Back in February in an article far to cleverly titled ‘Welcome to Borissia‘ I observed that “The combination of Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings may be revolting, but it is revoltingly successful.” Nothing that has happened in the weeks and months since has given me any cause to revise this opinion. It can happen that people are so focused on the awfulness of what is being done they fail to recognise the skill and expertise involved. In terms of the efficiency with which they commit their crimes even murderers can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
Time can lend a more open-minded perspective. I dare say that 75 years ago it would have cause at least the raising of a few eyebrows to acknowledge how well-served the Nazi regime was by its Minister of Propaganda. Today, it is a commonplace to refer to Joseph Goebbels as a master of his art and science. One should not rely too heavily on this relaxed objectivity, however. I seem to recall that as recently as 2007 Brian Ferry (Roxy Music) got himself into a spot of bother when he expressed an admiration for the aesthetics of Leni Riefenstahl’s films, Albert Speer’s buildings and the iconography of Nazi regalia. This didn’t make Ferry a Nazi any more than my fondness for the art of Soviet-era posters makes me a Communist. But people are ever ready for a fresh hate-figure at whom they can vent their righteous indignation in an exercise that is invariably futile by which can be easily mistaken for the exercise of power.
Recognising the fact that Boris Johnson has a habit of getting pretty much everything he wants doesn’t make me a Tory. Noting the part played by Dom Cummings in this record of success doesn’t mean I admire or approve of the things done or the methods used. It is simply to acknowledge the reality.
Think about it! If they hadn’t been so successful there would have been less reason to despise them.
It would be interesting and illuminating to analyse the reasons for this success. As with Better Together in the 2014 referendum campaign there are lessons to be learned from the winners. Not necessarily examples to emulate. But ideas that might inform a more worthy campaign than that which so grievously deceived the people of Scotland. This is not the place for such an analysis. I will mention only one thing that I have noted about the way Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings operate that seems to contribute to their success. Something relevant to the current stooshie about the latter and the response of the former to presumably facetious demands for the latter’s scalp.
It seems to me that when faced with such demands , the ‘Cummings Method’ is not to ask how the baying mob may be placated and said stooshie abated but to ask whether there is actually a need to do anything. I can very easily imagine Cummings asking his ‘boss’ one question – can they force you to sack me? I can hear him explain that if there is no way anybody can force his sacking then to sack him would be a sign of weakness. If you don’t have to do what your opponents want you to do, don’t!
I’m not exactly struggling to find lessons in this approach which might serve our First Minister well.
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