Dominic Cummings, the senior adviser to the Prime Minister has entered the murky waters of public condemnation — but is it justified?
Cummings’ career started off in 1992 when he was campaign director at Business Sterling, campaigning for Britain to vote against joining the Euro. From there he became director of strategy for former leader of the Conservative Party Iain Duncan Smith. Cummings also worked for Michael Gove whilst in opposition, and continued to work with him when Gove became Education Secretary. In 2014 the then PM David Cameron described Cummings as a ‘’career psychopath’ even though Cameron hadn’t actually met him. During the years 2015-2019 Cummings fiercely campaigned and advocated for Britain to leave the European Union and succeeded. On the back of Boris Johnson’s spring to power, Cummings followed the PM into number 10, being given the role of senior adviser, which he still holds.
What actually happened?
One of the nation’s most powerful backroom staff members was seen scurrying out of 10 Downing Street four days after the PM broadcast to the nation that we had to ‘Stay at home’ to ‘save lives’, and that if friends asked to meet we ‘should say no!’
He left on March 27 after the PM and the Health Secretary both announced that they had tested positive for the coronavirus. At first there was nothing unusual in this. Cummings had left for his own safety and the safety of his family. Downing street later announced on March 28 that he had been suffering with symptoms of Covid-19. Again, this seemingly made sense to the public as now the PM, the Health Secretary and the senior adviser had all succumbed to the symptoms of the disease — why would he stay at Number 10?
Two days later, on March 31, Durham police received reports that an ‘individual’ had travelled from London to Durham, with officers later contacting him to reaffirm the new regulations. From April 5, it was reported that a witness had spotted Mr Cummings at the grounds and surrounding area of his parents’ home in Durham with a young child, some 269 miles away from London. This was seven days after it was reported that he was suffering with coronavirus symptoms.
By April 14 Cummings was seen back at Downing Street, presumably having finished his period of self-isolation. Durham police later stated that they had contacted the family of Mr Cummings and reminded them of the new rules on self-isolation and travelling between places, citing the harm and effects breaches could bring to the wider community.
Public outrage and close media attention soon followed when the actions of Mr Cummings were revealed. Opposition parties, journalists and the public were incensed at the suggested hypocrisy. Siblings, relatives and close friends have had to abstain from funeral attendances across the country because of the strict lockdown rules enforced by the PM, yet here was his senior adviser openly disregarding them.
The Labour Party had then released a statement.
‘The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and one rule for Mr Cummings. Number 10 need to provide a very swift explanation for his actions’.
Other opposition leaders followed in their outrage, with acting leader of the Lib Dems sir Ed Davey saying that Cummings should ‘resign’ or be ‘sacked’. Another MP from the SNP stated that whilst millions of people are making ‘significant sacrifices’, Dominic Cummings has been travelling ‘halfway across England, when he was symptomatic’. The verdict was that Boris ought to ‘sack him’.
It has been announced that Mr Cummings’ flight from London to Durham was in the interests of his 4-year-old son, to ensure he would be properly cared for whilst he and his wife (Mary Wakefield) were ill. His sister and nieces had reportedly offered to help, so he decided to go to a house near to — but not stay at the house of any — extended family members. It has also been revealed that his sister had shopped for the family during their self-isolation, leaving food and packages outside their house whilst never making physical contact. The family of Mr Cummings have insisted (contrary to most media reports) that neither he nor they were ever contacted by the police regarding his sudden movement.
Mr Cummings continues to believe he behaved ‘reasonably and legally’.
Downing Street have also released a statement saying that the actions of the senior adviser: ‘were in line with coronavirus guidelines’ and that he had behaved legally.
A wave of Tory ministers and MPs have come to the support of Mr Cummings. The Chancellor has tweeted that ‘taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable’, adding that ‘trying to score political points’ over this matter is not. Dominic Raab has also voiced his support, saying: ‘two parents with coronavirus were anxiously taking care of their young child. Those seeking to politicise it should take a long hard look in the mirror’.
Cummings remains in his current position while members of the public call for him to resign.
GMB host Piers Morgan has been most vocal on Twitter, replying to Mr Gove with: ‘Oh please. Cummings brazenly broke the rules’ which he himself advised to the government. He further challenged the PM with: ‘Don’t you dare hide again today’.
The general public awaits the next steps from Number 10.