Just a dozen today, including a repeat offender. Well, I say repeat in that I mentioned Adam Holloway in Part 2 of this venture, when his emailed response to a Gravesham constituent asking if she should attend a funeral was ‘You again!’ won him a ‘Biggest Tory Tosser’) award. Now I have his stock letter on the issue.
‘Re: The Cummings Family (nice touch, make it a family affair … there is a child you know, not just the hypocritical Dad and the lying Mum who wrote in the Spectator about their ‘lockdown London’ hell … an issue on which the usually loquacious Andrew Neil and Fraser Nelson are yet to opine.)
Thank you for your email ref Dominic Cummings. (so far, so polite, no “You again-ery.”)
You should not make rules and then break them (getting a bit aggressive here Hollers … “you– suggests you are accusing the complainant, rather than explaining the actions of the defendant) but what the Police say – as opposed to the media who have had so much to say on this – (ah, he is going for the Lügenpresse route) is that there “might have been” a “minor” breach. They have not said there was one (if you want to read their statement, you can find it (posts link; and note the passive aggressive in “if you want … in other words, telling “you” that “you” are not really interested in the facts, unlike me, Hollers.)
This is an important distinction in the context of the concerted attempt (by people unspecified but with a few honourable exceptions not Tory MPs) to remove a man on whom the PM clearly so relies (the ‘Bojo can’t do up his shoelaces without help defence) at a time of the virus, when we need to make a real success of leaving the EU (Let’s just reveal what really matters despite …. )and with the prospect of a calamitous recession (which we will blame on Covid not Brexit) all in the shadow of huge numbers of deaths (caused in Downing Street)and the possibility of a second wave (increased by changing the guidance, and by the many in the public feeling if Durham Dom can break the rules, so can they?). Why else would he use up such enormous amounts of political capital, losing the support of good people like yourselves. (Because he is fucking useless, Hollers.)
Based on the extraordinary (indeed it was, and not in a good way) hour long interview (press conference, but hey, what’s a casual factual error to a Brexit ideologue) he gave last week, outlining his version of events, I do not believe Mr Cummings (my bold … if he had ended the sentence there, it would have been a credible sentence, however … )broke the rules, though like the Police and most of you I find the Barnard Castle drive surprising. (Gosh, do you, Hollers, pray tell …)
If you have not seen the interview, you should watch it here (posts link, now sounding like an advert for DCTV)
Please do not write back to me about this matter if you have not taken the time to watch Mr Cummings in full. (“You”, dear constituent, are only allowed to have a view if you do the research I tell you to.) Much of it was unreported by the mainstream media, (er, it was live on the BBC and Sky, and given the usual blowjob treatment in most of the right wing rags, though the Mail made a rare and short visit to Planet Earth) who unlike Mr Cummings and his family, have consistently (I think you mean PERsistently, and are here trying the “security” line of defence, a lie I have dealt with before) breached social distancing rules outside his home.
I have no special pleading for Mr Cummings – indeed the only time I tried to meet him some years ago, he refused. (And will have even more contempt for me now for being such a lickspittle to someome who was so rude.) It concerns me that people have called for his resignation without knowing the full facts of the case and it is not lost on me that many of the e-mails I have received about this matter were sent before he gave his interview. (Gosh, people had a view about a breach of the rules by an adviser before he gave a one hour press conference in a venue normally reserved for Heads of Government.) In the interests of natural justice one should not automatically assume someone is lying (though with DC’s and BJ’s record …). I believe that most people decided he was guilty even before they had heard his version of events, or before we had heard from the Police. I am also appalled by how people are treating him by camping outside his house and shouting abuse. This sustained attack on Mr Cummings and his family obviously informed the decision he made about travelling to Durham and it also informs my view on his actions. (Here we go again. The Durham trip created the protests, not the other way round, Hollers you Numpty.)
‘However, I recognise the strength of feeling amongst my constituents about Mr Cummings and it is certainly true that other people in the same situation may well have made different decisions – and that many people feel this is a case of double standards: but this is not a view shared by Durham Police (he doesn’t post the part of the statement where the cops commented on double standards, because it doesn’t exist, though he could have posted interviews with senior retired police and others suggesting exactly that, and with dangerous consequences) or the Prime Minister.
