Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey has cited newly-published government data as showing that the Dominic Cummings scandal, when the political strategist was accused of breaching lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, had made the British public more divided, writes The Telegraph.
According to the Liberal Democrats, outrage over Dominic Cummings’ alleged actions marked a turning point in the erosion of public belief that the UK might come out of the coronavirus-triggered health crisis more united.
‘Declining Public Faith’
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) had surveyed 12,630 adults between 24 April and 28 June regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their perceptions of unity and division.
Data shows that the proportion of people believing that Britain would emerge from the pandemic “very or somewhat united” dropped from 49 per cent the week before the Cummings scandal erupted to 43 per cent a week after the reports hit the headlines.
The numbers continued to plummet since, reaching 28 percent.
The proportion of people saying the country will be “very or somewhat divided” spiked from 31 percent to 38 percent when the scandal broke, and currently stands at 55 per cent.
Sir Ed Davey responded to the figures, saying:
“At times like this, the Government should be fostering that sense of unity, but Boris Johnson has sadly undermined it with his alarming lack of leadership, confusing messages and poor judgement. It is clear that, when Boris Johnson chose to put saving Dominic Cummings above the national interest, he did enormous damage not only to public trust in the Government but also people’s hopes of a more united country.”
Opposition leaders have seized upon the new data as evidence that there is a pronounced declining of public faith in the Government’s ability to tackle the pandemic.
Those in disagreement with this stance suggest there are other reasons for the declining faith.
According to Professor Graham Towl, an expert in forensic psychology at Durham University cited by the outlet, the results of the survey may be accounted for in terms of “cognitive dissonance”.
“…Earlier more optimistic beliefs have perhaps given way to the brutal realities of job losses, internationally high COVID-19-related death rates, and future uncertainty in terms of both health and the economy,” says the expert.
Dawn Snape, assistant director at the Sustainability and Inequalities Division, ONS, is cited as saying that the data shows earlier in the national lockdown, people thought after the country emerged from the health crisis it would be a more united one.
“Over subsequent weeks, this belief declined… Most people also expected that inequalities in society would remain,” said Snape.
The Dominic Cummings Controversy
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings found himself in hot water in May, after reports claimed he had travelled 260 miles (418 km) from London to his parents' farm in Durham amid COVID-19 lockdown protocols , supposedly for help with childcare, with his child and wife, who was displaying coronavirus symptoms.
He subsequently was reported taking a 60-mile round trip from Durham to a nearby town, allegedly to test whether his eyesight was good enough to drive.
The reports had unleashed a barrage of calls for the senior aide to resign.
Fending off all allegations, Cummings gave a press conference where he insisted he believed he acted "reasonably" and within the law. He was backed by Boris Johnson and other senior government ministers.