Coronavirus: Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings to make rare statement as resignation calls grow over lockdown trip
Dominic Cummings is to make a rare statement and take questions later today, Downing Street has confirmed.
The address by Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser is a virtually unprecedented move, given aides largely stay out of the limelight as ministers are responsible for their actions.
He is under-fire for travelling 260 miles from London to Durham while Britons were being told to “stay at home” at the end of March.
20 Conservative MPs – as well as bishops and NHS staff – claim he broke the rule and are calling for his resignation, but the prime minister has maintained that Mr Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”.
More Tory backbenchers have urged Mr Cummings to directly address unanswered questions about a witness who claimed to have spotted him visiting Barnard Castle on 12 April, a picturesque town 30 miles away from his parents’ farm where he self-isolated, and again in Durham a week later.
Confusion also remains after Durham Police said they contacted the Number 10 aide’s family – an account disputed by Downing Street.
Mr Cummings said he decamped from London when his wife developed COVID-19 symptoms in case he came down with the virus too so his family could look after the couple’s young child.
He is expected to make his statement later on Monday afternoon, despite the code of conduct for special advisers stating they “must not take public part in political controversy, through any form of statement”.
One insider said the guidance “refers to what you do in a personal capacity” and not what an adviser is asked to do by their boss.
Tory former ministers have called on Mr Cummings to quit or be sacked, Paul Maynard saying: “It is a classic case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ – and it is not as if he was unfamiliar with guidance he himself helped draw up.
“It seems to me to be utterly indefensible and his position wholly untenable.”
Steve Baker also told Sky News on Sunday: “We are now in a nonsense position, a pantomime position where it seems if you wish to apply a wide common-sense interpretation to the rules you can do, at least if you work in Number 10.”
Cabinet ministers have so far rallied round Mr Cummings, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson telling Sky News on Monday: “At no stage did he break the law or break the rules.”
Labour has called for an investigation by the cabinet secretary – the UK’s most senior civil servant – and the Scottish National Party has demanded the former Vote Leave boss lose his job.
Durham’s acting police and crime commissioner Steve White has also asked the force to “establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law”.
Scientists from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, who have been advising the government, said by backing Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson had “trashed” their advice on how to deal with the pandemic.
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, also tweeted: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?”
And an NHS doctor has threatened to resign by the end of the week if Mr Cummings has not done so by then – and said he thinks many of his fellow NHS workers will happily do the same.
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