Does the public trust Dominic Cummings?
Polls suggest former top aide is not seen as credible enough to damage government – for now
Dominic Cummings launched a stinging attack on his former boss Boris Johnson in an evidence session to MPs that lasted nearly seven hours yesterday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was branded a “liar” by the PM’s former top aide, is set to defend himself later today, while Downing Street has rejected the claims that its inaction over the pandemic led to unnecessary deaths.
But in the short term, “ministers believe that Cummings’s evidence will hold little sway with the public”, says Steven Swinford in The Times. A YouGov poll for the newspaper found that only 14% of people trusted Cummings to tell the truth about how the government handled the coronavirus outbreak, compared with 38% for Johnson.
The survey, carried out on 19 and 20 May, showed that the public was more or less evenly split on how ministers had handled the pandemic in general, with 46% saying they had done well, 50% saying they had done badly and the remaining 4% unsure.
This was backed up by a survey for The i newspaper, by Redfield and Wilton Strategies taken during Cummings’s appearance in front of MPs. Just 21% of the 1,500 respondents thought he was a trustworthy source.
The results will provide “some immediate relief to No 10, which has tried to avoid being dragged into countering the multitude of allegations”, says Richard Vaughan at The i.
Meanwhile, on ITV’s Peston last night, Chris Curtis at Opinium Research said he was “not yet convinced” that Cummings’s allegations would “move the dial”, with polling showing that just 18% trust him to tell the truth. “Cummings isn’t a great messenger,” said Curtis.
“Others, however, smell danger,” says Swinford in The Times. The “extraordinary demolition of Johnson and his government may not be cutting through now but it will help to ‘frame the narrative’ in the months ahead of the public inquiry next year”, he says.
Many are concerned “this is just the beginning”, he adds. “Voters may feel differently if the prime minister’s own words – in the form of texts and WhatsApp messages – come to light.”