How to treat the parliamentary evidence today from Dominic Cummings

26th May 2021

Dominic Cummings, the former assistant to the prime minister excites strong opinions – and it is difficult to escape those strong opinions when you write or think about him.

But the attempt should be made – as what he had to say at today’s remarkable parliamentary committee hearing may or may not be important.

The approach I would recommend is as follows:-

First – avoid confirmation bias – especially when it is from an unexpected source.

Many of the things he said confirm the prejudices of those critical of the current government generally and the prime minister in particular – and there was glee to hear him, of all people, say these things.

You should be especially wary of things which affirm what you think must be true.

Second – be aware of the selective nature of the evidence.

For example – some ministers were damned, but other ministers – such as the chancellor responsible for ‘eat out to help out’ and uncertainty over furlough payments – were not criticised

Nor was the cabinet office minister blamed for any difficulty in his department.

If this was a general critique of ministerial competence then it was lopsided – and almost vindictive.

Third – be aware also of motivation.

The former assistant to the prime minister wants, of course, to be vindicated – not least because of the Barnard Castle tarnish.

He has an understandable desire to have been right all along – and his failures only being that he did not do more sooner.

And fourth – there is the issue of honesty.

The former assistant to the prime minister once admitted that the £350million-a-week promise for the NHS was a convenient lie.

He was also one of those ministers and advisers who could not and did not sign the statement of truth (under pain of perjury) about the true reason for the prorogation – and it was the lack of such a witness statement that meant the government lost the case in the supreme court.

Indeed, the fact that if he said something untrue today may have been a contempt of parliament holds no fear for him – as he already has been held in contempt of parliament and with no consequences.

It was a win-win situation today from his perspective – he could take the benefit of absolute parliamentary privilege to make serious allegations, but with none of the sanctions for that benefit being misused.

Nonetheless, a lot of what he said ‘rang true’ – and it may be that there will be evidence that substantiates his many general and detailed claims of wrongdoing by others – some of which are highly serious.

And nothing he said should be dismissed out-of-hand just because he was the one who said it.

Everything he said may be true.

But everything he said, for the four reasons above, needs to be corroborated.

Today was great political theatre – but more is needed before any reliance can be placed upon this great political performance.


Hello there.  Thank you for reading – now help keep this blog available for you and others.

If you value this free-to-read and independent legal and policy commentary for you and others please do support through the Paypal box above, or become a Patreon subscriber.

Each post takes time, effort, and opportunity cost.

Suggested donation of any amount as a one-off, or of £5 upwards on a monthly profile.

This law and policy blog provides a daily post for you and others commenting on and contextualising topical law and policy matters.


You can also subscribe for each post to be sent by email at the subscription box above (on an internet browser) or on a pulldown list (on mobile).


Comments Policy

This blog enjoys a high standard of comments, many of which are better and more interesting than the posts.

17 thoughts on “How to treat the parliamentary evidence today from Dominic Cummings”

    1. And Shakespeare himself could hardly have bettered the skill of Mark Antony Cummings’ 21st Century “Friends, Romans, countryman” speech. Though Webster might provide a better analogy.

  1. Motivation is perhaps the biggest question mark.

    I don’t believe he cares what the general public think of him. However there were some tells which I don’t understand.

    He largely stood by the ridiculous eye test story. And he quibbled about editing his blog posts. These things are not really of any great importance.

    Yet he’s also happy to admit to playing a part in mistakes which cost thousands of lives.

    I do not understand this inconsistency. Does he really value his ego that much?

  2. I think when confronted (I use the word advisedly) with these courtships one should switch off the source – computer, radio, TV, smart phone – because in the end who cares? The man won Hartlepool by a political mile and as long as he can keep on doing that and given his opposition, he will not only keep doing that he will annihilate labour and whilst that is the case anything Dominic Cummings says is courtship – obviously he is not courting Johnson, but Johnson is his match and that irks him – hence today’s charade – for that is what it is, pure theatre and if you are paying to watch this (I am not watching it) ask for your money back and find a better way to spend your time – this is dribble with absolutely no consequence. David is right to caution his readers – I am going one step further – ignore it – Cummings isn’t coming back Johnson isn’t going anywhere, so feet up and breathe.

