Regular contributor Sean Walsh argues if you're going to be angry at Dominic Cummings then make sure it's for the right reasons

At one point this week I thought the media pack was one mental spasm away from throwing Dominic Cummings into the Thames to see if he'd float. Their anger was, shall we say, thinly disguised?

But just because you're angry is doesn't mean you're right. It doesn't even mean you're right to be angry.

Anger can be a good thing, even an obligatory thing, when it is appropriate, proportionate and time limited. "If there be no anger, teaching is bootless, the judicial process undermined, and crimes unchecked", as Aquinas said. Anger is part of the moral psychology of human persons, it is therefore a natural good when those conditions are met. But when the anger is inappropriate, histrionic and relentless then something has gone wrong.

In other words, we have obligations of feeling as well as of action. We are not merely passive recipients of the stuff that goes on around us, we are also (or should be) active architects of our responses to that stuff. If I am angry with you then it might be that I have been insufficiently inattentive to my own moral development.

So, if you're going to be angry at Cummings then make sure it's for the right reasons. My own reasons have little to do with the specifics of his personal circumstances, and more to do with the circumstances he imposed on the rest of us, urged on by an Imperial College scientist who seems more David Icke than Stephen Hawking. This government "lockdown" has infantilized the public. It isn't true that Cummings was exploiting loopholes that were unavailable to the rest of us. They were available. It's always been possible to exercise judgment when it came to our children.  It's just that we've become spiritually enervated, largely as a result of the decisions of one Dominic Cummings. We couldn't be bothered, most of us, to dig down into the detail of what was expected of us.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to:

But if the public is angry at Cummings it should also be angry at itself. The public has behaved like someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Except in this case the kidnap victim colluded in his own abduction. Did the government confiscate our liberties, or did we fail to fight for them? The PM and his scientific advisers (not all of whom were agitating for restrictions this intrusive) imposed not merely a lockdown but an agenda. They've shaped the context of this debate to the extent that mainstream criticism of its approach has been predicated on the assumption that "lockdown" was the right way to go.

But even if that's true (and there is persuasive and growing evidence that it isn't) then there should have been pushback from the rest of us. There are ways of following the law whilst harmlessly subverting it, even if the subversion takes the form of benign mockery (where are the Matt Hancock face masks?). This is not trivial: when somebody has removed your liberties then it is imperative that your rebellious streak doesn't become dormant. Because otherwise you are likely to become indifferent as to how quickly they are returned to you. And guess what?

Instead of being appropriately angry at a government which put us under the jackboot on the basis of disputed science we are, apparently, inchoately angry at the man who drove 260 miles because he believed that to do so was in the best interests of his child. And instead of a collective insistence that we follow the lead of the rest of Europe and get our children back into school we have weekly acts of collective virtue signalling.

We're now told that Cummings' actions will have undermined faith in the rules among the general public. Let's hope so. In fact, could this have been the plan all along? To scare us into lockdown and then to provoke us out of it. Does Cummings sit behind a desk stroking a white cat? Probably not. But if he is undermining the lockdown by staying in place then he shouldn't go anywhere. The fact that this will also troll the Rigby-Peston types is just a bonus.

But make no mistake, Cummings was influential in the introduction of a parallel pandemic into the UK. This alternative virus is a spiritual one but is no less harmful for that. We have become pusillanimous, supine and unable to make decisions without the explicit say so of the state. This will be the real "new normal".

And we have become incapable of any proper interrogation of how we are feeling and whether it is right that we feel it. The anger against the PM's adviser has been inappropriate, histrionic and relentless. It is therefore not virtuous but vicious. Mr. Cummings suffered an injustice this week. But he is the one who generated the context in which such an injustice could occur.

33 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy