QUENTIN LETTS: Heaven knows how Boris Johnson put up with Cummings

QUENTIN LETTS: Heaven knows how Boris Johnson put up with husky-voiced Cassandra Dominic Cummings for so long

After four hours listening to Dominic Cummings the average onlooker may have felt the urge to yowl, loudly, quite possibly at the moon. Heaven knows how Boris Johnson put up with him so long.

Mr Cummings is a one-man demoraliser, a ceaseless castigator, a husky-voiced Cassandra. This intense oddball, veins throbbing on his bald head, thought everyone else in government – save a few of his wonkish friends – was wrong, wrong, wrong about Covid.

His turn at the Covid inquiry left one feeling sooted by pessimism and by Christian concern, for the man himself. If it is exhausting to listen to doom-laden Dom for one afternoon, how much more exhausting must it be to lead life in a state of such perpetual conflict?

This is not to say he was not sometimes compelling and funny. I am enough of an Anglo-Saxon to enjoy hearing the magnificoes of our Cabinet dismissed as ‘useless f***pigs’ and ‘****s’. Been true for years!

Lady Hallett, presiding, kept calling short adjournments, quite possibly to clutch hold of the sal volatile bottle and give it good sniff. Lady Hallett had earlier asked Cummings’s sidekick Lee Cain — who would have made a good under-villain in the film Home Alone — to use more straightforward language. Bet she regretted that.

Dominic Cummings, former adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves Dorland House after giving evidence to the COVID Inquiry in London, United Kingdom on October 31, 2023

Dominic Cummings slated ministers as ‘c***s’ and ‘morons’ in foul-mouthed messages shown as he gave evidence to the Covid inquiry

Mr Cummings was  Boris Johnson’s top political aide in Downing Street from July 2019 until November 2020 

We learned that Boris Johnson’s ‘oscillating’ over decisions earned him the nickname ‘the trolley’, as in a supermarket cart with a wonky wheel.

The civil service Blob also came in for a sustained and vivid pasting. The demolition of former Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill – ‘now Lord Sedwill’, please –made one’s eyes pop. 

His lordship, Theresa May’s favourite mandarin, was a treacly piece of work, but Mr Cummings thought him a hopeless duffer. Stretcher bearers for Sedwill.

‘Dominic Mckenzie Cummings’, 51, of no stated abode but quite possibly a park bench, swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Given that he prepared for this hearing by retreating to the holy island of Lindisfarne, he surely meant that oath.

Across the low-ceilinged inquiry room shimmered Hugo Keith KC. Handsome Hugo, in lilac tie, Jermyn Street shirt and beautiful suit, likes tennis and sailing yet never sails so close to the wind as to land him in trouble with the Establishment. 

He wore a manly wristwatch. His luxuriant fringe was swept back to a widow’s peak.

Brother Dominic? Less tidy. A crumpled, brownish jacket, tie loose at an unbuttoned collar, the shirt so creased he may have kipped in it. No wristwatch. Mavericks and, for that matter, tramps have little interest in time-keeping.

READ MORE: BBC and Sky scramble to make on-air apologies for broadcasting Dominic Cummings’ expletive-filled Covid inquiry appearance

Mr Keith extracted the pin from the grenade and stepped back for the ensuing explosion. Bits of Lord Sedwill may continue to be found in London W2 for weeks.

Matt Hancock was dismissed as a liar (I merely report, dear friends) and the likes of Shapps, Truss and Ben Wallace were frightfully leaky.

As for officials at the Department of Health, when Covid was becoming a problem ‘they weren’t banging alarm bells, they were going skiing’.

Cabinet and Cobra meetings were pointless. Public Health England was pathetic. Backbench MPs were a menace. The scientists at Sage were late to the races. And the Cabinet Office was a black hole.

Mr Keith, who possibly rather venerates the system, began to bridle a little and started speaking Latin… ‘sequelae’. 

Mr Cummings, who preferred talking about ‘bat sense’ and using words such as ‘whatnot’, ‘crackers’ and ‘blah-blah-blah’ gave him a puzzled look. 

‘Consequences,’ translated Mr Keith, with pleasure. Not that our Hugo was perfect.

He repeatedly referred to Chevening, the grace-and-favour government country house, as ‘Chieveley’, which is a motorway services in Berkshire.

Entire paragraphs geysered out of Mr Cummings so fast that the KC kept urging him to ‘slow down, slooow dooown’.

Before long, our frothing thoroughbred was back to full gallop, kicking at this, biting at that, shaking his fetlocks and neigh-neigh-neighing.

A veterinary surgeon might have been tempted to diagnose advanced stages of mad horse disease.

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