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UK politics

More trouble at No 10

Dominic Cummings’s interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg was “wonderful theatre”, says David Aaronovitch in The Times. Apart from Cummings telling us about the PM’s “plan to kill the Queen” with Covid (“I see her every Wednesday!”), what jumped out was the revelation that within days of getting Boris elected, “Baron Frankenstein so despaired of his flawed creature” that he plotted to destroy it and make another to replace it. Yes, Cummings admitted, “I made Johnson, and I failed to unmake him”. That, he implied to the viewer, is now your job – if you’re up to it. Because while Cummings has gone, Johnson is still here, “waving his arms about”, incapable of concentrating and “a liability” every time this country faces a complex situation requiring hard decisions.

Anyone who thinks Boris “lacks statecraft” should think again, says Charles Moore in The Spectator. Cummings quotes his boss as saying: “We can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80.” This is clearly intended to shock, “but should it”? Cummings is an obsessive, seeing “only one right path”. But a prime minister’s job is not like that. In clarifying his thoughts, he may express them “luridly, in private, to his trusted advisers”, with a reasonable expectation that they won’t be revealed a few months later. “Boris was not being casual or callous: he was thinking out loud.” He would be unfit to lead if “counter-thoughts” never entered his head.

We already know Dom’s diagnosis, says Peter Franklin in UnHerd: “Boris is a clueless bluffer, Carrie is an interfering minx, that sort of thing.” But you have to admit he’s basically right. The PM is, as Cummings has put it, like a “shopping trolley”, constantly veering off course. It requires “a huge expense of time and effort” to get it back on track, “only for it veer off again”. And if you look around the Cabinet table, he’s hardly fielding an “A-team”. The original line-up was selected to amplify a simple message: get Brexit done. Of course, Johnson is no Cummings: “He’s not going to reinvent our entire system of government,” But what he can do is reinvigorate his ministerial team. “Time to get on with it.”

The shape of pings to come

📳 🦠 This Monday we should have been celebrating Freedom Day, says Allister Heath in the Telegraph. Instead “we are driving ourselves mad with an absurd pingdemic”. More than 600,000 people were pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app last week – forcing them to self-isolate. In London, the Metropolitan line closed over the weekend because of staff shortages in the control room. Supermarket shelves are empty because workers are stuck at home. Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are all self-isolating. And we call this freedom? The government needs to accept that Covid is the new flu and move on. If the pingdemic is a victory against the coronavirus, “what does defeat look like”?