Despite the overwhelming majority of the British public enraged by the government’s handling of the Dominic Cummings scandal, Boris Johnson has again refused to apologise or admit his chief aide broke any rules and instead told the public to “move on” during a meeting of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee.
Cummings broke lockdown regulations in late March and throughout early April by driving 260 miles from London to Durham for along with his wife, who was suffering from Covid-19 symptoms, putting British lives at risk when he and his family should have been isolating at their home in London. In another breach of the rules, Cummings then took the family out for a drive to local beauty spot Barnard Castle in order to ‘test his eyes’ before driving back to London.
Johnson was asked numerous times during the committee meeting why he accepted his chief aide breaking the rules when polls show the vast majority of the British population agree that he was in the wrong, but insisted that the public should “move on”. The Prime Minister was also quizzed about whether parents with Covid-19 symptoms should isolate at home or travel hundreds of miles to get help from family members and gave no clear answer.
In response to one question from liaison Committee Chair Bernard Jenkin about the Cummings episode, Johnson dismissed people’s concerns about the hypocrisy and said: “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 as so far as what we need to do is to focus on getting the message right, which I think is probably common ground with your committee, then I think what we’ve got to do really is to move on.”
In response to a question about the sacrifices the public have made and the apparent hypocrisy by the government over the issue, and a request for an apology by the SNP’s Pete Wishart, Johnson replied: “Of course, Pete, I am sorry for the pain and anguish and the heartbreak of so many people in this country, and there are people in government at every level who have been going through exactly the same pribations and difficulties and of course we all understand that and I share that. But what I’m saying to you is that what we need to do now as politicians and as leaders, if we possibly can, is to set aside this row – because I’m afraid a lot of the allegations turned out to be totally false, and to move one. I’ve said what I have to say about that matter…In so far as it is correct to say it is a distraction, then by that very argument now is time to put it aside and to move on.”
In response to a later question by Labour’s Yvette Cooper about whether parents should follow Dr Jenny Harries advice and ‘stay home unless there’s a risk to life’ or if they should do what Mr Cummings did and travel hundreds of miles, possibly spreading the disease, the Prime Minister denied Cummings breached the rules, saying: “I’m not certain there’s a discrepancy between those bits of advice”.
Yvette Cooper asks the PM whether parents should follow Jenny Harries advice and 'stay home unless there's a risk to life' or if they should do what Mr Cummings did?
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) May 27, 2020
Meanwhile, as many as 40 Conservative MPs have joined hundreds from all other parties in calling for Cummings to be fired after receiving hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls from constituents apoplectic over how it appears to be one rule for Westminster elites and another for them.
It remains unclear why Johnson continues to waste his government’s political capital in saving an aide, with both Johnson’s personal and his government’s approvability collapsing by nearly 20 per cent in the four days since the story broke. However, the fear is that in the wake of the Cummings scandal, any future lockdown rules proposed by the government will not be adhered to by the public. During the next “test and trace” phase of the coronavirus response, the government will be relying on the public isolating after being told they have been in contact with somebody who was infected with the virus – their question will be “would Dominic Cummings isolate?”