The Culture War Cummings Can’t Win

An old ruin

THEY’RE going to try to “culture war” their way out of it, aren’t they?

One of the few good things to come out of Coronageddon is the truce between Leavers and Remainers. Existential threats tend to do that to a society. We’ve seen a solidarity in this country that few of us could have imagined six months ago. Although I suppose it’s possible Dominic Cummings will write a few lines about it later today and attach it to one of his old blog posts.

For example, we’ve all, Leavers and Remainers alike, sat on our sofas at 7.59pm, every Thursday evening, and thought, “Oh, God, do I really have to stand up and go on my front step and clap? Maybe I could get away with it this week. Oh, God, there go the fireworks…” before lumbering outside and clapping while frantically scanning the street, hoping to see the first person who stops so you can too.

We’ve all stood six feet apart in long queues outside Tesco, shuffling forward as it’s one-in-one-out, absolutely livid at the person who comes out carrying a single packet of barmcakes.

And we’ve all had to get to grips with a Houseparty caller suddenly appearing on our screens, before abandoning that app and shifting over to Zoom, which has twice the admin, but zero chance of somebody surprising us while we’re on the loo.

But it’s the queuing thing that’s key to this. Whenever people start talking about national characteristics, I glaze over in the same way that I do when they talk about how the star sign under which I was born dictates the sort of person I am. Well, we Capricorns are naturally sceptical.

Yet anybody who has been abroad for five minutes will realise that respect for queuing is ingrained in the British psyche. There’s nothing we hate more in this country than a queue-jumper.

We’re a country of people who don’t make fusses in restaurants and apologise to inanimate objects when we bump into them. Yet if you stand in a Post Office line at 12.28pm and watch somebody walk straight up to the counter because they’re in a rush, you’ll see them being duffed up immediately by a little old lady, while her friends surround them in a ring, slyly kicking the queue-jumper in the bollocks.

There’s an argument to be made that this characteristic is even more prevalent among Leavers. Leavers don’t like rules in this country being made somewhere else. They don’t like immigrants coming over here and getting preferential treatment, etc, etc. Whether you agree with them or not – and I don’t – they perceive it as unfair and not how we do things in this country.

What Dominic Cummings has done is of the same order as queue-jumping, except with queue-jumping you don’t usually risk spreading a deadly virus to a region of the country. So he was “in a rush” and had to “jump the queue”? So what? We all have places we need to be. But we were all told that we had to stand in that queue and put our lives on hold. Some of us watched loved ones die from a distance because we had to stand in that queue.

And what if he acted within the law? I’d love to see that tested in court, but even if he did, there’s no law which dictates that we have to queue in Post Offices either. There doesn’t have to be because we know that if everybody just walked up to the counter and demanded immediate attention there would be blood shed.

What he did was fundamentally unfair. I know we’ve all bent the rules a little. We’ve stood a bit too close to people. We’ve seen people in their gardens. We’ve been outside for a bit longer than the hour we were allocated at the time.

But we haven’t jumped in our car, with Covid-19 symptoms, and driven 260 miles to a far-flung part of the country, risking breakdown or an accident. And then, when we’ve got there, we haven’t jumped back in that car and driven 60 miles with a child in the back seat, just to test our eyesight.

Cummings has been caught with his hand in the biscuit tin, while wearing a beanie marked BISCUIT SNATCHER, and this absolute clown car of a government is trying to brazen it out, with its outriders suggesting that it’s all a Remainer plot to remove the man who brought us Brexit.

They’re using their only weapon, divide and rule, to protect a political adviser. And normally it would work.

But the only division that’s relevant in this society at the moment is not the division between Remainers and Leavers. It’s the division between the tiny minority of queue-jumpers and the rest of us.

And this scandal is showing up this Prime Minister and his cabinet as nothing more than a shower of queue-jumpers. And I don’t fancy their chances of winning a war against British culture.