Dominic Cummings, the director of the official Vote Leave campaign who was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a TV docudrama about the 2016 referendum, Brexit: The Uncivil War, has been told off most severely.
The House of Commons Committee of Privileges found him in contempt of parliament, and recommended that the house “admonish” him, for refusing to turn up for a select committee hearing.
This may not sound like much of a punishment. You might also ask: as one of the people who got us into this Brexit mess, why can he not be brought to book? Surely MPs could lock him in the clock tower at the very least?
Well, all he is actually guilty of is winning a referendum and being spectacularly rude to MPs, so in a vigorous and sometimes crude democracy it seems right that the war of words between him and various committees of parliament should be allowed to end in a score draw.
This phase of the tiff began when the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, chaired by Damian Collins, the Conservative MP, launched an inquiry into “fake news”. It took an interest in how the Leave campaign used social media and summoned Cummings to give evidence. This descended into an argument about who had or had not replied to which email, and failed to produce an appearance by Cummings.
The DCMS Committee commented: “We regret the tone which Mr Cummings adopted in his dealings with the DCMS Committee and in the comments posted on his blog.
“This attitude did not serve the interests of civilised public debate.”
The DCMS Committee then referred Cummings to the Privileges Committee for its verdict, which was issued today.
Cummings has responded in typical fashion, with a long, boisterous blog post in which he lays into the DCMS Committee.
The most entertaining part of the post, however, is his settling of scores from the referendum campaign and a call to arms for a future referendum, for which he says “it looks like we will need to” prepare.
He attacks “the narcissist-delusional subset” of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who allowed their obsession with the protocol to keep an open border in Ireland – the backstop – to stop us leaving the EU.
He says he doesn’t think the backstop would be permanent, which happens to be the view of Michael Gove, the environment secretary, for whom Cummings used to work.
Meanwhile, the Privileges Committee comments that “the case of Mr Cummings has raised further questions as to the enforceability of the house’s powers and those of its committees to secure evidence”.
In the great British tradition, then, there will probably be a very serious report from the committee on this subject in about five years’ time.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
At The Independent, no one tells us what to write. That’s why, in an era of political lies and Brexit bias, more readers are turning to an independent source. Subscribe from just 15p a day for extra exclusives, events and ebooks – all with no ads.