The National:

SO this is where we are now: Dominic Cummings is the voice of reason, stating what we already knew, but still making us feel angry and lost for words in the face of the human tragedy caused by the British government’s catastrophic handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s government, as the majority of governments in Western countries, wasn’t ready, and when the pandemic finally hit us, they treated it with neglect, repeating the same mistakes over and over again despite expert advice begging them to have a different approach. This is not breaking news: scientists from all over the world have been saying precisely that for months.

But hearing it from the mouth of Dominic Cummings, who used to be Boris Johnson’s closest ally, and who played a critical role in making sure he is now in 10 Downing Street, is both painful and outraging.

Cummings says he now believes that the Prime Minister is unfit to lead the country out of this health crisis. But the Vote Leave mastermind bears personal responsibility for why this country is in the situation of having a populist in power at a time of serious danger and instability. To act now as if in total disbelief in front of his former boss’s record at this stage of the pandemic would infuriate any normal person.

The National:

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I guess the past few months have taught us a valuable lesson for the future: always be wary of politicians who treat scientific advice with scorn, the kind who think that being a showman and saying what they think people want to hear is so much more preferable to cold-headed leadership.

We should have learned by now that someone who doesn’t have the humility to say “I am not all-knowing, I need people who actually study this stuff to give me elements to make an informed decision”, as if they were some sort of demi-god, should be disqualified from ever being in a position of power.

To be frank, we should have learned this a long time ago. We have had this kind of behaviour with Brexit too, and more recently in France, we have government ministers such as Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin saying that when it comes to tackling crime, he’ll always prefer listening to the common sense of his hometown’s butcher than seeing the actual facts and figures published by the French equivalent of the ONS.

Obviously, the views and feelings of ordinary citizens are hugely important: after all, we are the ones having to live with the consequences of the decisions taken (or neglected) by the government.

However, saying that expertise and science are incompatible with public opinion is a fallacy. The fact is that Darmanin is using the widespread view that criminality is exploding (which is false by the way, figures show that it has been stagnating for 20 years) to push for a more conservative, repressive agenda, and never ever call out police violence, which disproportionately affects citizens from ethnic minorities.

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In Boris Johnson’s defence (I never thought I would ever write those words), I think it is safe to say that Dominic Cummings’ damning indictment of the government today could apply to many other countries.

The unpreparedness, the abandonment of responsibility, the procrastination to introduce restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, led to the avoidable death of thousands of people all over the world. Of course, there were always going to be shortcomings in this situation we had never seen in our lifetime. But that shouldn’t be a cop-out to doing our job as citizens, and ask ourselves what we expect from the people we elect.