The answer from the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on Dominic Cummings was actually entirely sensible, if not the one the svengali’s critics might have wanted to hear.
As a civil servant as well as a scientist, Sir Patrick would be unwise to pronounce on the behaviour of Mr Cummings and it was not necessary that he did so.
There is a legitimate reason that other members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) could sound off, but not Sir Patrick.
It was a legitimate line of questioning to Sir Patrick from journalists, but a legitimate answer too.
He said: “I am a civil servant. I am politically neutral. I don’t want to get involved politics at all.”
It is not as if he doesn’t have enough on his plate to deal with at the moment.
The mystery was why Boris Johnson interposed himself twice before to stop Sir Patrick answering questions on his views on the behaviour of the prime minister’s chief aide.
The prime minister is not known for shielding senior civil servants from difficulty.
Nevertheless, Mr Johnson’s deployment of brute force to ensure Mr Cummings’s survival appears to have succeeded.
Unless new and unanticipated facts come to light, this chapter on the affair looks like it is closing for now.
Downing Street instantly decided that the Durham Police statement meant their man was in the clear and he could stay in office.
In truth, the police statement was a lot more murky than that – saying he “might” have broken the rules – and in doing so giving Labour ammunition for the medium to long term.
Also the public now have a recognisable Rasputin to mock and vilify as the font of everything they dislike about Mr Johnson’s government.
Mr Cummings is now a celebrity, and not in a good way.
Perhaps the biggest revelation of the last few days, for Tory MPs as much as the public, is that there is apparently nothing Mr Cummings can do that will ever see him removed from office.
He is untouchable, more so than members of the cabinet who – like one-time chancellor Sajid Javid, now fence sitter on Mr Cummings’s future – saw them stripped of office if they defied his whims.
However, that very sense of being untouchable may in itself become problematic.
It may just become an itch that opponents and Tory critics cannot resist coming back to scratch.
Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World – a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.
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