Dominic Cummings is billed as Boris Johnson’s “idea’s” man. However there’s a problem, most of his ideas are sh*t. We need only look at the satellite fiasco, where they bought a company that makes the wrong kind of satellites for GPS. His track and trace app that didn’t work because of all spyware it came with. And his original plan for covid was herd immunity (i.e. let hundreds of thousands die to save Pret). And this is before we bring up his involvement with both the leave campaign, and the Scottish referendum, his connections to the Kremlin, nor his little trip to Bernard’s castle, which has produced a recognised “Cummings effect” that is in part responsible for a 2nd wave worse than the first wave.
I’ve heard Cummings and Boris compared somewhat unfavourably to pinky and the brain (the difference being that Cummings thinks he’s a genius… and he’s also insane). In truth, he hasn’t got a clue, he’s yet another point on the Dunning-Kruger scale. While yes at the extreme end you’ve got the likes of Trump, but a little further along we meet Cummings. And you could argue he proves that a little bit of intelligence (what I’m calling the Dumb-Dom point), combined with an overly inflated ego and an posh upbringing, can be a very dangerous thing.
Take for example defence, with word that Cummings has been visiting UK military facilities as part of a Tory spending review (yes, its considered ok to let someone with connections to Moscow into UK military bases, go figure). Although I should perhaps call it a what not to spend review. Already there’s rumours that the UK is going to cut out all of its Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior IFV’s and replace them with Cyber warfare. Ya, to Cummings the way we’ll stop Russian tanks rolling up the M2 is by having a team of nerds posting meme’s. Good luck with that one.
Cummings was also seen going into Downing street with a copy of a Reagan era letter related to defence research. As I mentioned in a prior post the Reagan administration funded all sorts of hair-brained schemes and squandered vast sums of public money in the process. Of course, unwilling to admit they’d made a mistake, republicans came up with the retroactive argument that ya we knew none of it would work, but we were trying to get the soviets to spend themselves into bankruptcy (in truth Russian military spending did not increase significantly during Reagan’s tenure, it was only 7% of their GDP and it was what was going on with the other 93% that was the problem).
Either way, the UK just doesn’t have the defence budget to finance these sorts of programmes. As I discussed in a prior post, previous efforts by the UK to compete with the major powers during the cold war failed, the TSR2 being a good example. Only with European co-operation can the UK hope to keep pace with the US and China. And a hard brexit is pretty much going to scupper that.
I’d also note that we need to factor in the UK’s geography. The whole reasoning behind trident (which is an American weapon system, one they can withhold support for and effectively disarm the UK…if say the UK were to break international law for example), is that anything else (no matter how advanced) is vulnerable to a sneak attack. This is less of a problem for Russia, China or the US as they can position their facilities well in land and they have vastly more conventional forces with which to guard them.
In some respects, I get the impression that Cummings and the Tories have latched onto a defence spending theory that basically says you don’t need conventional forces if you’ve got nukes. However, this is not true, it ignores certain geopolitical realities. It could leave you vulnerable to Salami tactics (where the enemy gradually weakens your position by engaging in a series of acts that would not constitute grounds for war, never mind threatening a nuclear attack), as this skit from the satire Yes Prime Minster discusses.
In reality its a choice between the UK having conventional forces, plus maybe trident as an optional extra. Or if you want to save money and cut military spending, then trident is the first thing you’d ditch. Its one or the other. But for the Tories trident is a phallic totem. If they give it up they will be abandoning their dreams of empire 2.0. Hence the conventional army must too be sacrificed on the high altar of brexit, even if this ultimately compromises the UK’s actual defences.
And we have to consider the international consequences of such a policy. Given that the Challenger 2 tanks are really more designed for large scale tank engagements (such as in the Middle Eastern deserts or the Fulda gap) even proposing to get rid of them could be interpreted as a signal that the UK will not be getting involved in such conflicts in future.
Now while that might actually be a good thing (no more being America’s lap dog), it could mean allies (such as the US) are less supportive (i.e. they take back their missiles). And enemies may decide to make a move against a UK ally (or nationalise a UK company’s holdings), as they will be assuming the UK will not take any action. This is pretty much what caused the Falklands war. Tory cuts to the Royal Navy convinced the Argentine Junta that the UK wouldn’t try to retake the island. And the UK almost lost that war (something even the British commanders have admitted), they only didn’t because the Junta hadn’t really planned very well for how they’d defend the Island (largely because they were so convinced the UK wouldn’t take any action!).
Hell, Cummings military policy is so bad it would only make sense if you were a Russian agent looking to deliberately sabotage the UK’s defences….oh wait!
Speaking of nukes….
Cummings has also proposed that we solve unemployment in northern England by building lots of nuclear reactors in the North (I didn’t know there were loads of unemployed nuclear engineers in northern England!). As I pointed out in a prior post one of the consequences of brexit on the energy industry is that it will make it harder to recruit new workers. Industries like nuclear or fracking will need EU workers to come in and make up for skill shortages.
So we have a load of working class communities in the north, who voted leave because they are xenophobic about foreigners and feel threatened by technology (as its reducing the number of blue collar jobs). And Cummings plan is to have a load of white collar workers move in, some of them from overseas (mostly from France & China for nuclear and Romania for fracking), pushing up house prices and living costs. How’s that going to go down? And leaving the EU means leaving Euroatom, who is going to certify and supply the fuel?