(Shift of gear to cut and paste) From the many, many e-mails I have received since lock-down began, I also recognise the sacrifices people have made to comply with the Government’s instruction to stay at home and save lives. I deeply regret that people feel that this unhappy incident at the height of the pandemic in some way devalues all they have done to stop the spread of the virus. May I also add that I send my deepest condolences to those who have suffered a bereavement during the pandemic. (Well that is so genuine, isn’t it? IF you have lost a parent or a child, I am really sorry. If this doesn’t apply to you, move on…)
Because I have received over 400 e-mails from constituents, all but 5 or so of them calling for Mr Cummings to resign or be sacked, I understand that my views on this matter are at odds with those of most who have written in. (He can do basic maths, knows 5 is a minority of 400+.) I have therefore written to the Prime Minister to let him know how many people have contacted me and I have sent on a selection of 25 e-mails so he can see what people have to say on this matter. (Though I know other MPs are saying the same, and he won’t read any of them.)
I apologies for the fact that I am sending out the same response to everyone who has written to me about this issue. (But I feel you all need to have my unique mix of uncharm and unempathy.)
I can assure you that this letter is not the stock Government line on the issue but my own views. (which just happen to coincide with the Number 10 line).
I appreciate that this may not be the response you are after, but I am not going to send you a dishonest response that does not reflect my views – and I am not going to be influenced by the reporting of this. (or the fact that almost 100percent of the people I represent disagree.)Someone is innocent unless they are guilty. They are not guilty just because others think they are.’
Steve Brine, MP for Winchester & Chandler’s Ford, rightly assumes that he is likely to get more than one complaint on the issue, not least because of his views on the matter, so has a neat little PS.
‘PS – we are working 24/7 (or round the clock, night and day, straining every sinew, as Matt Hancock puts it) at present to process all email fairly and promptly. Please consider whether you need to contact me (or click reply) at this time so we can concentrate on those most in need. Thank you in advance and, please note, if you’ve emailed about this before and had a reply, you should NOT expect further.” (The Brine constituent who sent this to me was not impressed: “The capitalized ‘NOT’ I find particularly offensive, the utter cheek, as if it is his position to dictate what we consider relevant, arrogance doesn’t seem to cover it.)
That being said, Brine does seem to want Cummings out.
‘Ultimately it is for the Prime Minister to decide the future of his senior advisors but my advice to him (not clear how this has been given) has been; (Not sure that semi-colon does the job there, Briney) when the advisor becomes the story it is not, in my experience, (pray explain what experience of this you have) a sustainable position and sooner or later something has to give. It’s quite simple, either we as a country decide to move on and put 100% of our energies back into beating this virus or Mr Cummings has to go. (So it is Cummings or Covid? Interesting) If Dominic (what happened to Mr Cummings?) has any self-awareness at all, he must see this.”
Ranil Jayawardena, MP for North East Hampshire, is another one reply man. “My priorities throughout have remained the same: we must defeat this ghastly virus and provide support to those who need it. That’s why I will not be replying further on this issue but if you wish to raise any other issues as a constituent, you are always welcome to do so.”
Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon, is a minister, so hemmed in a fair bit. But he writes nice empathy at the start, which ought to be within the gift of every MP, but one of the most stunning things about having spent several hours a day this week analysing these letters is just how robotic, formulaic and impersonal most of them are.
“First I want to acknowledge the many personal stories constituents have shared with me, both in recent days and throughout the course of this pandemic. I know the current restrictions have caused enormous amounts of hardship, pain and grief, particularly in situations where loved ones have been separated from one another at times of grave illness and, so sadly, death. My deepest sympathies go to everyone who has suffered loss and separation during this difficult period, but so too do my thanks for dutifully and selflessly following official guidance at huge personal cost.” (That is properly expressed, one of the few.)
(Then cut and paste) “I accept Mr Cummings’ account of events and his explanations of the reasons behind his decisions. I do not believe that he ultimately broke any official guidance. I will therefore not be calling for his resignation and will continue to support his remaining in post. As Mr Cummings himself acknowledged, others will of course disagree with the decisions he took, and I note that some of my parliamentary colleagues have come to this view. However this is not a view I share.”
Oliver Heald QC, MP for North East Hertfordshire, replied to one complainant with:
“This is not constituency business. I will not be responding.
Rt Hon Sir Oliver Heald QC MP (they do love their titles)
Member of Parliament for North East Hertfordshire.”
He has a constituent especially keen to assess how Heald, a QC remember, feels about the Attorney General expressing a partisan view about Cummings, even as the police were investigating.
