Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former senior adviser, is nothing if he isn’t cunning. I’ve long disliked Mr Cummings, the arch-Brexiteer, who helped take Britain out of Europe. 

However, his tone on Wednesday before the Commons select committee was set by his opening comments – a massive mea culpa. He volunteered to take onto his own shoulders a share of the blame for the UK government mis-handling the Covid crisis.

This had two immediate effects: It elevated his status, confirming that he was a central player in Downing Street. It also disarmed those expecting to confront an arrogant Svengali, intent on safeguarding his own reputation.

Wednesday morning’s appearance before MPs was a class act. It stood in sheer contrast to the way in which ministers present themselves before such committees.

Westminster has many weaknesses; but a major strength is the select committee system. Over the years, I’ve sat on many such committees, at Westminster and in Cardiff Bay. When effectively chaired, properly serviced  with in-depth research and served by members who do their homework, there’s no more forensic forum for extracting political truth.

Referring to the delay in instituting the Covid lockdown in March 2020, Cummings asserted that it was “a huge failure of mine and I should have hit the emergency button much sooner”.  From January to March 2020, the prime minister apparently asserted that the real challenge wasn’t the Covid disease, but the economic impact of the steps taken to handle it.


Evidence from China, South Korea and Singapore was tragically ignored, because the UK Government believed that a lockdown approach wouldn’t be tolerated in BritainThere were no plans for testing, for shielding or for the furlough rollout. Some even disputed whether such plans were needed. The system of contact tracing was too centralised.

The instinctive secrecy of the Westminster establishment, led to vital information  not being published. Many public servants fell well below the expected standard – as did some senior ministers. The health secretary was specifically  accused of lying. It was a picture of sheer chaos at the heart of Government.

Dominic Cummings summed it up as “lions led by donkeys”, with the leadership of the prime minister  “who changed his mind ten times a day” having let everyone down. He challenged the MPs on the committee: “What is wrong with your political parties when they generate people like Johnson and Corbyn as the only choice to lead the UK?”

Boris Johnson sacked Cummings as his senior adviser. He acted in haste and may now be regretting it in spades. One thing is certain - we cannot afford to push him back into his hole, and pretend that this explosive evidence was never tendered, or pretend that it can be ignored.

Mock humility may well have been a tool of arrogance; but that  must not be allowed to destroy the central message: Britain is a broken state, led by donkeys, and the time is surely come for it to be buried and replaced, from top to bottom, by a new system fit for purpose.