Anger continues to grow among MPs over Dominic Cummings scandal

27 May 2020, 20:33

MPs have called on Dominic Cummings to apologise
MPs have called on Dominic Cummings to apologise. Picture: PA
Maddie Goodfellow

By Maddie Goodfellow

A growing number of MPs are calling on Dominic Cummings to apologise for his actions, despite the Prime Minister defending his adviser in front of the House of Commons Liaison Committee.

In front of senior MPs, the Prime Minister held firm on his support for Mr Cummings, despite polls showing the vast majority of the British public wanting him to resign.

Mr Johnson also said that he had found the row over his aide's journey had been "very frustrating."

However, a number of Conservative MPs have spoken out and called on Mr Cummings to apologise.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid told The Times that Dominic Cummings should apologise, saying he does not believe journey to Durham was 'necessary of justified'

He also said he is "unconvinced" the journey to Barnard Castle was reasonable and says he is 'deeply concerned' by decision to return to No 10 despite wife's illness.

Boris Johnson defended his adviser
Boris Johnson defended his adviser. Picture: PA

In a tweet, Conservative former minister George Freeman said the "scale and depth of the anger" among his constituents about Dominic Cummings "is like nothing I have seen in ten years"

He has called for Dominic Cummings to resign.

In a letter to constituents, Mr Freeman said: "I'm afraid it is now clear that national confidence in, and consent to abide by, our government public health messaging has been profoundly damaged.

"By his continuing in office, Mr Cummings must now apologise and resign his post, so that we can rebuild public trust and consent, and focus on the vital task of defeating this virus and navigating our economy and society through a phased end of lockdown as effectively as possible."

Senior minister Penny Mordaunt has also said there are "inconsistencies" in Dominic Cummings' account, and apologised for the saga having "undermined key public health messages".

In an email to a constituent, the Paymaster General did not go as far as calling for Mr Cummings to leave, saying it is "a matter for the Prime Minister who he has as his adviser".

"Despite Mr Cummings' statement yesterday (on Monday) I am personally still not clear of the facts. There are some inconsistencies in his account of events and the reasons behind it," the Portsmouth North MP wrote.

"I am not clear about when he would have been symptomatic and on what dates he should have been in isolation. Or whether it was appropriate he drove home at the time he did.

"There is no doubt he took risks - refuelling at a petrol station is a risk to oneself and to others, which presumably he did.

"What is clear is that the scenes of the last few days will have undermined key public health messages. I deeply regret this and am very sorry for it."

David Simmonds, the Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, has added his voice to calls for Dominic Cummings to stand down.

In an email to a constituent, Mr Simmonds wrote: "Whilst the facts of Mr Cummings' situation are disputed and there are ongoing investigations, it is important in my view not to engage in trial by media.

"However, I have conveyed the strength of feeling locally to relevant colleagues, and my own view, through the appropriate channels, that Mr Cummings should step down.

"I would of course welcome an independent investigation to establish the facts, something which any constituent finding themselves in difficulty would be entitled to ask for."

Professor Stephen Reicher, who advises the Government on human behaviour during disease outbreaks, said "most people" believe there is now "one rule for them, and one rule for us" after the Dominic Cummings row.

He told Channel 4 News: "I think there is very little doubt - and the polling shows it very clearly - that most people think now there is one rule for them, and one rule for us.

"And all the research on compliance with authority shows that it depends critically on thinking that authority is part of us, is with us, is for us, and so once you create that sense of 'us and them', you undermine trust and you undermine compliance."

But he said: "However, there is a positive side as well because I think many people are going along with restrictions not because they have been told to by the Government but because they realise it is the right thing.

"And if you look at the data on people's own behavioural intentions, it doesn't look as bad.

"And I think the point is this: that there is an irony here, because to the extent that people think that Dominic Cummings is one of them, and if they think that his behaviour doesn't represent them, it's counter-normative, it can prove a model of what we shouldn't do."

The Prime Minister also told the House of Commons Liaison Committee: "Quite frankly I'm not certain - right now - that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time.

"We are working flat out on coronavirus."

Boris Johnson was asked by Liaison Committee chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin whether the Government's "moral authority" had been undermined by the Cummings row.

The Prime Minister said: "This has really been going on for several days now - in the media at least.

"I, of course, am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period - this country has been going through a frankly most difficult time.

"We are asking people to do quite exceptionally tough things, separating them from their families."

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Mr Johnson said he would not be adding to his previous comments on Mr Cummings and said the public wanted politicians to focus on "uniting our message" and "focusing on their needs".

Mr Johnson said he thought it would be a "good thing" for people to understand what he had been told by Mr Cummings, as he admitted the row over his aide's trip to Durham had been a "very frustrating episode".

Defending Monday's press conference in the 10 Downing Street garden, the PM told the committee: "I thought that it would be a very good thing if people could understand what I had understood myself previously, I think on the previous day, about what took place.

"And there you go - we've had a long go at it, and yes look it's been a very frustrating episode and I understand why people have been so concerned.

"Because this country is going through a horrendously difficult time, but I really think that in so far as what we need to do is to focus on getting the message right, which is probably common ground in your committee, then I think what we need to do really is to move on and to get on to how we are going to sort out the coronavirus."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also denied that the public are now less likely to abide by restrictions because of the personal lockdown decisions by his chief aide, Dominic Cummings.

At the Commons Liaison Committee, Conservative MP Simon Hoare told the PM the nation will be "far less energetic" about obeying future restrictions as "a direct result of the activities of your senior adviser".

Mr Hoare asked what MPs should tell constituents who ask "if other people don't abide by it why on earth should we" because "we know what your views are, frankly Prime Minister, I don't think anybody understands why you hold those views".

Mr Johnson replied: "I don't think that's true about how the British people will respond to the next phases, to how to work the test and trace system, I don't think that's how they responded at all throughout the crisis.

"If, just suppose for a second that you were right, which I don't accept, all the more reason now for us to be consistent and clear in our message driving those key messages."

Mr Johnson said he had seen evidence to prove that some of the allegations made against Dominic Cummings were false.

But asked by Labour MP Meg Hillier whether the Cabinet Secretary should also see that evidence, the PM said: "I think actually that it would not be doing my job if I were now to shuffle this problem into the hands of officials who, believe me, Meg, are - as I think the public would want - working flat out to deal with coronavirus...

"I totally understand public indignation, I totally understand that, but I do think that as I understand things, and I've said what I've said about the whole business, I think it would be much better if we could now move on and focus on the next steps."

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