Today more than one million voters in Britain have petitioned the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to sack his Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings for breaking the UK’s lockdown to leave London and stay at his second home in rural County Durham in the North of England to celebrate a family birthday.
The Prime Minister has been steadfast in defending Mr Cummings against the demands for him to go, but his supporters fear that Johnson has already wasted too much goodwill on this affair, and that it is causing both fractures in his own political party and plummeting national opinion poll results for the Tories.
In Animal Farm, George Orwell portrayed the arrogant leader of the revolutionary farm animals as Napoleon the Pig, who notoriously proclaimed that “All animals are equal, but that some are more equal than others.” It is precisely this impression that the current government has created with their behaviour that there are elitist exceptions for their own kind, but more restrictive rules for everybody else that has so incensed the British voting public.
Social media has been awash with heartbreaking private anecdotal evidence as citizens have vented their grief and anger about the personal sacrifices they have made to obey UK government lockdown rules, only to find out that the central authorities have not respected their own national rules, and have not only put other citizens lives at risk by their behaviour, but have also made a mockery of the UK government’s public communications and strategy.
Prime Minister Johnson appears to have made an uncharacteristic miscalculation of the mood of the British public. It is unclear why he is burning up so much goodwill in the very personal defence of his advisor. He is even accused of relaxing the lockdown rules in England faster than the evidence about the pandemic suggests would be prudent, simply in order to move the Dominic Cummings story off the front page. This behaviour is causing alarm. Johnson has already been accused of press bias, by refusing to accept questions from the respected BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg at the daily UK press briefing on the coronavirus.
The British Prime Minister now treads an increasingly dangerous tight-rope wire. Summer is approaching, and although Europe is keen to re-open business for tourism, nobody will do this at the risk of opening to a country that has the worst statistics in the world for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and whose government appears to be losing the battle to contain the virus – primarily because the communications strategy of its leadership is in disarray, and its messages are no longer trusted by the public.