Trump and Brexit barged through the same door, a pair of right-wing loudmouths intent on kicking liberal shins. Now one is being shown the exit, and the architect of the second was yesterday ordered to leave Downing Street.
Some say the departing Dominic Cummings is an evil political genius, but perhaps he is just a bully who got lucky by reading how the wind was blowing. He was doubly fortunate a year ago in his man being up against Jeremy Corbyn. Johnson would almost certainly have won, whoever had been pulling his strings.
It is reasonable to admit that Cummings is a smart coiner of the cynical political phrase – Take Back Control and Get Brexit Done being his two bestsellers. But shouldn’t there be more to politics than stringing together three conning words?
Various stories swirling around the Westminster drain today suggest different versions of the Cummings departure. You can take your pick, really. Did Boris Johnson get tough, giving his chief adviser a rigorous talking to before ordering him to leave? Or was it a friendlier encounter, a bit of political improv theatre to make the prime minister look strong?
Whichever version you prefer, the leaving of the arch Leaver was perfectly staged. That Reuters photograph of Cummings stalking through the festively lit front door carrying a cardboard box showed a man with more theatrical slap about him than a pantomime dame.
Earlier in the week, I joined in with those tweeting that no ordinary person should give a tired toot about the stormy departure of Lee Cain, the macho ardent Brexiteer who acted as Johnson’s director of communications.
A reasonable view to have on the day, but the further unravelling of the Downing Street y-fronts does suggest there was more to this story. In a little under a year, Johnson’s Downing Street operation was cocking things up endlessly, causing dismay among his own party, and earning a reputation for big-shouldered macho ineptitude.
But was Cummings the problem or was it Johnson himself? Johnson is the captain of this aimless ship, so he can’t escape blame for… oh, take your pick from the chaos tin of assortments, but do watch out for the Brexit Nut Cluster as there’s a terribly hard centre in that one.
Remember, too, that Johnson let Cummings become the dominant story of the past six months by refusing to sack him after that lockdown-breaking jaunt to Barnard Castle. Why such stubbornness when a short while later he’s prepared to send Cummings out of the front door? Incidentally, other Downing Street doors are available, so by choosing the front door Cummings continued to make himself the story while pretending not to, as usual.
It’s not always profitable to link one damn thing to another, although it can be irresistible. The Trump Thing and the Brexit Thing are, I’d suggest, conjoined by the manner of their arrival. Trump rose on a barrage of lies and self-made urban myths, much as Johnson started out years ago inventing urban myths about Europe for the Daily Telegraph.
The Trump Thing and the Brexit Thing depended on bullying people into the belief that this would be good for them. Both exploited a general feeling that life could be different.
Then there is the snake oil. Trump is what they used to called a snake oil salesman. The Vote Leave team fronted by Dominic Cummings slapped a snake-oil slogan on the side of a bus to convince people that the NHS would be £350m a week better off if we left the EU.
If a lie wins the day, what’s the point of trundling out the truth?
It’s comforting to think there must once have been a time when politicians won through the strength of their argument, rather than by being exploitative bullies.
Perhaps such a bright day never dawned. Still, the world feels more cheerful with the departure of Trump and the leaving of Cummings. At least my liberal shins will have a chance to heal at last.