Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to fire top aide Dominic Cummings as 15 Conservative MPs, bishops and NHS staff called for his resignation over revelations he had broken lockdown rules.
The prime minister told the nation on Sunday Mr Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity” after his chief adviser admitted travelling 260 miles to his parents in Durham for childcare support after he and his wife displayed coronavirus symptoms.
Members of the public also claimed to have seen him in Barnard Castle, a picturesque town 30 miles from Durham, then again in the county after he had returned to London.
So far, 15 Conservative MPs have called for Mr Cummings’ resignation, including former ministers Steve Baker, Caroline Nokes and Tim Loughton.
Former minister Paul Maynard said: “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.”
The MPs join a growing line of high-profile figures calling for Mr Cummings to listen to his own advice instead of flouting the rules.
Church of England bishops accused the PM of treating people “as mugs” and with “no respect” after loyally sticking by his chief aide.
The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs? The moral question is not for Cummings – it is for PM and ministers/MPs who find this behaviour acceptable. What are we to teach our children? (I ask as a responsible father.)
— Nick Baines (@nickbaines) May 24, 2020
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, 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.
Dr Dominic Pimenta, a cardiology registrar, tweeted a picture of himself wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), saying: “Frankly, Cummings spits in the face of all our efforts, the whole NHS. If he doesn’t resign, I will.”
Durham County Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition leader Amanda Hopgood said she had written to Durham police’s chief constable Jo Farrell asking for an investigation into Mr Cummings after “a number” of locals reported seeing him in the county.
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.
Labour leader Keir Starmer insists he would have sacked Mr Cummings if he was prime minister, and that Mr Johnson is treating the British people with “contempt” by refusing to get rid of his chief adviser.
Mr Cummings’ parents, Robert and Morag, have come to their son’s defence, with his mother saying the family had been grieving after her brother, Lord Justice Laws, who died on 5 April after contracting COVID-19 in hospital.
An unnamed neighbour told the Mirror and the Guardian they saw Mr Cummings on the day his uncle died – and the PM was admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms – in his parents’ garden with Abba’s Dancing Queen playing loudly.
His father said he was “disgusted” at the way the press had treated his son since news of his travels broke.
The government defended Mr Cummings by saying the first trip – which he has admitted to – was necessary because both he and his wife had coronavirus symptoms and they needed family to help with childcare for their four-year-old son.
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