Ministers have rallied to support the prime minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings as “devastating new claims” emerge about a further breach of the lockdown rules.
Boris Johnson’s special advisor (SPAD) has been under fire since news broke last night that Cummings drove 264 miles from London to his parents’ Durham property with his wife and child, whilst showing symptoms of coronavirus, in contravention of the government’s lockdown rules.
Cummings insisted he had acted “legally and responsibly” when confronted with the charge he had ignored the government’s “stay at home” advice – a policy that he played a leading role in forming.
‘Devastating new claims’ demolishes Cummings’ defence
Ministers rallied to support the PM’s most senior adviser this morning as calls grew louder for his resignation with chancellor Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Dominic Raab and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove all leading the defence that he “acted within the lockdown rules to ‘simply care for his family’.”
However, “devastating new claims” have been published this evening (Saturday) that “would appear to demolish this defence” with fresh accounts from witnesses claiming Cummings breached the lockdown rules on at least two occasions.
A joint-investigation by the Observer/ Guardian and the Sunday Mirror claims Cummings was spotted in Durham on April 19, two days after he had been photographed in London, to where he had initially returned following his recovery from coronavirus at his parents’ property.
‘A bit gobsmacked to see him’
A week earlier Robin Lees, a 70-year-old retired chemistry teacher, claims he saw Cummings walking with his family by the river Tees in Barnard Castle, some 30 miles from Durham.
“I was a bit gobsmacked to see him,” Lees said. “I went home and told my wife, we thought he must be in London. I searched up the number plate later that day and my computer search history shows that.”
In light of the fates suffered by other high profile advisers who broke lockdown rules during the coronavirus – such as Scotland’s former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood and the UK government scientific adviser Prof Neil Ferguson – calls for Cummings to also resign intensified.
“They didn’t do anything nearly as irresponsible as Cummings,” said Lees. “You don’t take the virus from one part of the country to another. It just beggars belief to think you could actually drive when the advice was stay home, save lives. It couldn’t have been clearer.”
One rule for them, one rule for the PM’s special advisor
Labour have called for an inquiry into Cummings’ first trip to Durham and last night shadow home secretary Rachel Reeves wrote to the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, stating: “The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser.”
The SNP’s leader at Westminster Ian Blackford said Cummings should resign immediately and added that “one of the most remarkable things about this is we now know that others in No 10 were aware of this”.
“So there are some key questions for the Prime Minister to answer: When did he know about this? Did he sanction it? Why wasn’t Dominic Cummings sacked? Why is it that this appears to be a cover-up? And why weren’t the public told and we had to wait until this was broken in two newspapers this morning?” said Blackford – before Cummings’ second breach of lockdown rules was revealed.
‘It’s not about what you guys think’ – Cummings
Earlier this afternoon, Cummings exited his London home and immediately started remonstrating with the assembled journalists and photographers gathered at his gate, with the SPAD waving his child’s toys and telling those waiting: “Social distancing, social distancing, you’re supposed to be two metres apart.”
Putting the toys into the back of his car, Cummings said: “I behaved reasonably and legally.”
A reporter opined: “It’s not a good look though is it, Mr Cummings?”
“Who care’s about good looks?” he replied. “It’s a question of doing the right thing.
“It’s not about what you guys think.”