First things first: Cummings did not actually violate the blocking rules. On March 24th, Dr. Jennifer Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, specifically focused on the possibility that parents travel to isolate themselves with children when needed. That's exactly what Cummings did. When he arrived in Durham, he didn't break the rules. He didn't think he was above the law or that he was special because of his number 10. His motives were not shameful (see meeting illegal lovers late at night). That should have been the end of it.
But it was not the end, because he had been rubbing the press for years and his political views did not match the liberal guard brigade. He is a Brexiteer and works for a Prime Minister who supports Brexit. By attacking him, they no doubt hope to weaken the government and Brexit itself. It is no coincidence that their attack occurred weeks after their first trip to Durham. They waited until the end of May before publishing their "story".
It is now about to be decided whether or not to extend the transition period before June 30th. Perhaps they hoped that by throwing it out now and getting the government going, they could encourage the pro-EU civil service to secure an extension, or maybe they just wanted to stick the knife in?
Whatever their motives, Cummings disappointed them. On Monday afternoon, he gave a great press conference in which he patiently and humbly explained his actions to an increasingly excited group of reporters. They kept trying to stumble over his questions, but, more like a poor carpenter, repeatedly failed to hit the nail head. If it turns out to be a good thing, I hope it's an increased skepticism towards the mainstream media.
Aside from the press, it is strange that members of the Conservative Party's Eurosceptic ERG, particularly Steve Baker, weighed in on the attack. As already mentioned, an attack on Cummings at this time is dangerous for Brexit. So it is strange that Baker wrote an article and appeared on TV and called for his scalp. You might dismiss the attack as being born out of jealousy, but I suspect there is more to it. In the middle of his polemic, almost by chance, Baker implies that Cummings was responsible for the Northern Ireland protocol. I quote, "But now that he's in power, we're setting a modest boundary in the Irish Sea."
It appears that Baker and the ERG are aware of the reality of the deleterious effects of the Northern Ireland protocol and do not wish to be held responsible. For those who don't know, the protocol is part of the legally binding revocation agreement, on the basis of which the government has fulfilled its promise to complete Brexit.
The protocol is therefore already set in stone. It actually sets a border along the Irish Sea, although it cannot be described as humble. The protocol condemns Northern Ireland to be in the EU Customs Union, to dynamically adapt to EU state aid laws, to comply with rules and regulations on a number of other issues, and to have final legal control over these matters and its own future to have land from the EU Court of Justice. In fact, the protocol leaves Northern Ireland behind in the EU. It was the price the conservative government had paid for Brexit.
Ironically, the government failed to keep its Brexit manifesto promises when it paid the price. It cannot claim, as it has promised, that Britain will regain control of its laws and borders and will not be politically aligned with the EU. The only way to do this now is to reject the protocol.
Baker also cannot claim that Cummings is responsible for the Irish Sea border. Any potential MP who ran for the Conservative party last year was required to sign the terms of the withdrawal agreement. It was up to them to have read it. Many commentators, including myself, have repeatedly highlighted the shortcomings of this agreement. In fact, I tagged Baker in my tweets on the subject.
Rather than wasting time on a goose hunt from Cummings to Durham and back, the press should focus, among other things, on the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol to adequately reveal its harmful effects to the nation. Unless denied, all Conservative MPs, including Baker, must be held accountable.