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Boris looks as though he’s survived the Cummings lockdown road trip – but at what price?

May 29th, 2020

Can the PM get back to where he was?

The above is one of the videos now on YouTube with the words of the Proclaimers 500 Miles song adapted for Mr Cummings and his drive to Durham during the lockdown. This events of the past week have dominated the headlines and become a big talking point.

The question is what will be the long term political impact? All the polling as we have seen has been very negative with even many of those who voted for Boris in December being negative. It is not helped, of course, by the reaction of Cummings himself.

But what about Johnson? Will we be looking back at the events of May 2020 after the next general election and concluding that this was when the rot set in or is it going to be just a distant memory.

Times writer Phillip Collins has a good analysis this morning and argues that the PM “has sacrificed too much for Cummings”. He writes:

“It is hard to see how the verdict on its handling of the pandemic can be anything but harsh. Excess deaths in Britain appear to be one of the highest in the world and at no point has the government communicated a sense of being in control. Ministers have demeaned themselves with robotic tweets. It has been excruciating to see them grovel in support of Mr Cummings and there is not one among them who commands much respect. …. the government needs to husband the poll lead it enjoyed in the election and during Labour’s lotus years. Instead, Mr Johnson has wasted all his advantage on Mr Cummings. Politics is not always fair and it is not always pretty. Even if I thought Mr Cummings was entirely blameless, the decision to sack him would be easy. A collapse in the government’s ratings, of the sort that happened this week, is an event in the next general election. .. He is now a net liability, even if you defend what he did last month.

We’ll see tomorrow night what Cummings has done to the government’s and PM’s reputation with the regular approval ratings in this week’s Opinium poll. Last week’s survey was carried out almost entirely before this broke.

Mike Smithson