It’s difficult to avoid concluding that the main reason the government has so abjectly debased itself to protect Cummings is because this is essentially a Brexit government that sees him as a key figure in achieving the only outcome that really matters to them: leaving the EU.
Whether this belief is the result of more powerful people behind the scenes, or to the inability of a clueless government to strategise without Cummings is not clear. But without Brexit it’s difficult to see why else they would have burned up so much political capital.
This is a government that owes its existence to Brexit. That chose its members solely according to their loyalty to Brexit - and to Johnson. For this Brexit government the coronavirus has always been an unwanted interruption to its raison d’etre.
Brexit partly explains why the government was so slow to prepare and react to the virus. Not only was it entirely preoccupied with Brexit, the last few years had sucked so much energy and resources from government that it was fatally vulnerable when the pandemic struck.
Brexit exceptionalism reinforced our unwillingness to look at good practice abroad- coupled with Johnson’s apparent belief that the pandemic might even enable the ‘Superman’ Britain to rise from the wreckage - a dangerous, stupid and utterly reckless fantasy.
Our shockingly high death toll is the most egregious consequence of that exceptionalism. Now, having mismanaged the response to the pandemic, the Brexit government wants to get back to Brexit, and is now heading from a chaotic initial lockdown to a chaotic exit to the lockdown.
And that, I suspect, is what the Cummings fiasco is ultimately all about. The God of Leave must remain on the bridge so that the good ship Brexit can continue its journey towards the iceberg.