Saturday 14 November 2020

Dominic Cummings is a Cult

One of our BTL anon's put it thus: 

Cummings architected his own downfall ... I've worked with a few like him - smart, knowledgable, volumes of ideas that are mostly good to great, but come with a raft of blindspots that make them a nightmare to deal with, and a curious type of stupidity where they seem oblivious to the fact that if you generate enemies faster than you do successes, your aims will never come to fruition.  If you ever find one in a workplace, you have to rapidly determine if they're manageable or not, and if not get rid, because they are toxic.  But keep ahold of their ideas, and find someone who knows how to soothe ruffled egos to possibly implement them. 

That's very fair (even if architect isn't a verb).  Some of Cummings' writings are superb, speaking to an important perspective: and coupled with his apparent** strategic successes in referenda, it's easy to see why his contribution is frequently valued highly, all the way to the point of hero worship.  As we've bemoaned here many a time, there are so few real strategists in the game; and even fewer good ones.  (Osborne, you are categorically a bad one.)

But there has to be traction with reality, which in a case like Cummings requires a sophisticated transmission system.  Harnessing him directly to the main axle without a differential, a multi-speed gearbox (including reverse) and a powerful manual over-ride, is asking for Trouble.  And so it transpired.

The manner of his going may yet reverberate for a while.  Your appreciations / obituary notices for the man below.



** Not sure we know enough to be certain about this


Lord Blagger said...

The Tories have gone full Marxist so they can rip people off with "climate cahnge" for personal profit. The plebs will be forced to pay

Boris has already back tracked on migration cutting the income threshold to way below the level of break even. The plebs will be forced to pay

The Welfare state is 14 trillion in debt, hidden off the books. No pension debts are reported. The plebs are on the hook for £550,000 of pension debts [per taxpayer], rising at over 10% per year. Boris is going to force the plebs to pay. That's via taxes with no services, or axing even more the state pension. The cut the other day, that was over £20,000 per person. That's what you lost. The plebs will pay.

Problem is what DC does now. Spill the beans is one. Pop up at Reform.

Anonymous said...

Reform? I believe he and Farage view each other with cordial contempt.

Anonymous said...

Don't know about hero worship. But he does seem to have had a blind spot (bit like Trump really) as to just how much some people hate him and just how much he's a marked man.

Dom, like his antiparticle Mandelson on the dark side, had to be good, because he had all the right enemies.

So it's all over, and we're back to offices run by people called Allegra. Can Freya and Tryphosia be far behind? Cameron and Osborne may as well return, surrender deal with EU, we've already had the betrayal on immigration, where someone on average wage can come here indefinitely.

Must say I didn't expect it to all go tits up this fast.

Don Cox said...

Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell likewise became too big for their boots.
It's a fairly common situation.

Don Cox

dearieme said...

Don't get on the wrong side of the hussy of a cock-driven boss.

Anonymous said...

Seems he underestimated the establishment and naively trusted the "conservative" leadership to back him up.

I doubt the terrible ideas the tories keep having came from him so I'm not expecting the abysmal performance of government to improve. Better prepare a guest room for Mr Economic Calamity.

Anomalous Cowshed said...

Not sure how to evaluate the referenda achievements either - the Remain campaign was utterly dire.

But then he ended up as the Ultras personification of Satan - may be this is a case of be careful what you wish for.

CityUnslicker said...

It was time for him to go ages ago.The Tories have tried to avoid the lack of good ministers but going with Government by Spac. It has not worked, back to mediocre minister’s absence clever Sr Humphrey’s it is.

AndrewZ said...

Some people have argued that the very fact he left so publicly, walking out of the front door with a cardboard box, shows that it's just a stunt for the media. Johnson engineers a change of image and Cummings remains involved, but in a different role where he's out of the limelight.

However, although I never expected Cummings to achieve anything much in government, if he genuinely has been kicked out then the Tories have fully reverted to establishment blob mode.

andrew said...

He reflected some of the late-20th century ideas that the Civil Service have not picked up.
Mostly because he did not understand what he was trying to change.

