Dominic Cummings saga leaves cracked relationship between PM and party

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

image copyright10 Downing Street

"Move on" - that's the overwhelming message from No 10 about the behaviour of the prime minister's most valued adviser.

Whether it was urging MPs to pick a different subject yesterday, or Boris Johnson's seemingly public allergy to answering questions about Dominic Cummings at today's press conference, Downing Street hopes - if not quite believes - that it is time for the furore around the chief aide's adventure to the north east of England at the height of lockdown to subside.

You may well be reading this and agreeing that it is time to turn the page. When the country is still in the grip of a health crisis - and the start of an economic one - of course the conduct of one individual is dwarfed by the concerns and fears of millions of people, and the scale of the decisions that the government has to make on all of our behalf.

The belief inside No 10 is the tangible outrage has started to wane. But the political drama of the last few days is relevant, whether Downing Street likes it or not.

After a period when the government has enjoyed an astonishing level of public support, according to the polls, the public was given a reason to doubt the conduct of those making the decisions - and that matters.

Fatigue with the hour-by-hour drama of the story itself may not quickly remove that question mark.

Cracked relationship

At the very least, the episode has created argument and anger, just at the moment when the government was preparing to ask the population to understand a new set of instructions on how to live their lives that requires unity to work.

And even though Boris Johnson has a huge majority in Parliament, with the virtual sessions lending a surreal air to procedures in Parliament too, the Cummings saga has cracked the relationship between much of the Tory Party and its boss in No 10.

The story may pass, and the memory may fade. But the prime minister's decision to defend his aide through the controversy has sapped a lot of goodwill that existed between Boris Johnson and those he needs to cheer his leadership from the backbenches.

Some ministers are still upset, even appalled, with how events have unfolded.

And with the level of challenge the government will face in the months to come, it's a self-imposed fracture it could well have done without.

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