Why I’m glad Dominic Cummings wasn’t forced to quit – Tom Wood

We may regret political bloodsports that have robbed us of the medical expertise of Dr Catherine Calderwood and Professor Neil Ferguson, writes Tom Wood.
Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings leaves his home in north London (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings leaves his home in north London (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings leaves his home in north London (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest Covid-19 manhunt has been a marathon. In this most desperate of times the media pack has been in full cry, the smell of blood in the air.

Their quarry this time the gauche government special adviser Dominic Cummings.

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Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood and leading epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson have already fallen, shamed and driven out.

But Mr Cummings is a juicier target and his close relationship with the Prime Minister ensures that this has always been a proxy pursuit.

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How we seem to relish such political blood sports – there is nothing quite like a large dose of rectitude, finding fault in clever or powerful people and dragging them down.

Opposition politicians get a chance to give sanctimonious interviews, vilifying the villain with barely concealed glee. And social media lights up as the lunatic fringe go into hyperdrive.

By any standard, the hunt for Dominic Cummings has been extraordinary, practically the whole bandwidth of the nation’s media has been committed, no tiny speck of dirt left undug.

The rhetoric has been extreme “fury, contempt and anguish” was one description. A brace of Church of England bishops even broke cover to add their condemnation – so much for Christian charity.

From the outrage, you would have thought that Mr Cummings had been unmasked as a mass murderer.

It has been protracted and ugly but so far the pursuing pack has drawn a blank – Mr Cummings survives.

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And, in a quiet way, I am glad. I have no truck with Mr Cummings but the baying mob that pursues him is a vicious beast. And so it deserves to fail.

And I wonder – did the misdeeds of Mr Cummings really merit the prominence of his story over our 40,000 dead or our children’s stalled education or our ruined economy?

Or what about our Government’s systematic neglect of our care system – about half of Scotland’s dead from Covid-19 were in what passed for ‘care’. Now there’s a subject worthy of a long, hard look.

And there’s another deeper question. Can we really afford to cull talent from our leadership at this time?

I am not talking about Mr Cummings as I have no way of judging his qualities, but I am sure that Dr Calderwood and Professor Ferguson are a grievous loss.

Both these gifted professionals were at the peak of their powers in specialist areas vital to our well-being.

Did it make sense to drive them out because they made misjudgements in their private lives. Cold logic says it is madness.

History will little remember Dominic Cummings but the decisions we make in the coming weeks will define our generation and the future of our country.

We must be clear sighted and bring our best minds to bear.

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We cannot allow the base instincts of the mob to distract us.

For better or worse, we will be judged on how we manage our way out of this crisis .

This is not the time for political blood sports.

Tom Wood is a writer and former Deputy Chief Constable.

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