There is no doubt that Dominic Cummings presented a smoother, calmer version of himself during his marathon testimony on Wednesday. But at the most critical point, he stumbled: he failed, yet again, to explain or apologise for his rule-breaking dash to Durham. This was a serious slip up. Because in the memory of the public, the Durham dash is what makes him such a discredited witness. After all, when someone one believes is a liar calls someone else a liar, it weakens the charge.
To change people's minds, he needed to accept he had failed: both by breaking the lockdown rules in the first place, then failing to tell the whole truth afterwards. It would have helped, too, if he'd acknowledged that by standing by his advisor, the PM put his own reputation on the line and plunged the Government into a political crisis.
Yet accepting any responsibility for the fallout was simply not on his agenda. Instead, we discovered that his only regret was not telling everyone that he broke the rules because he feared for his family’s safety. There it was: the continuing attempt at justification which told me that nothing really had changed. That the Cummings who had sat in the Rose garden showing no humility or real contrition was still there, playing us all for fools.
Sadly, given my memories of working with him some years before, I can't say I'm surprised. I say sadly because he is undoubtedly an intelligent man who often has sharp ideas which make sense, and as the leader of the Brexit campaign many of these ideas were invaluable. Yet, what he fails to understand is that running a government is so much more complex than a single issue campaign.
But his very personal attack on Boris Johnson for failing to take an early decision on the second lockdown because he "was obsessed" about the economy, made me realise just how narrow his focus was. The PM’s concerns were understandable, and not just economic. After all, lockdowns left cancer sufferers failing to get treatment and untreated heart disease, leading to avoidable deaths. Don’t these lost lives count too?
What I also found difficult to swallow was that as he complained about the chaos at the heart of government, he seemed to have forgotten that he, as the PM’s most senior advisor, was at the heart of that chaos and bore a great deal of responsibility for it.
None of my criticisms deny that the seven hours did shed light on government that will no doubt need to be discussed in a forthcoming enquiry. However, the testimony too often got obscured by Dominic Cummings bitter vendetta to get even with his enemies, while leaving his friends unscathed. That is even more reason why this seven hour personal ‘truth’ cannot be taken at face value, and will eventually need to be examine fully and impartially.
Perhaps the last word should be for Cummings when he said “This is war,” “Any rules – forget it.” I think we can now all see exactly what he meant by that.