Cummings Still Not Going?

Hello all, hope you are well and enjoying the sunny Bank Holiday weather.

There is only one story in town today, that of the Prime Minister's key adviser Dominic Cummings having broken lockdown rules by visiting his parents in my native North-East. As I write, Boris Johnson is continuing to back his adviser to the hilt, rejecting calls for Cummings to resign.

Footage from the dashcam of Dominic Cummings' Chelsea tractor as he bravely races north 260 miles to pass on his potentially-Covid19-infected children to his parents

Johnson's decision to back Cummings, in the face of overwhelming pressure and widespread anger across the country, is both surprising and politically risky. The level of criticism which Cummings has received from sources normally supportive of the government is almost without precedent. Yesterday The Spectator, Johnson's former employer, published a stinging attack of his delay in removing Cummings, and Tory backbench MPs broke with whips' demands for loyalty to publicly call for Cummings to go. Even the normally staunchly loyal Daily Mail ran a damning leader today, asking "WHAT PLANET ARE THEY ON?" As of yet, Johnson continues to back his man.

Cummings certainly seems to have a special hold over Johnson. In January, Saqid Javid resigned as Chancellor after refusing to work with Cummings' own special advisers. It might be argued that this is not entirely without precedent. "Advisers advise, ministers decide", was the line his predecessor Margaret Thatcher used when, in October 1989, conflicts arose between her then-Chancellor Nigel Lawson and her special economics adviser Alan Walters - but it was Lawson who ended up quitting first, feeling unable to do his job while Walters remained.

For Johnson to back Cummings in the face of widespread, and very real, public anger, is something of a surprise. While the PM commands a massive 86 seat majority, well capable of seeing him comfortably through a full term of Parliament, he will still find it much harder to govern if his moral authority is weakened. And yet, in five minutes at the lectern yesterday, Johnson effectively admitted that when it came to the lockdown, there was one law for his adviser, and another for the rest of the country. It will be interesting to see how the lockdown holds while Cummings remains in his post, particularly in a half term week which promises to be gloriously sunny.

This week marks six months since I began to work on N10 full time. When my better half gave the approval for me to go full-time on the app's development, we set six months as a provisional time-frame over which to checkpoint progress, at the end of which we'd see how close to delivery I'd managed to get.

In that time, I've made great progress in ways that would never have been possible if I was just developing in spare time. I've managed to produce a detailed design for the full game, including the complex logic required to simulate the managing of a country; I've determined the scope of the initial launch as the election mode only, and create a detailed prototype for that initial launch; and in the last two months, I've focused on the build of that initial version.

Within the build, I now have over thirty screens created, with the Ministry and Policies screens being the latest ones to be added in this last week. I've implemented data loading and exporting to enable me to populate the app with data from my design spreadsheets, and implemented a theme manager allowing me to change the colours and design of the app in a single line of code. I've also learned a great deal about app design and development. I'm far from being an expert in Xcode or Swift, but my knowledge is way ahead of what it was even a matter of weeks ago.

It's also been a lot of fun. I've loved learning about this new world, and whether I manage to take it forward as a career now or not, or have to return to building the game in my spare time, I'm sure I won't be dropping the app development completely.

The question now is, where to go from here? How close am I to being able to get the app in a state where it's ready to launch? My feature list still has 1800 hours' worth of effort remaining against Release 1. Broken down by 40-hour weeks (and I am managing 40-hour weeks, and 40 proper hours of work - any time on household chores, day-dreaming or other distractions is not counted) that leaves another year's worth of effort. One positive is that I'm finding my estimates to be increasingly on the generous side; as my skills improve, tasks I'd allocated 16 hours to are often taking 3-4 hours instead. An ex-colleague of mine used to describe these as "Scotty estimates", from the famously defensive engineering officer in Star Trek, who always managed to pull off the seemingly impossible by confounding his own initial timeframes. Against that I'm sure there will be tasks I've not considered, so it's possible that 1800 hours is an under-estimate.

With that in mind, I'm continuing discussions with my key stakeholder, and doing my best to make the case for being allowed to continue chasing my app dream. If anyone fancies starting a petition on along the lines of "Richard must be allowed to finish Number Ten", I'd be most grateful.

Until next time, stay safe, and take care,


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