Why shouldn’t Dominic Cummings attend science advisers’ coronavirus meetings?
There has been outrage and unease over the PM’s chief adviser, but he’s hardly a unique case, writes Sean O’Grady
Dominic Cummings, officially the prime minister’s chief adviser, semi-official chief misfit and unofficial Svengali, provokes strong feelings. As the man who, arguably, won the EU referendum for Leave, this is inevitable. David Cameron, who experienced his disruptive ways first-hand when Cummings worked for Michael Gove at the education department, called him a serial psychopath. Theresa May banished him from Whitehall. Boris Johnson has embraced him, to the unease of many, even in Tory circles.
So the revelation that this inquisitive, brooding, menacing figure, plus a sidekick named Ben Warner, had been attending meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) was bound to cause a stir. The argument runs that he may have had a chilling effect on free discussion, and that full members of Sage – Cummings was only an attendee – found it worrying that he was parked in on their proceedings. The allegation is that Cummings’s interventions sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be impartial independent advice.
In Cummings’s defence, he and the PM may have been hugely better informed about the pandemic as a result. Indeed the eventual imposition of a partial lock down last month – which has thus far worked – is said to have been down to a “Domescene” moment of realisation when the Sage discussed Imperial College’s terrifying estimates of potential casualty levels.