By Jack Troughton
TRUST in Prime Minister Boris Johnson tumbled this week as the story of his key advisor breaking lockdown continues to dominate headlines and triggered a public backlash.
The approval rating for Mr Johnson nosedived and the polls were ‘very grim’ for the UK’s leader and his government, said former Conservative MP Nick de Bois.
He said the jury was still out on the whole affair. “I have not quite given up on the forecast that this could all end up in tears for Cummings.”
Speaking on the Costa Blanca’s Bay Radio in the fallout after the advisor gave his version of why he took his family on a 260 mile trip from London to Durham, Nick agreed there was no apology or hint of regret for the alleged breach of coronavirus rules.
“Actually, if you think about it, the chance of him regretting doing this, when on the other hand he is claiming he acted in the best interests of his family… it was almost inevitable he would not regret it,” said Nick, now an author and political commentator.
“Frankly, I think he should have gone some way to have made or shown a little more humility than perhaps Dominic is capable of doing, to be blunt.”
And he said Cummings was ‘daft’ not to apologise for driving 30 miles to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.
He said Boris Johnson had put up ‘an enormous fight’ to keep Cummings but had also chosen some careful words over his aide.
“When he was asked if Cummings had his unconditional backing, he said ‘I cannot give anyone my unconditional backing’ – it is like the chairman of a football club giving the manager his backing and sacking him a few days later.”
Nick said the prime minister had enjoyed a ‘plus 19’ approval rating ahead of the scandal but this had fallen to ‘minus 2’ as the affair rumbled on. “Obviously the trend is more important than anything else; but one can only think how trust takes ages to earn – he earned that in the general election – will it be very difficult to get this trust back? That’s what will be worrying him.”
He said the ‘big mistake’ was thinking the row would be confined to the ‘Westminster village bubble’ that no one else would be interested in; it was quickly clear it was something a ‘lot of people are very interested in’.
And the flames were fanned by an ‘incredibly hostile’ media with headlines underlining the lack of regret and an apology. Fuel to the fire was added by speculation over why the chief medical officer and chief scientific officer did not join the prime minister at the daily briefing immediately after Cummings faced the press.
Nick said the prime minister and his aide were very closely linked and ‘one thrives off the other’. “Dominic Cummings is a great thinker, innovator and normally a superb communicator. Boris Johnson is a leader who cuts through to the people in a way which no other politician normally does and gives his vision and believes in reform and change… to lose a partner like that would be very difficult for Boris Johnson.”
He said the Cabinet ‘big guns’ probably thought they could keep the advisor in place and ride out the storm – while the opposition had successfully whipped up an orchestrated ‘us and them’ campaign on social media to put pressure on the government.