I watched a BBC documentary last night on the rise of Dominic Cummings. It was scary, not least because the producers found it amusing or convenient to repeatedly show still pictures of his face between the interviews with pundits, as if they were trying to convey the impression that this man was bonkers—or something like that. In this they may have succeeded but all I can say is do not judge a book by its cover. If you have mad, staring eyes it does not mean that you are necessarily to be avoided in the pub, although all my experience tells me otherwise (my experience of going to pubs that is, not having mad, staring eyes).
On the other hand . . . a missing feature of the documentary, otherwise competently handled by Emily Maitlis (who sadly has had to suffer the attentions of a mad obsessive herself) is that at no time was Cummings called out explicitly for what he is—a cheerleader for the loony right. Can you imagine the opprobrium Corbyn would have attracted if he had employed somebody on the scale of Cummings’ lunatic ideological spectrum? But the most we can expect from the mainstream media are hints that he may be some kind of aspergers-style genius who dresses scruffily, that is as a focussed unself-conscious innocent who happens to have an extreme, blinkered but ultimately sloppy analysis of society. He may well cut through occasionally and wield influence (on ’big’ thinkers like Michael Gove or even—no, don’t snigger—Iain DunCan-Shit) but Cummings’ career seems to career off course more often than Bill Clinton’s willy (sorry, I was struggling there for a more palatable analogy but couldn’t think of one).
It’s impossible to say how long Cummings’ current tenure in No10 will last. Even Peter Mandelson, interviewed in the programme couldn’t make his mind up (presented in the right way such ambivalence can be interpreted as enormous wisdom), only saying that he’ll either last a long time or may self-destruct in the short term. We can only hope for the latter.
Purely by coincidence last night I also watched a film called 'Max' which portrayed an imaginary relationship between Hitler and a rich Jewish art dealer in the immediate aftermath of the first world war. The actor playing the young(ish), very strange Adolf could one day be called upon to do a very good Cummings. At least Hitler has not been recorded putting a raised fist salute through the ceiling tiles of his office (a genuine scene from last night's documentary).
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