Discomforting though it is, I find I have some things in common with Dominic Cummings.
Like the prime minister’s sinister svengali, I’m a 48-year-old father whose wife came down with a nasty case of Covid-19 while I was sickening for it. Like him, I work full time and this left us faced with a potential crisis.
According to Boris Johnson, instinct should have, at that point, kicked in. I should have ignored the rules, flipped off the country and driven the kids to their grandparents (one of whom lives a long way from London). Maybe taken a trip to a castle or local beauty spot. As you do.
Perhaps I just have bad instincts. Perhaps I’m just a terrible father. That must be it, because my first instinct when my wife was sent home from the school at which she works with a cough that would have made a good sound effect in for a future horror flick, was to do the exact opposite of what Cummings did.
We immediately locked down. We took the children out of school (still open at the time, wrongly in my view), which wasn’t at all easy because my son has autism and his school provides him with a structure he needs and relies upon.
We urged their grandparents to steer clear. To Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.
That’s not least because, like Cummings must have done, I’d seen the graphs showing that the risk of fatality from Covid-19 rises exponentially as you get older. Unlike Cummings, there was no way I was prepared to put our relatives at risk to cope with a child care crisis.
The only visitations since then have been via FaceTime and Skype.
My mother told me this left her feeling “helpless”. She lives nearby and has jumped in before when we’ve found ourselves in tight spots. She knew that the situation we were faced with was going to be extremely difficult for me to manage. Unlike Cummings I have some fairly serious physical challenges, the result of a life-threatening road accident, not to mention type 1 diabetes, the result of a funky immune system that ate my insulin producing cells when I was two.
What my wife’s illness underlined to me was just how much my she does around house; all the things that my battered body makes impossible, very difficult, or just plain dangerous for me to do. There were points where I nearly came a cropper through falls. But I’ve dealt with bruises before, and we kept on.
Until the virus hit me.
At that point there were two of us who could barely move. My wife was on the verge of hospitalisation, having tried to get up and help (the GP called back three times on that horrible day which will forever be etched into my memory).
Yet still we stuck to the guidelines with the religiosity of cultists. We improvised. We used the microwave, boxes of cereal, calls to Pizza Hut.
This does not make us special. Our story is not unique, nor even unusual. There are people who have had to cope with situations similar to ours while in small flats, even temporary accommodation. There are people who’ve endured worse. There are people who’ve had relatives die without the chance to say goodbye.
You’ll probably have seen some of their stories.
And yet, like us, their instinct as parents, as relatives, or simply as human beings, was to obey the rules because they were aware, as we were, that if they didn’t more people would die. So to do anything else would have been unthinkable.
That word ‘unthinkable’. It’s is one that’s being used a lot right now. Johnson and Cummings, and the people in the distant, sneering, elite circles they inhabit, regularly do things that fall squarely in that category.
Cummings’ actions, and Johnson’s in defending him, are, however, so incredibly, amazingly, monstrously unthinkable that they’ve actually managed to do something that looked all but impossible. They’ve created a consensus in a country the two men deliberately set about dividing.
To be fair, it was already becoming joined in sadness. But thanks to their disgusting hypocrisy it’s now also, with the exception of a few trolls, toadying ministers, and leader writers for The Times, united in contempt.