‘Spider-Mans pointing at each other’: Cummings uses iconic films to paint chaos at No 10

From Independence Day to Jaws, ex-Downing Street aide illustrated UK’s pandemic disarray with a string of box-office hits

Dominic Cummings, in his seven hours of evidence, revealed himself as something of film buff as he referenced Hollywood movies and memes to describe the disarray in Downing Street.

By March the government was so consumed by chaos that it “seemed like an out-of-control movie,” he said. It was “like a scene from ‘Independence Day’ with Jeff Goldblum saying ‘the aliens are here and your whole plan is broken and you need a new plan”.

The 1996 Roland Emmerich film saw alien ships orbiting Earth and governments not knowing what to do. Goldblum plays David Levinson, a computer and tech genius who realises the gravity of the threat after decoding a signal which is a countdown to invasion.

Jeff Goldblum in the film Independence Day.
Jeff Goldblum in the film Independence Day. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

In Cummings version, the Goldblum character is Ben Warner, a data geek who was a key figure behind the computer modelling used by Vote Leave during the 2016 EU referendum. After Brexit, Warner was invited to work for the prime minister and he repeatedly warned of the looming disaster, Cummings said.

By September, Cummings claimed Boris Johnson was refusing to listen to advisers and impose a new stay-at-home order and even expressed regret about ordering the first lockdown.

Johnson told him: “I should have been the mayor in Jaws and kept the beaches open – that’s what he said on many occasions.”

As in Mayor Larry Vaughn? The well-meaning fool played by Murray Hamilton who orders Amity beach to remain open despite the obvious, overwhelming evidence of a killer shark in the water. “People are having a wonderful time,” he says shortly before everyone flees in terror.

Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughn in the film Jaws.
Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughn in the film Jaws. Photograph: Allstar/Universal

Cummings also referenced Spider-Man to illustrate what he saw as a lack of accountability. He told MPs: “You know that Spider-Man meme, both the Spider-Mans pointing at each other? It’s like that but with everybody ... all the different Spider-Mans are pointing at each other saying ‘you’re responsible’.”

Many were unimpressed at the reference. “What? It’s Spider-Man’s fault!” tweeted former justice secretary David Gauke.


Mark Brown

The GuardianTramp

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