“Your create your own universe as you go along!” – Winston Churchill
As your critical friend, you will not be surprised that my advisory this week is dominated by observations of your handling of the Dominic Cummings’ debacle.
Your Chief Advisor’s well reported travel from London to Durham (and surrounding area), whilst exposed to COVID-19, have dominated the news this week. Your statement that he “acted responsibility and with integrity” shows a misguided loyalty to Mr Cummings. Your poor judgement has seriously undermined your personal credibility and severely dented public confidence in your Government. Sadly, “Do as I say, not as I do” is now the common mantra used to describe the actions of both you and Mr Cummings.
Given the personal sacrifices that many people have made during this crisis, I have to tell you that you have angered the population, damaged your reputation and compromised the trust in the advice the Government is giving.
In a poll this week, two-thirds of the UK population believe Mr Cummings should resign or be fired. The public are confused and angry and his presence is making things worse in a time when we are already in a crisis. You may have seen him as some sort of ‘talisman’ or ‘lucky charm’ for your recent personal successes, but right now he is negative for good government. 65% of people surveyed this week have said that they are now less likely to follow Government guidelines – so, have you lost the people Boris?
This is a major distraction at a time that you need the public to lift their heads and focus on the next phase of our recovery. You need to do an urgent u-turn and deal with this issue as any good leader would. Contrary to some opinion, this does not require an urgent and impartial review – it’s a slam dunk! Mr Cummings needs to be responsible for his actions – either he resigns or you simply must sack him! Lead by example Boris and do the right thing to minimise the damage already done to public confidence.
I also observed your grilling at the Parliamentary Liaison Committee on Wednesday. This was a great opportunity for you to be seen to be held account by senior back-benchers. Whilst the meeting was dominated by your handling of your Chief Advisor’s faux pas, it was a great platform to cover other important matters. I strongly commend you to increase the frequency of your attendance at these type of open committee meetings. It’s a great opportunity to rebuild the public’s trust in you through showing that you are prepared to be held to account.
Moving on, I was encouraged to see the ‘NHS Test and Trace’ system go operational this week, even if it did have some initial technical teething problems! This is an important development to enable the Government to replace national lockdown with individual isolation and targeted localised lockdowns. The timing appears to be right as the curve of COVID-19 cases starts to flatten. It is important that you remind the public that this – along with the availability of testing for all and the introduction of new PPE supplies – only helps address the symptoms and not the cause. You still need to ensure that more is being done to speed up a vaccine for the UK population. You also need to keep a close eye on the levels of compliance shown by those who have been ‘traced’. This will not be easy in light of this week’s developments.
In closing, let’s not forget the incredible spirit and common purpose unleashed by the UK public in the wake of this crisis. We have seen a growth in selflessness, with the focus switching from “I” to “We”. But, be in no uncertain terms that our common purpose and unity with authority is in danger of corrosion. Your continued defence of your Chief Advisor is undermining the sense of a shared identity – our most precious asset in these difficult times!
Do the right thing Boris and remember, and always remember that you’re only as good as your last result!
Take good care – lead well – stay safe!
Ian Jones – Your Critical Friend!