It was an extraordinary day in British politics. A rain of fire. A grenade. A “Domshell”.
Dominic Cummings’ seven-hour performance to Westminster MPs on Wednesday made headlines across the UK on Thursday, his condemnation of Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic making headlines.
the Guardian leads with Cummings’ devastating accusation that “tens of thousands of people have died without needing to die” in Britain’s Covid outbreak, above a triptych of faces as the ousted assistant did at the hearing. The Guardian also conducted an analysis of political editor Heather Stewart, calling the audience selfish but plausible.
the Independent, the is and the Mirror use the same quote for their splash. The Independent described the hearing as “painting a picture of disarray at No 10, as the PM said he wanted to be like the ‘mayor of Jaws’ who kept the beach open despite shark attacks” :
“Chaos and complacency,” writes the is, calling the evidence “devastating.” The front page quotes a senior official saying, “We’re f *** ked” – a reference to what Cummings alleges Assistant Cabinet Secretary Helen MacNamara said in March 2020.
the MirrorThe Prime Minister’s title appears in a photo of the Prime Minister with his head bowed, titled “Johnson’s Shame” and captioned “Prime Minister in Crisis after Explosive Allegations”.
the Telegraph takes a different approach, calling Cummings’ accusations “revenge.” Johnson launched his top adviser in November last year following allegations he made against the Prime Minister.
“Sources last night raised questions about his motives,” the Telegraph wrote, “suggesting the public would view him as bitter.” The paper advances to Thursday, when the government “attempts to retaliate” as Health Secretary Matt Hancock answers questions in the House of Commons before holding a press conference.
Sunday Telegraph Editor-in-Chief Alistair Heath says “Slowly but surely the side effects of the lockdown and the pandemic itself will become more salient, and the death toll itself less,” in a comment titled ” Covid could still destroy Johnson. But not as Cummings expects ”.
the Daily Express calls Cummings’ performance a ‘tirade’, with the headline: ‘Yes, mistakes were made but it was pure revenge’. The newspaper quotes “allies” of the PM calling Cummings “vengeful and bitter.”
the Time said “Cummings raining fire on No. 10”. He also cites a claim from an anonymous government source that Cummings “was motivated by revenge and that his comments represented a ‘character assassination’ that was not supported by evidence.”
The front-page commentary qualifies the audience as “primal chaos, as melted and Sicilian as anything that has been disgorged by Etna” and “longer and bloodier than Hamlet”.
“Only in England could a major health ding-dong include a cameo for a Jack Russell” – a reference to Cummings saying the Prime Minister and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, distracted the Prime pandemic minister because she “was going to crack completely” about media coverage of their dog.
the FT and the Yorkshire Post get their headlines from Cummings’ one-word answer – “No” – when asked if the Prime Minister was a fit and appropriate person to lead the country through the pandemic:
the Daily check-inThe title of the song is “Blood on Your Hands”, next to a photo of the Prime Minister. The history of the newspaper on the audience does not take less than pages “4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9”.
the Daily mail – and sister paper Subway – are incomparable in the puns department, with “Domshell”. His front page also marks the PM “caddy Boris”, after Cummings portrayed Johnson as making constant U-turns “like a caddy smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”.
The Scottish sums up the show as “the Cummings grenade,” including in its main points Cummings ‘claim that SNP chief Nicola Sturgeon has undermined the four countries’ response to the pandemic. Cummings said during the hearings: “As soon as you had these meetings, Nicola Sturgeon was going to announce what she wanted right away after,” and called the meetings “Potemkin”.
In another coverage, former Justice Secretary David Gauke said during an appearance on BBC Newsnight: “It seems to me that with Dominic Cummings you are either brilliant or useless and he clearly sacked Matt Hancock in the second category. It is not my experience.
Asked by Emily Maitlis if Cummings’ apologies for the lives lost meant Johnson would have to apologize too, Gauke said: “Well I think it probably is and I think it is very difficult for the government to argue that these are issues that should only be considered in a timely manner after a investigation.”