AN item for the “there’s always one” file. Only days into the great lockdown and some people are just not coping. Take the holidaymaker – British, of course – who decided she would flout the rules and have a dip at Paradise Park in Tenerife.

There she was, a lonely Esther Williams, when a policeman dragged her out. “I wasn’t going to spend seven days in lockdown,” she bawled. Onlookers cheered as she was led away in cuffs. You have to find entertainment where you can these days.

Which brings us to a documentary on BBC2 last night. Taking Control: The Dominic Cummings Story, was a look at Boris Johnson’s chief aide by Emily Maitlis. Quite the accolade. An hour-long film in a prime time slot by the slayer of Prince Andrew. Must be a very important chap.

You would think so by the talking heads asked to sum Mr Cummings up in a word. Determined, said one. Challenging, said another. Unreasonable. Renaissance man. A myth maker. Unpleasant. Genius. Dangerous.

READ MORE: Johnson promises help for renters

The producers had even dug up Peter Mandelson, who was once to Labour premiers what Mr Cummings is supposed to be to Boris Johnson, but with infinitely better clothes. “He could just completely blow himself up,” purred the Labour lord as he stroked an invisible white cat, “but if he doesn’t he’s going to be a very significant figure over the course of the next ten years.”

While a familiar canter through the Cummings’ cv, starting with his work on the No (to the euro) campaign, and taking the story through to Vote Leave, Brexit and into Number 10, it was worth watching if only for Maitlis’s interview with Colin Perry, who told of his now famous encounter with Mr Cummings decades ago.

During a heated discussion on 5 Live, Mr Perry, chair of the CBI’s small business council at the time, called Mr Cummings “a young politician on the make”. Their spot over, Mr Perry said he was walking down the stairs from the studio when he felt Mr Cummings’ hands on his shoulders. “He was trying to push me down the steps,” he claimed. At the bottom of the stairs he said he turned to confront Mr Cummings only for the younger man to seize him by the tie, push him against the wall and raise his fist. Mr Cummings said they had merely stumbled into each other.

READ MORE: Holyrood spring conferences axed

The programme asked what Mr Cummings’ “extraordinary rise” told us about how politics was changing. Its central idea was that he was among the first to detect and then ride the wave of populism that led, among other things, to Brexit and the election of Boris Johnson. Scotland played a part in this tale in as much as Mr Cummings, then working for Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, suggested his boss visit Easterhouse in a bold move to show how the party had changed. Easterhouse, then, was the early prototype for the “red wall” that delivered a huge majority for Mr Johnson in 2019.

Going back to those one word assessments of Mr Cummings, I’m with the journalist Peter Obone who described him as “dull”. It is hard to take seriously the idea of Mr Cummings as a genius, the sage of Downing Street, in large part because he has committed the most basic error of any adviser and become the story. Being visible, he is expendable.

Moreover, one cannot help thinking that if he was that smart he would be in Boris Johnson’s job and have a lackey of his own. Mr Cummings is not the messiah. He’s not even an especially naughty boy (the proroguing of parliament aside). He just happens to be the latest catnip mouse for the media to play with till it gets bored.

READ MORE: Schools to close by end of week

The main feeling on watching Maitlis’s documentary was that the concerns it highlighted were dated and irrelevant. Not so much five minutes ago as five months. Much has been made of how the coronavirus crisis is changing our lives and will have a long term impact in ways we have yet to fully appreciate. I don’t know. The triumph and tragedy of humans is that fundamentally we do not change that much. Capable of great kindness and empathy, as in the many people who are volunteering to help others, they can also be the same grubby, panic-buying shower to be seen in every supermarket.

That said, the crisis is having an impact on politics. I don’t mean the suspension of party hostilities. That will not last. As yesterday’s PMQs showed, there is growing pressure on the UK government to help the poorest and most vulnerable to the same extent that it is aiding business.

The crisis is, however, shaping the way Mr Johnson does political business, from the new ministerial structures and implementation committees to the daily televised press briefing. I would not be surprised if these White House-style events became permanent fixtures, like televised debates during elections, in London and Edinburgh. Any chance to hold governments to account is good for democracy.

One way and another, the man who a couple of weeks ago was being slated by critics as a part-time Prime Minister is putting in quite the shift.

So, too, is Nicola Sturgeon, and though it is hardly a competition she is coming out of the process better. All over the world the virus crisis is testing leaders and governments as never before. What’s that Warren Buffett quote? “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

Thus we have the so-called strongmen of politics, from the US president down, exposed as vacillating and unconvincing. The most prized government commodity today is trust, and we can see who inspires it and who does not. Mr Johnson is beginning to look tired and bowed. If this crisis does prove to be a marathon not a sprint he needs to pace himself.

If the past weeks show anything about politics it is that in times of strife people still look to individual leaders for guidance. No-one ever responded to a crisis by saying, “Send for the PM’s chief aide.” That reliance on leaders is fine, as long as the right man or woman is in the job.

From Edinburgh, London and Paris to Tehran, Washington and further afield, we will soon see the proof of that.