‘For the fourth time of asking, I should be grateful for your response regarding the AG. As an officer of the court, I hope that you will have the integrity to confirm that you will be urging the AG to resign. Her comments today on this topic are risible.’
Four emails later, he replied. “I did reply to your message. I also summarised the messages I received and ensured they reached the top of Government, so the voice of North East Herts was heard. I would not have made the decisions Dominic Cummings did, but the choice of adviser is for the Prime Minister.”
David Duguid, MP for Banff & Buchan
His constituent accompanied his MP’s stock response with this. ‘Dear Mr Campbell, I sent 3 emails to him and only received a response when I congratulated him on his promotion to a minor government post.’
Mr Duguid, now a junior minister at the Scottish Office after his predecessor Douglas Ross’s resignation over the Johnson/Cummings scandal, said: “Cut and paste, fake news, Durham cops… and so …]
‘I believe that it is in the best interests of the country that we now move on. (Bingo)
Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon. “Over the weekend I formed the view that there had, on balance, been a breach of the lockdown rules and fed into Downing Street my recommendation that Mr Cummings be sacked.
However, I then watched the extraordinary press conference in the rose garden on bank holiday Monday and reached the conclusion that the actions of Mr Cummings just about kept him within the rules, given the clear exemption for looking after vulnerable people which obviously includes a four-year-old child. I accept that the excursion to Barnard castle was weird and the explanation weirder still.” (So I thought he should be sacked, but then I watched him explain what happened and it was weird, so he should definitely not be sacked.)
Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, finally replied to the constituent who sent this: ‘Your daily reminder that I am expecting your response to this as soon as possible. That being your own response, not a cut and paste template created by someone else to save you the effort of treating your constituent with some respect.’
Finally, one of the longest letters came, with lots of bang average story-telling, meandering through what we alreadt know, and finally: “I accept that Mr Cummings’ actions will be considered poor judgement by many and perhaps not in the spirit of the law, particularly when so many of us have made such significant personal sacrifices over recent weeks. However, the decisions taken by Mr Cummings were within the guidance as an exceptional circumstance when the care of children was involved, as stated by Deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries previously.” (Jenny bloody Harries again. Though I notice she has vanished, along with all the other medical and scientific experts.)
Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley, goes for the Hollers passive/aggressive. ‘You are entitled to your views as I am to mine. I do serve all my constituents of a political affiliation or none. I am dealing currently with hundreds of cases of people who genuinely need help due to covid-19 and connected issues, and they are my priority, rather than a tiny minority who just want to make negative comments and contribute nothing.’ (Nice, though further to get it off his plate, he helpfully contact details of senior party members, The local Party chair, the Chief Whip and Boris Johnson.)
Robert Largan, MP for High Peak: ‘If all the reports about Mr Cummings are true, then I believe his position is untenable and he should resign. We cannot have a situation where it is one rule for the public and another for politicians. I have passed on both my views and those of a huge number of my constituents on to the highest levels of Government. I will also be writing to the Prime Minister.” (I would like to see the letter.)
Laura Farris, MP for Newbury: (Cake/eat) “I have considered carefully Dominic Cumming’s explanation – that he was worried about the welfare of his child, and he travelled to Durham to self-isolate and arrange emergency childcare is necessary from his sister or nieces. Whilst I have some sympathy for the desire to protect a child, this does not alter my overall view that the rules on self-isolation at home when symptomatic are clear.” (But … blah.)
Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives) has at least noticed, unlike Hancock and so many others, when a constituent tells them something personal.
‘Thank you very much for your email – my sincere condolences on the death of your father. I have every sympathy for the situation you found yourself in regarding your father but your family’s responsible actions in staying at home has helped to ensure that the rate of infection in Cornwall has been kept under control and reduced the possibility of health services being swamped.
Regarding Dominic Cummings, I agree that he has not set a good example although, as a parent, I do sympathise with his desire to do what he can to protect his children.
I understand that he has been told in no uncertain terms (understands from what?) that his behaviour was unacceptable but it must also be borne in mind that the police have decided that his transgression was a ‘minor breach’.
Please be assured that I have let Ministers know about the massive strength of feeling on this issue from people in West Cornwall.’
There we are. I am pretty much done with these people. I knew they were bad, both in terms of values and competence, with the worst badness right at the top. But these letters have confirmed the problem with the Tory Party runs very, very deep.
Have a nice weekend.