should be sacked, in a tone so angry with Boris Johnson that at times it WAS like reading the Guardian.
But Bojo was having none of it. Last Friday it effectively gave up, and wrote a weak story that speculated Cummings would be “eased out in six months”.
The conclusion – if Boris is prepared to take on and face down the Daily Mail, he’s prepared to take on and face down pretty much anything.
I think he probably should have got rid of Cummings. Even apart from his motorised transgression, he should have been sacked months ago for arrogantly dressing like a tramp. But demands for his sacking all too rapidly went from justified and angry to extreme and then became poisonous and hysterical, with Tory-hatred and Brexit-hatred as the ugly backdrop.
But what I think – or what pretty much anyone else thinks – doesn’t matter. With an 80-seat majority “unsustainable” doesn’t enter the equation when it comes to Boris Johnson. “Unassailable” is a more realistic word.
And what does all this add up to? One significant long-term message it sends out is for the consumption of Nicola Sturgeon and the “indyref2” nationalists.
They’re already fooling themselves that his response to the coronavirus crisis (Sturgeon herself has plenty questions to answer, particularly with regard to the number of deaths in care homes) has dramatically weakened his position as PM. The separatists’ fevered clamour is already rising again, coronavirus or nor coronavirus.
But Bojo “weakened” is wishful thinking running rampant.
He’s said no to another referendum already and he’s not going to budge on that. So the nationalists had better start preparing their much-vaunted “Plan B” – declaring UDI, revolution, civil disobedience, howling at the moon, whatever it may be. Because if this Tory Prime Minister is prepared to absorb and brush off a furious onslaught from the Daily Mail, telling Nicola Sturgeon what to do with her next indyref2 demand isn’t going to involve anything more than a brief, cursory and dismissive phone call.