Peter Rhodes on leaving the 19th century, Boris's poll surprise and how to spot a spammer

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Cummings – genuine anger?

Yes, I know I've banged on in the past about the idiocy of linking your money to the web via internet banking. But progress doth make idiots of us all. It is getting harder to use cheques and dirty old cash is frowned on in a pandemic. And so, reluctantly, I picked up the phone to the bank to convert my current account to online. If not exactly joining the 21st century, I am at least leaving the 19th.

Except that I'm not. Three times I attempted the process and three times we got as far as the bank insisting: “We have sent your verification code.” But no code arrived and there's a long, long queue on their phone helpline. So far, the 21st century looks very much like the 20th. After you with the Space hopper.

You may be surprised that the Government's opinion polling is holding up well. The Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott catalogues Boris's failings and adds that the list “doesn’t even include the public outrage over Dominic Cummings deciding that lockdown restrictions were not for him.” Elliott says the Tory poll lead has actually widened “since anger at Cummings has faded.”

Which raises a question: how much genuine anger was caused by the Cummings affair? No-one denies there was rage, rage and unspeakable fury at the Guardian, BBC and other metropolitan-elite media outlets in the Get Cummings camp. But, as with miss-guessing the Brexit vote and failing to predict Boris Johnson's General Election victory, the elite assumed that millions of ordinary people shared their views. Maybe that is because the elite were asking the wrong questions.

For example, during the entire Cummings saga, Did you hear any pundit ask a question on these lines: “If you and your partner have Covid-19 symptoms and you're worried about who will care for your four-year-old child, and you are offered a secluded house on a farm in County Durham as a self-isolating bolthole and you don't take up the offer, what sort of parent are you?” I suspect a lot of people have admitted to themselves that if they had been in Cummings's position, they'd have done exactly what he did.

The same goes for the endlessly-repeated Covid-19 narrative of shambolic government incompetence. Do the Brits really buy this version? Or do they, as mature and pragmatic people, recognise that this is a contagion unlike anything we have ever known and that it was never going to have a happy ending - and that whoever was in charge would get things wrong?

There is some comfort for Labour in one recent poll which shows “favourability ratings” for Keir Starmer up by two points. There is a moral for Labour here. When changing your party leader, choose the candidate who looks most like a Tory.

How to spot a spammer. This, allegedly from TV Licensing: “Your licence information are outdated.” No, it amn't.

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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