TV Review: Dominic Cummings brings a kind of openness to government

Dominic Cummings in conversation with Laura Kuenssberg
Billy Foley

Dominic Cummings: The Interview, BBC 2, Tuesday

Almost every new government I can remember on these islands has begun its tenure by promising openness and transparency.

None of them meant it obviously, but, my God, we’ve got a version of it now.

The ultimate disrupter, Dominic Cummings, has been building up to this hour-long interview with a series of insider tweets and a revelatory performance before a Westminster committee.

But this chat with BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg was of a different order.

Boris and Carrie Johnson appeared to be the main targets, but also the system of government.

He hit Boris with a number of left hooks.

He could have given the 94-year-old monarch coronavirus, he thought the lockdown was wrong and he has no agenda for his time as prime minister other than buying buses, bikes and the “world’s most stupid tunnel” to Ireland.

Carrie was interfering in the appointment of Downing Street staff and wanted to get rid of him and his ex-Vote Leave colleagues.

Then Cummings threw in a few revelations of his own.

Shock, he didn’t tell the full truth about Barnard Castle and testing his eyes.

And he still hadn’t made his mind up about whether Brexit was a good thing. “Is Brexit a good idea? No-one on earth knows what the answer to that is …. I think anyone who says they’re sure about questions like that has got a screw loose.”

And most amazingly of all: Days after Boris had secured the largest Conservative majority in decades, Cummings and “a few dozen” of his Vote Leave cabal were discussing the need to replace the newly enthroned prime minister.

“We were already saying that by the summer, either we’ll all have gone from here or we’ll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as prime minister,” he said.

“He doesn’t have a plan, he doesn’t know how to be prime minister, and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country.”

Describe Cummings as narcissistic (isn’t almost everyone in politics?) or a charlatan, but he has certainly made an impact.

A bit like Cummings on Brexit, I’m not sure whether this yanking back of the curtain is a good thing. It’s comforting to know that governments are as chaotic as the rest of us and that leaders panic and change their minds on a whim.

But then what chance of honest discussion, if you feel that someone in the room will be poking through your guts on national television in a couple of months.


Killing Escobar, BBC 1, Monday

A film about an almost unbelievable plot by British mercenaries to kill Pablo Escobar on behalf of a rival drug gang promised much but ultimately failed to deliver.

The Cali cartel in Columbia had enough of Escobar and in 1989 hired former British soldier Peter McAleese to carry out the hit.

The Glaswegian got out his black book and called his pals from previous trips as hired killers in Angola, Aden and Rhodesia.

A lot of effort went into the 90-minute film, with reenactments of some of the key moments of the gang’s months in Cali and the Columbian jungle where they trained and “bonded” in preparation to storm Escobar’s compound.

It ended in farce when one of the two helicopters which was due to drop the former special forces into the compound crashed as it crossed a section of the Andes.

The rest of the film became a mea-culpa from McAleese about how his lifestyle and anger had hurt many of the people he loved.

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