Now it’s our turn to start making up outlandish stories every time we want to break the rules

‘The reason I went to a barbecue on the beach with 30 mates was to see if my toothache had got better so I could look after my goldfish’

Mark Steel
Thursday 28 May 2020 17:35
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Michael Gove tries to defend Dominic Cummings driving to 'test his eyesight'

This is what we needed after being shut indoors: a political advisor prepared to make the pandemic fun.

Now we should all be allowed to have a turn at holding a press conference where we make up a surreal story about why we broke the rules. Every day someone can tell us, “The reason I went to a barbecue on the beach with 30 mates was to see if my toothache had got better so I could look after my goldfish.”

The next day, an accountant from East Grinstead can say, “I had the most appalling diarrhoea. I couldn’t go two minutes without bolting for the pan. So I decided to put my wife and kids in the car and drive them to Margate for a picnic.”

There could be a prize, The Cummings Trophy, for the one with the most imagination, won by a website designer from Hertford who told journalists, “I needed to find out if I was allergic to peanuts. That’s why I held a rave in the woods with 200 people, where we took so much ecstasy that we hugged each other and everyone caught the virus. But in the circumstances, I’m sure everyone will agree, it was the sensible thing to do.”

When the kids go back to school, they should adopt these rules. If they’re caught smoking in the toilets, they can say, “I was checking my eyesight miss.” Then the headmaster can immediately tweet, “The child has bravely given a thorough explanation. Now let’s move on.”

Even more impressive than Cummings was the response of those ministers, who had to find ways of backing him up. To start with they said he should be applauded, because regardless of the rules, he was looking after his child.

Next week they’ll say, “I have seen the footage, in which Mr Cummings mugs a pensioner and runs off his with his wallet. Yes, if you want to score a cheap political point it was technically ‘against the rules’, but he gave the money to his son for sweets, and looking after your child is NOT A CRIME.”

After the “eyesight” story, every minister had to announce this had cleared the matter up, because Cummings had “used his discretion” which is within the rules. So the rules are you decide yourself what to do, according to your “discretion”.

They should have been clearer from the start, saying, “You must stay at home, and if you have symptoms of the virus, you must self-isolate. The only excuse for not following these rules is you don’t want to. Then you can go where you please, but that’s THE ONLY REASON.”

Boris Johnson praised Cummings for following his instincts. So now anything is legal as long as you’re following your instincts. Isis must be kicking themselves; if they’d waited a couple of years they could have said they were following their instincts and their members would be allowed to drive to Syria or wherever they fancied.

Michael Gove performed especially well. Asked if he’d ever driven 60 miles to test his eyesight, he said “Yes I have, actually.” So he was asked to explain when, and said “People who know me will tell you I’m not an expert on driving.” This is inspired logic.

Michael Gove should tell us next he once went to the moon. And when he’s asked when that was, he can say, “Don’t ask me, I’m not an expert on astronomy.”

To be fair, Cummings seems to have learned from the episode. What he’s learned is if your unbelievable story isn’t believed, you should add more unbelievable stories. So he boasted that last year, he had predicted this pandemic. Then it turned out he’d recently edited his article of last year, adding in the bit about the pandemic.

It suggests he’s not grasped how predictions work. If you did a stage show, in which you said “Here’s a piece of paper, on which I’ve written all last week’s football results. Because I’m magic,” that wouldn’t be much of an act.

But the government didn’t seem that bothered about any of it at first, dismissing the story as “only of concern to the Westminster bubble”.

This must be why the headline “Shock advice for ruling elite: don’t drive if you’re blind”, was on the Daily Star.

Because the Daily Star is a typical newspaper for for the political “Westminster bubble” van drivers, who lean out of the window eating a pie and shouting “I hope the transport secretary finishes his statement to the select committee soon, because I’ve got a horse in the 2.30 from Redcar”. Those elite, bubbly snobs.

The government strategy seems to be to follow Trump, who makes surreal statements every day, and only slowly loses popularity. So Trump waits until the scientists finish their part of the briefing, then leans forward and says “I’ve been rubbing radioactive waste on my scrotum. It’s a fantastic remedy, I’ve heard great things about it, am I infected? No, so it’s working.”

Then polls in America show 40 per cent of the population agrees with him, and demonstrators in Tennessee are holding up placards saying: “Not rubbing radioactive waste in your nuts = communism.”

But we don’t seem to be at that stage in Britain, which Johnson and Cummings may not have understood. So they try to copy Trump, telling outlandish stories, then blaming it on the press and the elite if they’re not believed.

It’s as if they’re saying, “The media shouldn’t be obsessed with exposing Dominic Cummings for lying over his trip to Barnard Castle. Instead they should be obsessed with exposing how we’ve ballsed up everything else as well.”

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