Also, nuclear projects take forever. Hinkley C was proposed in the 2000’s with construction starting 15 years later and power production will be a good ten years after that….so Cummings is proposing jobs in the 2030’s & 2040’s. By contrast we can start building renewable energy systems, council houses, hospitals, etc. tomorrow. But of course while the Tories will happily shell out a small fortune for anything nuclear (empire 2.0 and all that), but they won’t spend a penny on anything that might actually help people.
Dot Dom bubble
And according to Cummings the real benefit of brexit is how the UK can become a hub for the next trillion dollar IT company, once we are free from burdensome EU regulations. Why is that all the big IT firms are set up in the US?
Well the thing is the UK WAS the centre of an IT revolution, back during the dot-com era of the late 2000’s, at the start of the Tony Blair government (the most pro-EU PM the country has probably ever had), when London and Dublin saw themselves at the centre of the European tech revolution. These were heady days. You could go to a “first Tuesday event”, put on a green badge (indicating you were an IT person looking for funding) or a red badge (indicating you were a venture capitalist) and do a deal for several million over a handshake and a glass of bubbly.
So what went wrong? The dot-com bubble burst. While silicon valley caught a cold, London came down with pneumonia. It boiled down to market size, the UK is a very small pond compared to the US. And back in 2000 not everyone had access to the internet in the UK (or the EU for that matter) and many that did were still using dial up (which made internet shopping tediously slow). The end result was that while Amazon made enough money to keep the wolf from its door, its UK competitors (boo.com or handbag.com) went bankrupt.
And this still applies today. After the US, the other major hub for IT companies these days is China, which is got to be the most un-libertarian country in the world. They are practically taking tips and pointers out of black mirror episodes. Yet, they have far more IT companies in China than in the UK or the EU and they may well overtake the US in this field. Why? One billion people with mobile phones. How exactly Cummings thinks that shrinking the UK’s potential market is going to help I do not know.
Case in point, Ireland wasn’t as badly effected by the dot-com bubble as the UK. It took a wallop yes, but weathered the storm a lot better. This is because Ireland had focused more on the hardware side of things. There was a big drop in demand for computer parts after the millennium, but the market soon recovered. And this was largely driven by demand from the rest of the EU, to which Ireland could export tariff free, thanks to the expanding single market.
And contrary to what Cummings says, the problem in London back in 2000 (then again he was in Russia at the time) is it became a bit of a wild west. A lot of the dot com firms were operating fairly dubious business models, some were badly run and government oversight was lacking (as the Blair government was terrified of the “old labour” label and would run a million miles if the tabloids brought that up). The aforementioned Boo.com being a good example. This meant a whole generation of investors got burned and swore off tech investments for some time.
And how does Cummings propose to get around this? Why we use UK government money to found and start these tech “unicorns“. Well firstly, tech start ups are pretty risky investments. A lot of them are just regular companies who call themselves a “tech” stock to attract money from moron’s who don’t know any better (like Cummings!). And, like during the dot com bubble, some have fairly dubious business models. Its questionable if this is sensible use of taxpayers money (particularly if we are so hard up we can’t afford to fully fund the NHS!).
Secondly, he does know that, as part of the EU, UK firms and universities were part of many collaborative projects which benefited from matching EU funding (a sort of public private partnership), which the UK used to do very well out of. Indeed any money the government comes up with will struggle to plug the gap. The only difference is, the EU was very careful about who they gave money too. While the Dumb-Dom approach is, to throw bags of cash at anyone who can bamboozle Cummings & Boris with a flashy presentation.
Again one is forced to conclude that Cummings proposals would only make sense if you were a foreign agent attempting to sabotage the UK economy.
The failed state of Dumb-Dom
Finally, one has to acknowledge the undemocratic nature of how Johnson and Cummings operate. The whole point of democracy is so that any proposed idea gets subject to proper scrutiny. Politicians, from both sides of the house, are allowed to ask awkward questions and seek professional guidance as well as public opinion. There have been plenty of other times in the past where a government has proposed something that would be a really bad idea, which has been killed off once its been subject to proper due diligence.
However, instead the UK government now operates under a model whereby a small cabal come up with policies (that may well be unworkable, illegal, break international law or squander public money), there is no scrutiny or due diligence, no bidding process. And anyone who asks awkward questions (even if you are an expert, or a Tory MP who voted leave) is accused of being “an enemy of the people” and a remoaner for daring to suggest we should like you know read the bill before voting on it.
If you ever wondered how totalitarian regimes can get away with say, building a gold statue of the leader that always faces the Sun, this is how. Their policies, like Cummings, aren’t subjected to any sort of rational scrutiny or oversight, which is why these countries tend to be poorer. Hence Cumming’s risks turning the UK into a failed state.
But fortunately for us (and unfortunately for Cummings), you live by the sword you die by it. Sooner or later he will be forced out of office (either Boris will be forced to sack him, or Boris will be forced out and Cummings will follow). And the new PM will immediately issue instructions to cancel or reverse everything Cummings. Anyone he employed will either be sacked or re-organised (put in charge of stationary supplies or made cultural attaché to North Korea).
Much like how the golden statues of dictators can be airbrushed out of history, so too can Cumming’s legacy. And while a Tory government probably won’t reverse brexit, its entirely possible that a future labour one (or an independent Scottish one) will do so.