Dominic Cummings has won some over - but trying to manipulate us has been his job for years
In an unprecedented move, The Prime Minister's chief advisor took questions from the press in the garden of 10 Downing Street yesterday, after the weekend's press coverage was dominated by allegations that he had breached lockdown rules. It is true that Cummings answered some criticisms well and managed to win over some of the public yesterday - but there are still holes in his story which remain unfilled.
During his initial statement, he admitted to going back to work after his wife had thrown up, which is a symptom. Of course it's a mild symptom, but if he was concerned enough about having Covid that he drove to Durham on the grounds of childcare, surely he should have been concerned enough not to go back into Downing Street? This goes against all advice and is a breach of the rules.
Secondly, he has family in London - a support network which could have been acessed nearby rather than driving the length of the country. He hasn't explained why he didn't use them. Surely he would have done, if he hadn't had the luxury of a second home, like 99% of the population? Thousands of people are furious that they found themselves in similar situations and followed the rules, and the fact that half the cabinet have now said that he acted as any decent father would have done, essentially telling those families that if they really loved their children, they'd have broken the rules too, is insulting. Had all of the people that found themselves in the same circumstances taken the same steps, lockdown would not have been properly enforced. Many of the British public have missed their loved ones' deaths and funerals by sticking to the rules, yet Mr Cummings this felt that his was an exceptional circumstance.
Another controversy his social media warriors have cited is the Labour MP who attended a funeral during lockdown. I agree he should have the whip removed because it's also a clear breach, but at least he had the decency to apologise, which Cummings didn't. Likewise, many of those people defending Cummings to the hilt were furious at Neil Ferguson and Catherine Calderwood - both of whom rightly resigned. Of course they were different situations but there's no consistency - one group is still allowed to break the rules and another isn't. The drive to Barnard Castle for an eyesight test is clearly an inadequate defence - and in itself is probably a distraction mechanism, as scores of (admittedly hilarious) memes have dominated social media since the statement.
He cleverly played the sympathy card and the "us against the media" narrative, as he so successfully did during the referendum and last year's General Election. Whilst it is clear that some of the press have overplayed their hand and hounded him during the weekend, which is wrong, that doesn't mean Cummings didn't break the rules he almost definitely helped to set. He's a strategist - it's his job to manipulate peoples' emotions - don't be fooled by it.