Should he stay or should he go? That has been the question since it emerged that the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules – allegedly on three occasions – travelling 270 miles from London to Durham while the rest of us were under strict orders to stay at home.

“Dom didn’t do anything wrong, he was just looking after his family,” the UK Cabinet chorused in unison, though one suspects Mr Cummings himself composed this line, thereby rewriting the UK Government’s lockdown policy at a stroke.

He acted "legally and with integrity" said Boris Johnson at yesterday's gobsmacking press conference.

Just think about that for a moment. Cabinet minsters, including the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary, were prepared to put public health in danger by reinterpreting lockdown rules on a whim, simply to suit one unelected government adviser. Wow.

READ MORE: ‘What planet are they on?’ – Press attacks Johnson and Cummings

And here we come to the crux of the matter. This episode is no longer about whether Mr Cummings did or did not break the rules. It’s not even about whether he should resign or be sacked. What’s really important here is how far ministers have gone to defend him, the Prime Minister’s dogged determination to hang on to one particular aide and what it all means for politics more widely. Needless to say, it’s not good.

It has been clear for some time, of course, that Mr Cummings is more than just a regular political “spad”, or special adviser. Indeed, if the last few days and weeks tell us anything about the inner workings of the Johnson administration it’s that Mr Cummings has been running the show. It also suggests a weak and flailing Boris Johnson would struggle to keep the show on the road at all without his right hand man, which would explain the desperate bid to save him.

Mr Johnson has been absent for much of the coronavirus crisis. His own serious illness took up several weeks and is possibly still impacting his ability to work. He has a new baby at home. He has fronted alarmingly few of his government’s daily briefings and is rarely seen on camera.

Even before the PM became ill there was an extended holiday on the Caribbean island of Mustique only a few weeks into his premiership. It’s hard to imagine Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon pulling – or indeed getting away with – a stunt like that.

Prior to all this it was Mr Cummings who masterminded Mr Johnson’s election win and his leadership campaign, based on “getting Brexit done”. He also came up with the strategy that persuaded swathes of the English electorate, including Mr Johnson himself, to back Leave in the 2016 referendum.

To say Mr Johnson relies heavily on his top adviser for direction is an understatement. Mr Cummings’ fingerprints are all over the briefings and leaks given to selected Westminster lobby journalists, and it is his hand that guides the UK Government’s response, however shambling, to the coronavirus crisis.

During my brief time working in the Home Office more than a decade ago advisers were dispensable. If and when they became the story, they had to go. Simples.

But Mr Cummings is from a different generation, to found on both left and right of today’s political spectrum. You can tell by his own writings and the disdain directed towards civil servants that he views himself as some sort of anti-establishment crusader, working outside the system. Benedict Cumberbatch has a lot to answer for. Lest we forget the rambling blog post earlier this year calling for “weirdos and misfits” to work in Downing Street.

In the same blog Mr Cummings rejected “confident public school bluffers”. One wonders what he thinks his boss is. Indeed, he himself was privately schooled and Oxford educated. It’s hard to believe such connections did not help get him to the heart of the very establishment he claims to despise, where he possesses a frankly troubling amount of personal power in the administration of a mendacious, out-of-his-depth PM. Why would we he deign to resign?

During a weekend of extraordinary revelations and reactions, perhaps the most remarkable and telling of all came in the Government’s official response to allegations that Mr Cummings had broken the lockdown on more than one occasion. Rather than dampening things down by issuing an apology, a Downing Street statement – that I don’t doubt was also written by Mr Cummings – attacked the media outlets that broke the story and cried fake news. Remind you of anyone?

Taken alongside the PM's press conference and the Cabinet’s Stepford-like toeing of the line, it's all starting to look a bit sinister.

READ MORE: Mark Smith: The four stages of the Cummings crisis and the loophole that could still seal his fate

Mr Cummings and his boss like to believe they are anti-establishment figures. Instead, they are symptoms of the Trumpification of UK politics. It will not end well.

All columnists are free to express their opinions. They don’t necessarily represent the view of The Herald.