Dominic Cummings: A Recent Performance at No. 10 Downing Street

Posted: May 29th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Conference | Tags: , | Comments Off on Dominic Cummings: A Recent Performance at No. 10 Downing Street

Dominic Cummings: A Recent Performance at No. 10 Downing Street, May 29

Dominic Cummings at No. 10
Dominic Cummings press conference in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street

After reading so many threads and news articles about the Dominic Cummings road trip to Durham, I realised the whole story he concocted is so implausible as to be deliberately misleading. It reminds me of the response to the Skripal poisoning two years ago. The two operatives sent from Russia to carry out the poisoning in Salisbury were able to return home unchallenged but their identities were later pieced together from CCTV footage and forensic investigation. To assuage the clamour for justice, President Putin ‘ordered’ the two suspects, Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkinto, to be interviewed on Russian media where they spun the story they had simply been sightseeing in Salisbury, joking about staying in the same hotel rooms, citing the beauty of the cathedral and giving the exact height of its spire. 

Cummings pulled off a similar performance in his presentation to journalists in the garden of 10 Downing Street on Easter Monday. He didn’t joke but he spun a story that had only the faintest connection to reality. His whereabouts between March 27 and April 14 had never been meant to be open knowledge; the government had refused to answer media questions about the details of Cummings’ movements and they might have remained secret had it not been for a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror newspapers that broke the story that Cummings had breached lockdown guidance by driving 260 miles to stay on his parent’s farm/estate. To date there are two sightings of Cummings by locals that fall into the two-week period he was away: within the compound of his parents’ home and at Barnard Castle. A third sighting has been dismissed by the government because it happened after Cummings had supposedly returned to work in London. 

Cummings’ meticulously scripted press briefing concocted a link between the two known sightings with a story about he and his wife suffering from Coronavirus and needing to leave London for exceptional childcare needs. It was not written as a diary of what happened but as a re-engineered response to the unanticipated news report; it was as fraudulent as the details of the Russians’ sightseeing trip to Salisbury. Let us suppose that neither he nor his wife were infected by Covid-19 — as they both have written — and that he rushed home on March 27 not because his wife was feeling ill but because he needed to get the family packed up and ready to drive up to Durham that evening; they needed to be away at least two weeks. According to Cummings, he was downed by the Coronavirus the very next day, which means he probably had his first meeting that morning. The nature of the urgent business is not publicly known, and the government clearly intends to keep it that way. Was it for negotiations over the upcoming free trade deal with the U.S.? Did it concern the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which has a research facility close to Barnard Castle and is involved in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine? (On April 14, the day Cummings returned to work, an agreement was signed between GlaxoSmithKline and the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to develop a vaccine). 

But to date the outpouring of attention on the story, and the farcical extent to which government ministers are willing to compromise their integrity in supporting it, takes Cummings at his word. This is psyops at work at the heart of government. So no, Dominic Cummings will not be removed from office on account of this road trip, and he will duck the moral outrage because he is secure in his above-the-law role; indeed, the public reaction to his ‘lockdown transgression’ may well be a balm to someone who prides himself on tactical subversion and giving the impression of being impervious to compassion. His body language was casually dismissive of the invited audience and defiant against challenges to his word. While additional details of Cummings’ trip may emerge, the official obfuscation of the truth will lead only to a diminishing evaluation of the story. As others have remarked, the response to the recent comings and goings of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser reveals the machinations of an authoritarian state. 

A politically correct Nutcracker for the end of 2019?

Posted: December 17th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Concept, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A politically correct Nutcracker for the end of 2019?

A Politically Correct Nutcracker for the end of 2019?

Nutcracker backdrop
Nature’s backdrop for the first act Snow scene from Nutcracker (photo: Glenn Jacobson)

With the waves of the debate on political correctness in ballet whipped up in a storm of indignation, perhaps it’s time to change the scenario of one of the more controversial productions. For example, the national characteristics Marius Petipa chose to portray in Nutcracker, which no doubt had their special significance in the Imperial Russia of 1892, correspond remarkably well to the current political landscape for which Tchaikovsky’s score might once again be appropriated. 

Petipa did not choose to portray the English in Nutcracker, possibly because the country at the time did not have a tradition of classical ballet. That, of course has changed, as has the recent political climate in the country. The first act of the ballet is set at a merry Christmas party in a wealthy family home. Given the Christmas present we have received in the election, it is tempting to see Boris Johnson in the patriarchal role with his latest paramour entertaining his Conservative friends while Etonian schoolboys run around creating mischief with their toy trumpets and miniature JCB diggers. Jeremy Corbin is in the avuncular role of Drosselmeyer who gives Clara the magic gift of speaking truth to power. Armed with this incalculable gift, Clara, who grows up to be Greta Thunberg, defeats the forces of Machiavellian duplicity and in the transformation scene the Christmas tree grows and multiplies as a symbol of reforestation. However, the melting ice caps of Lev Ivanov’s snow scene at the end of Act 1 are a stark reminder of the current state of our natural environment. 

Traveling into the second act on board her tiny carbon footprint, Clara visits first Spain for the climate conference and then some of the more flagrant polluters: Russia, China and (Saudi) Arabia. Three of the divertissements from the original second act are thus accounted for — along with possible lead roles and narratives — without the need for cultural exaggeration. The European community is the network of 28 (at this time of writing) countries under the skirts of Mother Ginger Brussels while the Mirlitons as the LGBTQ+ community continue campaigning for human rights. Clara has one last dream of saving the planet in a Waltz of the Flowers seen through the eyes of Extinction Rebellion before the Grand Pas de Deux features the President and First Lady of the United States against a backdrop of Thunberg as Person of the Year on the cover of Time Magazine.