No doubt quite clever at projects - like winning the brexit vote

Running the country is not the same as a project.
95%+ of the time it is doing what you did yesterday, just hopefully not worse. This is both difficult and boring.

Most of this stuff cannot be improved much.
One teacher teaches a class. Up to a point you can add extra children to improve 'productivity' but past a certain unknown point (variable on a per teacher basis) quality drops.

Because what works best is only known at a local level, you cannot impose a central solution (Hayek's limits to knowledge). This is why socialism fails and also why managerialism fails.

He was more a symptom of the errors of the governing classes.
Being replaced by another group of people who think they know better will not make things much worse or better.

Nick Drew said...

It is strange to recall that, at the start of the year, the Civil Service was in a state of high morale: a government with a comfortable working majority and clear(ish) sense of purpose - Brexit plus Blue Wall renewal - and it felt that at long last a period of productive government lay ahead

ah, well

E-K said...

Government by Cummings might just as easily be government by Symonds.

That's the problem with Blairism.

There is absolutely NOTHING stopping Britain becoming a murderous dictatorship now.

jim said...

"Mr Cummings's intelligence was entirely artificial".

Once worked with a chap who was very bright, very abrasive, full of 10 dollar words for 1 dollar things and smelly armpits. He would present what appeared brilliantly clear arguments - until one went away and thought about them, when the gloss went off. Useful at speechifying, otherwise not so much.

E-K said...

"The duly elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom took a political decision. Whether it was correct or incorrect is beside the point. It was his decision to take. But his partner decided she was within her rights to oppose it. Then when she didn’t get her way, she launched a freelance briefing operation against it. As a result of which, in the midst of a global pandemic and Brexit negotiations, the British Government was plunged into chaos. This is how a banana republic operates, not a mature Western democracy."

Dan Hodges.

The difference is that Cummings and Cain could be sacked. Symonds can't be - not without the PM being sacked with her.

Elby the Beserk said...

Apart from the fact that his blog said back in January he'd be gone by the end of the year, a typical media hoohah. I guess this means that his work to try and get a modern civil service that serves US rather than itself is now abandoned.

Oh well. WHO wants to vote anyway? As matters stand, there is now way I would vote for any of these pathetic spectres of political parties. All gutted and woke as they are. Never mind the green job stuff which will destroy what's left of the economy


E-K said...


Well. We did try that for Tooting and are still waiting. (I was raised in Mitcham - so close that there was Tooting and Mitcham FC)

Anonymous said...

Just heard Desert Island Discs, and asked my wife "who's the virtue-signalling imbecile who chose that appalling version of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Artists for Grenfell Tower?"

"Kier Starmer"

andrew said...

The trouble is that true independance has not really been possible since the industrial revolution or when lots of people moved away from the land.

Since then we have had go make an ever growing set of agreements with others that both add and take away from our independance.
Driving on the left was not a law until 1835 or so.

Unwinding these agreements (brexit) is both not simple and does not look like it changes anything much.
The only thaing that will would be properly devolving power to a lower level and allow those at that lower level to make their own destiny (Croydon!)

The trouble with that is why should people in Purley bail out the people in Croydon who collecively voted for those fools.

The r.a.a. of this is that you become personally liable for the decisions of the people you voted for at every level.

Which is ...absurd and why we have the porrigy mess we have today.

Anonymous said...

"It is a music collection that has something for the former heartlands, the masses and the hundreds of thousands of youthful members who joined the party under Jeremy Corbyn – but Sir Keir Starmer has insisted focus groups had no role in a Desert Island Discs selection that appears to reach out to different Labour wings"

I didn't think it was possible to dislike him more, but it just goes to show.

E-K said...

From Conservative Woman. A devastating critique of the Prime Minister - the worst this country has ever had in my view.

Boris has to go.


James Higham said...

The automotive analogy is a neat touch.

andrew said...

Thank you EK.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, gearboxes & differentials, grabbing steering wheels - when does Clarkson show up?

Artful Dodderer said...

Not many giving Dom much credit here.

Oh well.

But say he isn’t clever, or effective, is just ridiculous.
He orchestrated the Brexit win. Tim Shipman, ( who dishes all the dirt on his column today) was very clear about that. Without Cummings, the expected 52/48 for Remain would have happened.

