It’s a sad, sad situation / And it’s getting more and more absurd

Oh it seems to me / That sorry seems to be the hardest word

BERNIE TAUPIN’S lyrics to Elton John’s song seem to sum up the whole situation around Dominic Cummings. In the two press conferences which have focused on Mr Cummings’ trip to Durham at the outset of the lockdown neither the Prime Minister nor Dominic Cummings himself have been able to say sorry for breaking the rules. That the rules were broken is in no doubt. Whether it was the trip to Durham when the instructions were clear that those with symptoms should stay at home, or the drive to Barnard Castle when the police were enforcing rules against such trips, the rules were broken. Mr Cummings has pleaded mitigation for breaking the rules. His special pleading has cut little ice with all of those who have made sacrifices for the common good by abiding to the Government’s guidance. In the choice between the common good and his own good, Mr Cummings chose the latter.

Whatever people’s views on Dominic Cummings’ pleas for mitigation, the refusal to apologise points to a deeper issue on the Government’s failure to apologise for its mishandling of the whole Covid-19 situation that has led to untold suffering – not least in comparison to other countries.

Rather than apologise for the scandal of the number of deaths in our care homes and the trauma arising from those who died alone, the Government has refused to say sorry and has instead insisted, contrary to all evidence, that care homes “were a priority from the start”.

Rather than apologise for the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK, second only globally to the USA, the Government has refused to say sorry, instead talking about “world beating” plans, ignoring the only world beating outcome has been the highest number of those who have died per capita of population.

Rather than apologise for the Government’s initial flawed “herd immunity” approach which ignored the scientific modelling adopted by other countries such as Ireland, New Zealand and Japan, the Government has refused to say sorry for its inaction in the three weeks from March 2 until March 23. When lockdowns in other countries – such as the cancellation of celebrations of St Patrick’s day in Ireland – were restricting the spread of the R rate, people here are likely to have paid with their lives for commuting on packed trains, drinking in pubs and attending events such as the Cheltenham Festival and the football matches.

Perhaps it should be no surprise sorry should be the hardest word for Dominic Cummings. His refusal to repent mirrors the actions of a Government that has consistently refused to say sorry for its own serial incompetence, whether it be PPE, care homes or strategy, which has led so many of its citizens to pay the ultimate price.

The lasting consequences of the Cummings affair go beyond whether he remains in his post. Now that people will be feel free to follow their own instincts above the law and plead the Cummings defence in mitigation, the increased risk of a second peak – with all the consequent suffering – may well be the lasting legacy of refusing to say sorry.

  • Arun Arora is vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham