Photo: Dominic Cummings by Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0
24 May 2020 | UK NEWS

The Prime Minister’s Chief Advisor, Dominic Cummings, has retained his position despite his alleged breaches of lockdown law. The Prime Minister has said he would not “mark him down” for it.

The aide had faced heavy criticism from all sides of the political spectrum after driving from London to County Durham in the north of England – a journey of 260 miles – to visit his parents in March. At this point, it was against governmental guidelines to go for long journeys.

It has been claimed that he made this journey for childcare reasons, after his wife started displaying Covid-19 symptoms, becoming worried there would be no-one to look after his four-year-old child, had he also fallen ill himself.

Having then returned to London, it was subsequently reported by The Observer and The Sunday Mirror that he had returned to County Durham in April. Mr Cummings has denied these latest allegations.

Leading the press conference this evening, Boris Johnson said:

“I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I have concluded that, in travelling to find the right kind of childcare, at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus – and when he had no alternative – I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent. And I do not mark him down for that.

“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.”

Johnson had faced mounting pressure from his own party to sack Cummings throughout the day.

Prominent backbencher Steve Baker tweeted: “It is intolerable that Boris’ government is losing so much political capital. Three changes are immediately required: 1 – Govt needs competitive expert advice 2 – Govt must insist on high software engineering standards 3 – Dominic Cummings must go.”

He further added, in a piece for The Critic magazine, that allegations of a further breach in the Sunday papers were a “disaster” and that Mr Cummings “clearly broke at the very least the guidance which kept mums and dads at home”.

He added: “Dominic Cummings must go before he does any more harm to the UK, the Government, the Prime Minister, our institutions or the Conservative Party. Time is up. It is time for Dom to resign so Boris can govern within the conventions and norms which will see us through.”

Conservative backbencher Sir Roger Gale stated in response to Boris Johnson’s decision that it was an “extraordinary position” for the Prime Minister to take.

“It’s up to the Prime Minister to exercise judgement about who he has around him,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “In this case, I do think that that judgement is flawed. I don’t think many people will buy into the idea that suddenly, after the event, it’s okay to reinterpret the rules”.

Condemnation also came from the Labour Shadow Cabinet. Shadow Policing Minister Sarah Jones said: “people are rightly feeling is it one rule for us and one rule for the people at the top”.

Elsewhere, on Twitter, a tweet suspected by some to be critical of the Government’s handling of this situation was published by the official UK Civil Service account. It was deleted after 11 minutes, but can be viewed here:

It would not be the first time that an individual in charge of a Twitter account, with a grievance against their employer, has chosen to submit their resignation in this manner.

The official Cabinet Office account has since posted this update:

Labour has also called for an urgent inquiry into the allegations against Mr Cummings. We will bring you further updates on this, should that transpire.

Jonathan is a political reporter and commentator. He is also a senior contributor for Turning Point UK. His interests include philosophy and sociology.

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