One nightmare worse than Boris having his ropes pulled by Cummings is that of Boris bereft of Cummings and left rudderless and adrift in the perfect storm conjured up by pursuing Brexit in a time of plague. That there is no obvious Thatcherist Willy to replace this Borisonian Gaveston is not surprising. Any pretenders to that role have been systematically eliminated. First, Cummings purged the party of its ‘wise’ men and women by engineering their expulsion before the election. He then followed through by administering a punishment-beating to Chancellor Saj which made clear that no Cabinet minister, however senior in rank, was safe from defenestration unless he or she bent the knee and did so publicly (think only of the performance of Shoveller Shapps on the weekend political programmes).
But what if Cummings himself were defenestrated? His co-conspirator in subverting Cabinet government, the globular Gove, might of course seek to occupy the vacancy. However, Boris, once stabbed, might be twice shy of putting himself in the hands of someone whose sole aim in life is to replace him in No. 10. Alternatively, some ministerial spines might stiffen. Rishi might see his chance or we might perhaps see poetic justice in motion with the return of Saj to a pivotal role. Who knows?
The transposition of Cummings’s influence into safer or more cautious hands, if achieved, might offer some very small glimmer of hope to those who agree with the headline to Martin Wolf’s persuasive article in Thursday’s FT, namely that “A no-deal Brexit amid the pandemic would be disgraceful”. Who knows, perhaps the disgrace that is Cummings could help us avoid the disgrace of Brexiting in a time of plague.