I agree with Boris that it was necessary to bring him in. For Brexit. And to scare the shite out of some of the dead wood.
But limited contract and limited power. It is right for him to go at this point.

Shipman writes that the new administration focus will be about what conservatives really want. He expressly states that does not include wet Cameronian hoodie hugging, wind all, same sex marriage type stuff.

However, I would be astounded if it didn’t prove to be exactly that. With the finances destroyed, gesture politics is all that is left, bending the knee and inviting the Thurnbergs to a cabinet meeting or two.

Grist said...

The civil service love the EU and the british are never to be forgiven. They hate the Tories and detest SPADs.

So the future looks bright. Boris' defenestration is imminent. Girl power rules! and Starmer to look forward to!

The only fly in the ointment is the vaccine. Blair mode will help. Who could possibly inject a vacccine made by the Americans? While Trump was president? It's probably bleach. And cheap bleach at that... Far better to stay off work for another year on full pay.

E-K said...

The cure for CV-19, we discovered, was Donald Trump's bile. It saw it off in 48 hours.

GridBot said...

@E-K - off topic - I vaguely remember you once made a comment on some post or other about the logistics of running trains on a part electrified/part diesel fuel basis?

Got any views on what will happen if/when that diesel fuel has to be replaced with hydrogen?

views gratefully welcomed.


CityUnslicker said...

there is a post for that for EK...

E-K said...

The target year is 2040 for railways to come off diesel. I know nothing about hydrogen and I really am unsure about the viability of the railway at all now.

I never believed in hybrid-ing anything, btw.

Too much dead weight and too many technical complications - though the Hitachi hybrids are extremely impressive trains both to drive and to work around. Superb brakes and performance under wire, but not so good on diesel with overheating problems and traction converter faults all the time.

E-K said...

CU - I'd have to do some homework and talk to some spotters.

GridBot said...

Thanks E-K - second CU's comments on a further guest post (I very much enjoyed your first!)

"What net-zero could mean for Britain's railways - a guide for the layman"

I'd be most interested to learn more!



E-K said...

Appreciated. It's a lot tougher than it looks, writing above line.

theProle said...

I'm not a gambling man, but if I was I'd wager a reasonable sum of money that in 2040 the critical stuff which is currently done by filthy diesel class 37s (built 1960-1965) will be being done by class 37s.

I'd also expect a fleet of overhauled class 66s to be still yinging their way through the majority of freight services. In both cases, they are simply too good compared to any potential replacements.

There is no way that the whole network is getting electrified in the next 20 years, and hybrid freight locos are pretty much a non-starter for routes with more than a very small mileage away from the wires.

E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E-K said...


I drove 37s 22 years ago and they were ancient then. I used them to rescue failed Eurostars and to haul Eurostars on test from North Pole to Manchester.*

They were pretty gutless then (couldn't pull your granny off the toilet) so we used two coupled together with match wagons either end.

Would you believe it ?

About a year ago 37 607 (I knew her well !) turns up in my local yard attached to a Banana Train (Network Rail Surveyor) I have a photo of me about to take her out of Stewart's Lane Depot in 1998, me with a full head of hair !!!

She has been refurbished internally, though still has an old fashioned stove for the tea can ... we are almost talking about same broom but with two new handles and three new brushes.

* Eurostars were going to run regionally (Manchester & Newcastle) but they drew so much ampage that the negative return was too high and set signals back to danger. We spent several years working with engineers to develop and Interference Current Monitoring Unit (ICMU) and when the project was declared a success it was (in the finest railway tradition) scrapped.

I then went on to work on another fuck up which was the outset of Heathrow Express. BAA ran it and decided that they didn't want any BR drivers. Railtrack (as was) said that driver trainees better take the BR aptitude tests then. All of their candidates (graduates) failed. So loose Eurostar drivers from the cancelled North of London project were seconded to Paddington to run/test trains and routes and train up HEx drivers.

In those days the wires only extended to Airport junction. The GWR wiring Pad - Chippenham - Bristol - Newbury has cost nearly £3bn ... a five car IET costs around £25m.

It's not a cheap business to run.