Sunday 31 May 2020

The Rosie Duffield Affair

There is always a tweet. During last week's furore over Dominic Cummings, Opposition whip and Labour MP for Canterbury got on her high horse about social distancing. Little did anyone know that she herself was being somewhat economical with the actualité of the rules. Well, thanks to the Mail on Sunday we now know their letter and their spirit mattered as much to her as the niceties of Catholicism do to Sicilian mob bosses. Caught red-handed, at least she did the decent thing and resigned her shadcab role, turning what could have been an embarrassing story for Labour into a strength. If Rosie can fall on her sword, why can't Dom?

A couple of things about this affair about an affair. Like the case of Prof Neal Ferguson, the author of the lockdown strategy who broke his own rules for a knee trembler, the Mail now as the Telegraph then cultivated salacious gratification from talking up the married lover angle, as if the matrimonial arrangements of Ferguson's and Duffield's significant other has any bearing whatsoever. A reminder of the Tory press using sexual morality to defame their opponents while turning a blind eye to the extra-marital dalliances rife among the government benches. While most don't care about whom is bed hopping with whom, it does matter to a small and important social conservative section of the Tory base. It wasn't that long ago when ministers used to resign as a matter of course if they were caught with their trousers down, and in the 1990s scandal after adulterous scandal helped compound the sense of sleaze clinging to John Major's government. While the vast majority of the Tory base were prepared to overlook everything to get their precious Brexit done, that weapon will not be available in 2024. If trust becomes as an issue, as it clearly has now thanks to the Cummings crisis, reports of Tory infidelities can only contribute to its draining away and staying at home. Don't expect any more stories about Boris Johnson's colourful "innovations" in his private life between now and election day.

On resignation, sundry Tories on Twitter have tried to fool themselves into thinking there is complete equivalence between Rosie Duffield and Dominic Cummings, that the left are complete hypocrites for demanding action against the latter while ignoring the former. Well, Rosie has resigned. Aha, say the Tories, but she hasn't resigned her seat! Well, they've got us. What a gotcha. Of course, if we're abiding by the logic of their argument seeing as Cummings hasn't resigned neither should Rosie. Second, when Ferguson stepped back from his official role with the government he didn't resign his academic job as well. Considering Rosie is far more peripheral to the government's mishandling of the crisis than Ferguson or Cummings, it's ridiculous to expect her to pay a heavier price for breaking the rules. And third, while Ferguson's work informed the Tory quarantine strategy Dominic Cummings is the one figure in Downing Street more responsible than any other for its formulation and messaging. If the law maker can't be, refuses to be a law taker, their position is utterly untenable.

Overall, the Mail on Sunday's splash on Rosie Duffield might be counterproductive from the point of view of defending the government. They have fired the starting gun on other papers scrutinising the comings and goings of other MPs, including Tory MPs. Will the Conservatives be helped by more stories of salacious lockdown breaking? I doubt it.

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Jim Denham said...

There is claerly no comparison with Cummings: for a start she's resigned and apologised. Even the lying apologists of the Spectator and Spiked can't get round that.

bernard gibbons said...

If the issue is hypocrisy and a sense of entitlement, they are comparable though, aren't they? And at least Cummings and his partner can claim they believed themselves to be sick and were concerned about their child, whereas the motivation here is rather more mundane.

Anonymous said...

The inequalities and hypocrisy exposed by the reaction to this pandemic should be clear. Ordinary families who struggle to pay the mortgage. Young people who can't get on the housing ladder. Yet many move between their multiple properties during this time, including some of our politicians and their advisers- insulated from the realities of the many. The ordinary tax paying public.

Anonymous said...

Bernard Gibbons,

Sure, Cummings can claim a lot of things, but are you saying you believe his insultingly blatant lies? If so, would you be interested in buying a bridge for a very reasonable price?

bernard gibbons said...

No, I don't believe any of his insultingly blatant lies, if that was a concern.