Seven hours. Seven hours, seven minutes, to be precise.
There were explosive bits – we’ll get to those in a sec – but can we first acknowledge the size of it? Seven hours. Enough time to watch Dances with Wolves, make Jamie’s vegetable risotto, then watch Dances with Wolves again.
Dominic Cummings, the former special adviser to the Prime Minister, gave evidence to a select committee for 427 minutes. That’s a long time.
It was best treated like a test match, on in the background and run to the TV when something exciting happens. One reader did their ironing. Another bled the radiators. We found a way.
What is it they say? “Months of inactivity punctuated by moments of extreme terror.” (I think that’s about the war. Might be marriage. Works either way.)
Mr Cummings is compelling TV with good reason. It’s very rare for anyone to give an accurate, contemporaneous picture of what happens at the heart of government. What is it they say? “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” (Again, could be marriage. Works either way.)
Some of it was straight, stone-cold, amazing for the sheer horror of it.
The care home scandal, the sheer lack of planning and foresight, the battling egos. The utter testosterone-fuelled incompetence. A glimpse into the inner-workings of something that really doesn’t work.
I can’t imagine anyone taking any comfort from it. Mr Cummings began apologetically but it quickly became clear he had a different agenda.
This was about being as explosive as possible, settling old scores by casually lobbing grenades.
Some pegged him as an unreliable narrator. It doesn’t really matter. This was testimony from a man who has been at the very centre of things and wanted to tell us all about it.
At one point he answered a question by beginning: “I don’t have an opinion on that” – which we can peg as a definite lie. Mr Cummings has an opinion on everything. As he warmed up, he took on the manner of one of those blokes who corners you in the pub when you’re trying to read the paper.
The longer they go on the more random it gets: here we got multiple Bill Gates references, Spider-Man, Independence Day. Anthrax and shopping trollies and Jaws. But, like Mr Cummings, they really warm up when you get them on about their ex.
In this case, the Prime Minister, those who work for him, his fiancée Carrie Symonds, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the people who work for him. Even Dilyn the dog got a metaphorical kicking. Pressure is on Matt Hancock, but he appears safe for the moment.
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Moving him would look like Mr Cummings was right and Mr Johnson does not want that. Mr Hancock is useful where he is, as a scapegoat with a lightning rod strapped to him.
Let’s try and recover from the seven-hour stretch. Writer Bill Bryson once said about cricket he couldn’t understand anyone going through the whole thing when the highlights were easily available. Might have been marriage. Works either way.