Barmy trinity – Trump, Johnston and McColl. All living in denial.
By Bill Heaney
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Dominic Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and parent” and has in every respect acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”.
Johnson says he has held “extensive face-to-face conversations” with his his chief adviser, who has faced calls to resign after allegations he broke coronavirus lockdown rules.
Opinion: Poor performance by Johnston, completely unconvincing. Now we live in the worst possible world of Boris Johnston, Donald Trump and Cllr Jonathan McColl, the SNP leader (posted missing) from West Dunbartonshire Council. A trinity of tumchies if ever there was one. Ed
The Daily Mirror is reporting that Boris Johnson has doubled down on his defence of top aide Dominic Cummings.
Speaking at the daily Coronavirus briefing, the Prime Minister addressed questions over whether Mr Cummings had broken the rules and “endangered lives.”
He claimed that he had not, despite his strategy chief travelling 260 miles to a Durham hideaway when his wife had coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Johnson said Mr Cummings had travelled to “try to find the right kind of childcare.”
He said: “I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I have concluded that in travelling to find the right kind of childcare, at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus – and when he had no alternative – I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent.
“And I do not mark him down for that.”
He added: “I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity.”
Mr Johnson claimed some of the allegations made about Mr Cummings’ movements were “palpably false”, though he offered no evidence for this assertion and did not specify which allegations he was referring to.
Asked why Mr Cummings needed to travel to Durham when he has now said that his family did not care for his son, Mr Johnson said: “The guidance makes it very clear that where you have particular childcare needs that has got to be taken into account.”
He added: “I have seen a lot of stuff in the last few days about this episode of self-isolation by Mr Cummings that does not seem to correspond remotely with reality.”
Again, he provided neither evidence, nor specifics.
He went on: “As far as I can see he stuck to the rules and he acted legally and responsibly with the sole objective of avoiding such contact as would spread the virus.
“His object was to stop the spread of the virus and he behaved in such a way as to do that.”
It comes after the Mirror revealed Mr Cummings had defied lockdown rules for a second time – breaking rules he helped draw up.
The PM’s top aide was spotted in Houghall Woods a fortnight after the first sighting.
He was first spotted in Durham on April 5 while self isolating with the coronavirus.
A return to London saw him back at work on April 14. But by April 19 he was back in Durham.
On the second visit, fellow walkers spotted Mr Cummings at the local beauty spot.
The adviser – tonight facing growing calls to quit – claimed Mr Cummings commented as he passed by: “Aren’t the bluebells lovely?”
Robin Lees, 70, a retired chemistry teacher from Barnard Castle, claimed he saw Mr Cummings and his family walking by the River Tees in the town before getting into a car around lunch time on April 12.
Although he may have completed his period of self-isolation, strict lockdown rules were still in place and the family were 30 miles from his parents’ home.
Asked about this allegation, Mr Johnson said: “I have looked at them carefully and am content that at all times in his period of isolation, actually on both sides of that period, [Cummings] behaved responsibly and legally”.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson offered his “full support” to his chief adviser.
The Mail on Sunday has reported that, in standing by his aide, Mr Johnson said: “It’s not like he was visiting a lover.”
But the reports have prompted fury from opposition MPs, with the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford calling for him to be immediately axed.
“It is clear that Boris Johnson must sack Dominic Cummings,” he said on Twitter.
“When the PM’s top adviser ignores the Government’s instruction to the public not to engage in non-essential travel he has to leave office. Immediately.”
Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill demanding an inquiry into what happened.
A Labour source said: “If these latest revelations are true, why on earth were Cabinet ministers sent out this afternoon to defend Dominic Cummings?
“It cannot be right that there is one rule for the Prime Minister’s adviser and another for the British people.”
Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, meanwhile, has said the PM’s judgment will be called into question if Mr Cummings is allowed to remain.
“If Dominic Cummings is now allowed to remain in place a moment longer, it will increasingly be the Prime Minister’s judgment that is in the spotlight,” said the former energy secretary.
“Surely Boris Johnson must now recognise the actions of his top adviser are an insult to the millions who have made huge personal sacrifices to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Amid huge public backlash, a snap poll suggests that more than half of Brits also believe the controversial aide should resign.
A YouGov poll found 52% believe he should quit, while 68% said he had broken the rules.
It comes after a host of senior Cabinet ministers including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Attorney General Suella Braverman took to social media on Saturday to voice their support for Mr Cummings.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added that Mr Cummings had “stayed put for 14 days” while residing at a family property.
But the trip to Barnard Castle on April 12 would call that testimony into question.
A No 10 spokesman described the Mirror’s story on Mr Cummings travelling to self-isolate in Durham as “inaccurate”.