Peter Rhodes on bookies, hot spots and the Dominic Cummings scandal that simply went away

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Cummings – people's hero?

Curious, isn't it, how one Dominic Cummings story just won't go away but another Dominic Cummings story vanished overnight?

You may recall the story that broke on April 24 that Cummings had attended meetings of Sage, the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. This, we were assured by the usual sections of the media, was a scandal, an outrage and a huge constitutional crisis. Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it raised “significant questions” about the credibility of Government decision-making. “Dominic Cummings has no place on the Government’s scientific advisory group on the coronavirus,” he thundered. But a few days later this story simply went away. Why?

I suspect the answer is that Cummings, a hate figure for much of the anti-Boris, anti-Brexit Westminster bubble, came out of it rather well. It emerged on April 29 that he had been pressing Sage for lockdown to be imposed before either the scientists or politicians wanted it. He was speaking for the common folk. His strategy could have saved hundreds of lives. He was, in short, a people's hero. But rather than give Boris's adviser any credit, the mainstream media simply moved on, hoping for another get-Cummings story to fit their agenda. And along came the trip to County Durham.

Let us rewrite history and rewind the clock to this time last week. It has just been revealed that Dominic Cummings' poorly wife had pleaded with him to take the family into isolation to a remote farm cottage (which apparently might be allowed under the small print of the lockdown rules) but he had refused, preferring to stay close to Downing Street. Forgive my cynicism but I suspect many of those condemning Cummings for driving north would have condemned him just as vigorously for not driving north. The headlines would have been on the lines of: “Cummings - the ice-hearted monster who put politics before his child's health.” It is a dirty old game.

Meanwhile, if you want a real scandal to be horrified about, look no further that the Government's target date of June 15 to re-open betting shops. A former bookie, who presumably knows his subject, tells me it is madness and will create hundreds of hot spots for the pandemic. He says: “It is a statement of fact that betting offices attract customers of poor discipline who will be less likely to be told what to do and where to stand by employees or security staff. Just imagine the frustration if you're among 20 people queueing to get in at 3.10pm, and you want to put a bet on the 3.15pm at Royal Ascot. It's a recipe for disaster.”

We may never know how many people died of Covid-19 as a result of the Cheltenham Festival going ahead when it clearly should have been abandoned. The massively wealthy and well-connected racing and gambling industries have had quite enough human sacrifices already. If betting shops cannot be made safe they must not re-open. Ever.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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