Why Brexiteers and Remainers are all being 'gamed' by Dominic Cummings


The success, if you can call it that, of Dominic Cummings is that, well... everyone is talking about Dominic Cummings - and of course his 'grand strategy' to deliver Brexit. His particular shtick for chaos is the talk of the country and it's reasonable to conclude this is what he wants.

Depending on who you listen to, he's everything from a political genius who delivered the Vote Leave campaign to victory, (with some irregular practices that were found to be illegal by the electoral commission) to what Sir John Major described as a 'political anarchist' poisoning our democracy.

The truth, like most things, is probably somewhere in the middle. As Carole Cadwalladr describes in her Observer article, he views himself as something other to the rest of us. He reportedly isn't above using anonymous social media accounts to harangue critics, as he's alleged to have done while at the Department of Education. If true, his opponents will say, this shows that he's not really a strategic genius, but rather someone with a thin skin and knack for three-word slogans.

But this 'scorched earth' policy where the institutions of our democracy are laid waste, reveals perhaps where the eventual landing place for Brexit might be. It all smacks a little of the practice of escalation theory.

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Dominic Cummings
Pro remain campaigner Steve Bray interviews Dominic Cummings as he arrives at the Cabinet office in London,United Kingdom on 22nd August 2019. (photo by Claire Doherty/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Senior aide to the prime minister Dominic Cummings leaves following a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his senior aid Dominic Cummings as they leave Downing Street, central London.
Senior aide to the prime minister Dominic Cummings, in Downing Street in Westminster, London.
Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves his home in London, Britain, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves his home in London, Britain, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leaves his home in London, Britain, August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 7: Dominic Cummings, special advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at 10 Downing Street on August 7, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Number 10 Chief of Staff Dominic Cummings arrives at Downing Street in central London on August 2, 2019. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

For those not in the know, it's not what you would call a philosophy but a way of gaming a system or opponent by taking them psychologically to the edge of reason – only for them to desist or surrender.

Throw in a bit of what Adam Curtis would describe as, old-style Soviet hyper-normalisation, and you start to see a situation where no one really knows what the truth is – reality itself is bent. That doesn't mean that when you play this game you don't expect the wheels to come off - far from it - it's part of the process.

The success and problem with this duel strategy are of course, that it's both things at once, a bit like a political Schrödinger's Cat. Both disaster and success. It distorts reason in favour of feelings while messing with your opponents' heads – which is where Cummings excels. But this hasn't, so far, fully survived contact with parliamentary arithmetic and the British constitution.

It's only a guess of course, it might well be that the disastrous week for Boris Johnson, was not foreseen or expected. The only strategy in that case, would be to keep it going to its grim conclusion. But at what cost to British democracy and the integrity of the United Kingdom?

No one, even Cummings or Johnson, probably know where this ultimately ends. It's more likely that politicians and the media are giving them both more credit than they deserve in shaping the course of events.

But while the PM's aide is busy baiting Remainers, opposition MPs and moderate Tories, he is conspicuously quiet about the ERG - to which Mr Cummings is said to have a profound distaste. The danger for the Tories is that they may think Cummings is digging them out of their Brexit ditch, where in reality he may be preparing the party's grave.

Don't be too surprised if where we are now is fairly far from where we end up on Brexit. And it may be that it's the Tory Party Brexiteers that find that they are the ones that have been gamed.

In the end, it's likely that, whatever you call yourself - Remainer or Brexiteer, we're all going to lose from the inside attack on democratic society; by what Amber Rudd, in her resignation letter to the prime minister, described as an act of "political vandalism".

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