Dear Mr Johnson,
You have suffered from covid-19 – indeed, you were in intensive care and nearly died. For those days and weeks, you were in the same situation as tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people in this country. Your special advisor, Dominic Cummings, was apparently in a similar position, facing a dilemma that many families throughout this country have faced.
It’s a shame neither of you learnt anything from this experience, or if you did that you hide it so well. Because according to you, Mr Johnson, Mr Cummings was entirely right to ignore the guidance that you and he helped put in place, perhaps more than once.
This guidance has caused hardship and misery to many, many people. From people who’ve been ill yet had to manage children, to others who’ve not been able to see family, to bereaved people who’ve not been able to say a final goodbye to someone they love – this guidance, these rules, have caused unimaginable hardship to many.
And yet we have willingly kept to it. Because we know, as we thought you did, how serious this is. Because we don’t want to get infected. Because we know that for these rules to work, everyone has to keep to them.
Mr Cummings clearly doesn’t believe that; he seems to believe that he can ignore those rules based on his “instincts”. And you seem to believe that he is right in this and that your need to keep him as an advisor over-rides any need to act as one of the people of this country, to show that we really are “all in this together”. If ever that phrase was true, it is utterly meaningless now.
How must people who have made huge, costly sacrifices in order to stop this disease spreading now feel, seeing what has happened, hearing you and your cabinet colleagues defend Mr Cummings? They have faced similar dilemmas with far fewer ways out, yet at incredible cost to their own health, physical and mental, and in many other ways have kept the rules. It’s hard not to think that they are better citizens than any of you.
For Mr Cummings to have made these trips is one thing. For you to not even show any understanding of why many people are upset and furious at this, for you to defend Mr Cummings without any suggestion that you think he might have done something even a little wrong is truly breath-taking. At the election in December, you won an 80-seat majority. Many people voted for you for the first time, believing they could trust you: on Brexit, yes, but implicitly on other things as well. You have shown that you do not deserve that trust, that it was utterly misplaced. You have shown what many of us believed all along: that being in power is the most important thing to you with little or no regard for the consequences of your actions to gain and hold that power. You have traded that trust just to keep hold of one advisor, an advisor you’re supposed to be the boss of. Mr Cummings will never be accountable to us, the public, but whether you like it or not you are. You may wish that this will all blow over and be forgotten about the next time we come to vote; you may be right, I sincerely hope you are wrong. Mr Cummings clearly should have been sacked or forced to resign, as other high-profile officials and advisors who have broken the lockdown rules and guidance have done. The fact that this has not happened shows you hold him in higher regard than the people of this country and all that they have given during this crisis.
Many people will now believe that you have no moral authority to enforce the lockdown rules and that if Mr Cummings can break them with impunity then why shouldn’t they. I hope they don’t, I hope that they prove themselves better than yourself and Mr Cummings and continue to act in responsible ways, recognising the mutual dependence we have on each other in order to overcome covid-19. But if they do, could you entirely blame them? Would you have the authority to blame them? All through this, I’ve felt that we have some personal responsibility as citizens: that even if the guidance or rules are unclear, we know in general what we are supposed to do. Mr Cummings’ actions, and your refusal to consider any sanction against him in spite of them, makes it clear that you don’t believe that, or that it doesn’t apply to him.
We needed a government and a Prime Minister who were effective, sympathetic and clear to guide us through this crisis, a government we could believe were on our side. Despite not voting Conservative, despite being so disappointed that you became Prime Minister and the Brexit has happened, I wanted to believe that you could rise to the occasion and lead a government with those qualities. Any hope you might have done that has been quickly eroded by the last few weeks and has been utterly destroyed by this weekend. It would be a small justice if those who happily voted Tory and rejoiced when Brexit happened changed their minds. You clearly have no particular regard for them.