FOR all the Sunday politics shows try to come up with new angles on stories, it was hard to watch them without thinking of a poem more than a century old.

The poet was William Hughes Mearns and the verse Antigonish: “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there; He wasn’t there again today, I wish I wish he go away.”

The man who wasn’t there was Dominic Cummings, chief special adviser to Boris Johnson. While we are led to believe, not least by Mr Cummings’ supporters, that his influence can be seen everywhere, from the reshuffle to the climate change summit in Glasgow, the man himself is only ever seen striding up Downing Street looking like a teenager who dressed in the dark.

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His absence on the Sunday politics shows was felt. Take, for instance, what passed for the interview catch of the day on both BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show and Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday: Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport.

Ridge addressed the body warmer-wearing elephant in the room directly, asking Mr Shapps about the “sack your staff” ultimatum that had forced Chancellor Sajid Javid to quit. The demand came from the PM but the idea was said to originate with Mr Cummings.

It was not the case, said the Minister, that Mr Cummings, or any other aide, got things all his own way. As an example of this he cited the HS2 infrastructure project. Mr Cummings had described it as a “disaster zone”, but it was given the green light last week.

Had he clashed with Mr Johnson’s right hand man, asked Ridge.

“Clash is the wrong way to describe it,” said Mr Shapps, slipping into Yes, Minister parlance. “We discussed it, our various views, and we came to a conclusion. The idea that just because Dominic thinks something that is what happens, is clearly not the case.”

Marr quoted Mr Cummings on HS2 in his interview with Mr Shapps, but the presenter’s focus was less on personalities and more on the Government’s general direction of travel – to wit, getting ready to spend money, and lots of it. Who would be paying, Marr wanted to know.

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Mr Shapps said Marr was trying to draw him on the Budget, a place he refused to venture even to confirm if it would be taking place on March 11 as planned. Speaking of the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, Mr Shapps told Marr: “The guy’s only been in place for a few days, let’s give him a few days to decide on the date.”

Mr Cummings’ influence, real or imagined, came up in Ridge’s interview with Labour leadership candidate Sir Keir Starmer.

Asked about last week’s reshuffle, the MP for Holborn and St Pancras said: “Dominic Cummings is just getting more and more power. I know Boris Johnson doesn’t much like coming to parliament. He does at least come to Prime Minister’s Questions. I think we are going to have to have DCQs, Dominic Cummings Questions, before too long. He is actually holding all the power, and how do we hold him accountable?”

There was one relatively Cummings-free zone and that was Gordon Brewer’s interview with Jackson Carlaw, newly elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives, on Sunday Politics Scotland.

The Herald on Sunday reported that an increasing number of senior Tories was in favour of holding a second independence referendum. Andy Maciver, the party’s former head of communications turned director of think tank Message Matters, said the divide between those who backed indyref2 and those who held the “once in a generation line” was going to be the biggest issue the new leader had to face.

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Mr Carlaw denied any split. But if there was a once in a generation camp, there was no doubt he was in it. He would not back indyref 2 even if there was a majority for it in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, or if opinion poll after opinion poll put support for another vote at 60-70%.

“I don’t know how you define a generation... but I do know what a generation isn’t... it’s not five minutes, it is not five years and it’s not even a decade,” he told Brewer.

As the interview drew to a close, Brewer teased that it was now “the bit where you tell us with a completely straight face that you’re going to be the next First Minister.”

Dang it, the MSP for Eastwood almost made it.

“I don’t think we’ve earned the right to say that yet,” he began. “I want to go into the next election by then with a full, alternative policy offering for the people of Scotland. If they vote for it they are voting for the Conservative team and they’ll be voting for me as First Minister to implement it.”

With that he broke into a chuckle. “Hah!” said Brewer, “you gave it away.”

“I always smile at you Gordon because you’re pulling faces at me,” said the chief “Dr No”.

Who says politics in Scotland is unfriendly?