  3. Very wise words indeed. For there was no criticism of Michael Gove and surely he’s in the thick of it all and there are many lines of attack to choose from. Whilst Sunak, living in his big house and safe from Homelessness, threw the 3 million excluded under that bus that weren’t safe from Homelessness.

    Pure Panto today undoubtedly but who is the real Wicked Witch that put the Nation under their spell. Maybe time will out them!

  4. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. Yesterday was amusing but useless.

    Maybe there will be some sort of inquiry, an exercise in futility but nice work if you can get it. Boris will rumble on because there is nothing better available to us. Some might rake over the ashes in hope of some nugget, more likely a cold cinder. Strictly for the birds, chip paper by this afternoon.

    I don’t think Cummings is as clever as he makes out. Who is going to hire him now – for anything. He might make a little as a scribbler. Perhaps he will scrape a living on the lecture circuit or a spot of freelance. A one-trick pony if ever there was.

  5. His testimony is not favourable to himself so I’m inclined to take it seriously.
    Like all such accounts it is bound to be both partial and incomplete.
    I hope we get equally lengthy accounts from other participants.

  6. For me, when analysing what was said, and for that matter what wasn’t, all you need to ask yourself is this:

    What’s in it for Dom?

    1. I’m inclined to agree with Alan Pennie above.
      Stuff like “one trick pony” “what’s in it for Dom?” “Feet up and breathe” are worryingly flippant. All that aside, the extent of the chaos and ineptitude, in large part independently supported, should frighten the wits out of anyone.
      Johnson’s routine lying, narcissism and holding together a safety net of fifth rate cabinet members ready to be dumped as and when should evoke less complacency than that shown in many of the above posts.

      1. I don’t read any of the above posts as complacent or flippant. Rather as bitter humour in the face of a disastrous government. If I think too hard about it, I am indeed frightened out of my wits but I can’t live my daily life like that and, besides, hope is eternal whatever the circumstances.

        What I find interesting about Cummings’ “revelations” is that nothing particularly new is in fact revealed. We knew the Govt had behaved callously sending people untested back into care homes. We could see Matt Hancock was inept. We are unfortunately used to the fact that Johnson is a liar. And what’s new about Cummings? Only that he even slimier than ever.

      2. Oh, it’s frightening alright and I’m not dismissing everything else that has come from this but let’s be honest, it’s only confirming what most of us knew or suspected already.

        In terms of Cummings doing what he has and when he has, I don’t think there’s any shred of conscience at play here, purely self interest and dare I say it, revenge on Johnson.

        For all his saying he isn’t clever or smart, he is. He’s also deeply dismissive of the majority, including politicians, of being intellectual lightweights and appears to think of them with little more than contempt.

        I have no doubt here that he’s positioning himself for a route back into the corridors of power when Johnson departs, whenever that is.

        Note those spared of criticism. Including a number who will be contenders to take over.

        All of this is just a game to him. As was mentioned earlier, it’s just a big ego trip. But for the rest of us, a potentially very dangerous an worrying one.

  7. What Cummings said has the “ring of truth” but as you say needs to be corroborated.
    The answer to this is to push the governement relentlessly for an acceleration of the public inquiry.
    Cummings ‘assertions warrant this.

  8. I’ll be very happy to be proven wrong, but I don’t see how this political theatre will change very much at all. People have already formed firm ideas of Cummings and will believe/distrust him based on those views. The same is true of Johnson, whom people have had even longer to get to know and even more opportunities for his appalling behaviour to shift their opinion of him.

    Does anything in Cummings’ testimony really challenge Johnson’s credibility more than other allegations that have come out recently? Not that I can see. Until the country hears Johnson say something, sees him say something, then his supporters will remain unmoved. In all honesty, even actual recordings may not be enough – there are plenty of die hard apologists out there.

    Hopefully I’m needlessly despondent.

  9. There are lies, dam lies and statisics… now we have Hancock, Johnson and Cummings….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.