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“He’s sulking, isn’t he?” said Steve Jowett, 63, when asked about Dominic Cummings’ explosive revelations in Westminster on Wednesday. A driver waiting to start his shift at Heckmondwike bus station, West Yorkshire, neither Jowett nor his colleague Trevor Lewis, 55, had much sympathy for the prime minister’s former adviser.
“But, if it’s true, there’s got to be an investigation, because there’s a lot of families up and down the country that won’t be happy,” Lewis added.
Michelle Kitson, an NHS mental health support worker enjoying lunch in the sun nearby, was in agreement. “His grievance is because he got caught out and now he’s trying to cover his own tracks and pass the blame on somebody else.” While Kitson, 57, takes a dim view of most politicians, she believes the government “have done the best they could in a bad situation” in terms of handling the pandemic.
Heckmondwike sits in the Batley and Spen constituency, which will hold a byelection on 1 July. Labour hopes to defend its majority of 3,525 in the seat it has held since 1997 in a poll triggered by the election of Tracy Brabin as West Yorkshire mayor.
The party will have been hoping that Cummings’ claim the handling of the pandemic caused thousands of unnecessary deaths could make holding on to the seat easier, but there was little evidence that the marathon select committee appearance had changed minds.
While not a fan of Cummings – “I don’t like Cummings at all. I don’t like what he did at Barnard Castle” – Steve Hancock, 66, found his account “very authentic”.
“He was saying what I’ve been saying for 15 months,” Hancock continued, particularly in regards to how care homes were managed. “Thousands and thousands died that didn’t need to. They said there was a ring round [them] – there was no ring, no protection, they just let ’em die,” he said.
He described Johnson as “the wrong person in the wrong job”. “When you pay £800 for a roll of wallpaper, you’re in a different league to anybody in Spen Valley, I’ll tell you that.”
A couple of miles away in Batley, Basir Goolab, 63, dismisses Cummings’ evidence as “sour grapes”. An assistant manager at Milen Care, a daycare service for Asian elderly people, Goolab thinks “the horse has bolted”. “If he wanted to do all that, why didn’t he when he was actually in power?” he asks.
In the Buckinghamshire town of Chesham, many people said they had neither watched the evidence session, nor seen any of the coverage of it since. And no one expressed a word of sympathy for Dominic Cummings.
Chesham and Amersham is also having a byelection, on 17 June, following the death of Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan, who had represented the constituency since 1992. It has only ever voted Tory since its creation in 1974.
While several people who saw his performance were happy to acknowledge that some of the allegations by Cummings were probably true, none saw him as a particularly reliable source and their views of the politicians he sought to eviscerate largely followed.
“Terrible mistakes were made. But they were mistakes,” said 69-year-old Marshall Hall.
Asked to describe her impressions of the evidence session, Ang Ryan was even more succinct: “Weasel,” she said.
The 49-year-old Labour party member called him a “NTBT – a man who is not to be trusted”. She was one of the minority who paid very close attention to Wednesday’s session, saying she “could not stop watching it” all day.
And, while she had no time for Cummings, Ryan acknowledged that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock did not emerge with any credit either. Referring to Cummings as a “rat leaving a sinking ship”, she stressed her hope that the ship was, nevertheless, sinking.
Hall, who usually votes Labour but went with the Tories at the last election, was more circumspect, saying: “Potentially, the mistakes killed a lot of people. But that’s based on an assumption that someone else would’ve done a better job.”
For Neil Cavanah, a 51-year-old law student, Cummings had “seemed pretty quick to criticise but he is not so quick to acknowledge his own responsibility”.
Still, yet more people shrugged when asked. Among them was 69-year-old Steve Devereux, who was on Chesham’s high street with his dog Honey. “No government has really changed my life at all. That’s one of the reasons I don’t really bother with that kind of thing.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Voters weigh up Cummings’ revelations before crucial byelections | Dominic Cummings