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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street today. PA Video
cummings and goings

'He acted legally and with integrity': Boris Johnson backs Dominic Cummings over 260-mile lockdown trip

Conservatives have been putting the Prime Minister under pressure to sack his controversial adviser.

LAST UPDATE | 24 May 2020

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has backed his senior aide Dominic Cummings, amid claims that he broke lockdown restrictions several times.

It has since emerged that a member of the British public reported Cummings to the Durham Police for breaking the restrictions, according to the UK Mirror

Cummings drove 260 miles from London to Durham at the end of March with his wife and child after his spouse developed coronavirus symptoms.

A lockdown was in place by then, and there have been calls from a number of politicians, including First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, for Cummings to resign.

In a press conference this evening ahead of announcing an update of the UK’s coronavirus figures, Johnson said that Cummings acted “legally, responsibly and with integrity”, and that his movements were ”sensible and defensible”. 

“I looked at [the allegations] carefully and am content… that he took measures to stop the spread of the virus at all times,” Johnson said repeatedly.

During the Downing Street press conference, Johnson said that some of the allegations about Dominic Cummings’ behaviour during self-isolation were “palpably false”.

Though there have been many other allegations about what happened when he was in self-isolation and thereafter, some of them palpably false, I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity and with the overwhelming aim of stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives.

The British Prime Minister went on to say that it was a situation that “any father, any parent” would understand.

“As far as I can see, he stuck to the rules to stop the spread of the virus,” Johnson said, despite it being pointed out that it’s possible he contracted the virus during the car trip.

When asked if Cummings’ approved actions meant that the public health advice had changed, Johnson said it hadn’t. He said that if both Cummings and his wife had succumbed to the virus, they would have needed childcare needs that made the journey necessary.

In the aftermath of the press conference, two experts on the UK government’s Sage subgroup ‘SPI-B’, (or Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours) have said that Johnson had “trashed all the advice we have given”.

Conservative MPs have been ramping up pressure on Johnson to fire his top aide after new allegations emerged that Cummings broke lockdown rules more than once.

Johnson and other senior British ministers have staunchly defended Cummings thus far. Today, Cummings attended a meeting at 10 Downing Street four hours before a press conference was held at 4pm.

According to reports in the Observer and Sunday Mirror, the former Vote Leave campaign co-ordinator made a second trip to Durham and was seen there on 19 April – five days after being photographed on his return to Westminster.

A second witness told the papers they saw him a week earlier in Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, a popular tourist location 30 miles from Durham, during the period he was believed to be self-isolating. 

Cummings, who is credited with being a driving force behind the UK’s EU referendum result in favour of Brexit, has come under severe criticism for his contempt for politicians and acid-tongued remarks.

Heated reaction

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “This was a test of the Prime Minister and he has failed it.

It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people that Boris Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings.

“The public will be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the Prime Minister’s closest adviser and another for the British people.

“The Prime Minister’s actions have undermined confidence in his own public health message at this crucial time.

“Millions were watching for answers and they got nothing. That’s why the Cabinet Secretary must now launch an urgent inquiry.”

Westminster leader for the SNP, Ian Blackford – who has been vocal in his criticism of Cummings today, said the Government’s response was a “failure of leadership”.

Boris Johnson told us to stay at home and to isolate if we had Covid-19. There was no caveat that this does not apply to Dominic Cummings.

Labour MP Jess Phillips questioned the claims that Cummings “followed the instincts of every father”.

She tweeted: “The instincts of most other fathers in the country was to look after their partner and children at home. Bad fathering guys.”

David Warburton, the Tory MP for Somerton and Frome, said he was “unconvinced” by Boris Johnson’s defence of Dominic Cummings.

“As much as I despise any baying pitchfork-led trials by social media, I’m unconvinced by the PM’s defence of Cummings,” he tweeted.

We’ve all been tasked with tempering our parental, and other, instincts by strictly adhering to Govt guidance. 

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