Boris Johnson facing growing Tory revolt over Dominic Cummings as former minister says he’s been ‘swamped’ with angry voters
Dominic Cummings is Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser.
Boris Johnson is under continued pressure to sack Dominic Cummings as more Tory MPs broke ranks to criticise the Prime Minister’s defence of his embattled aide.
Former minister Tim Loughton said Mr Johnson - who launched a full-throated defence of his top adviser on Sunday night amid a major row over a 250-mile trip taken during lockdown - had failed to provide “definitive answers”.
And he warned he was being “swamped” with messages from angry constituents who believed the row symbolised “one rule for them and one rule for us”.
Somerset and Frome MP David Warburton meanwhile said his own father had "died alone" and warned that the Government risked losing “authority and respect” from members of the public who had "suffered under the regulations".
The pair joined a raft of Tory MPs who moved on Sunday to criticise the decision to keep Mr Cummings in post.
But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said Mr Johnson had been assured that “no rules and no laws have been broken” by Mr Cummings, who travelled more than 260 miles from his home in London to his family’s residence in Durham in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Prime Minister said on Sunday night: “I 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.”
"We’ve not been offered the chance to interpret the rules" - Conservative MP David Warburton
Mr Loughton, who served as a childrens’ minister under David Cameron, said he had wanted to hear “a proper justification of why what Dominic Cummings did was fine and doesn’t conflict with the advice from government” when the Prime Minister made his address on Sunday night.
He told the Today programme: “I fear I didn’t get that. And what’s more worrying is my constituents didn’t get that.
"And so I got swamped with even more emails from people who don’t have a political axe to grind who say, look, hold on, this sends a very bad message.
"It looks as though it’s one rule for them and one rule for us. Why should we now abide by government guidance?
“And I think that is deeply worrying.”
He added: “The only show in town at the moment is how the Government continues to deal with coronavirus and anything that deflects from that or distracts the prime minister in the work he needs to do from that is damaging and needs to be dealt with.”
While Mr Loughton said he “entirely” sympathised with the childcare dilemma faced by Mr Cummings, he said the adviser was “not alone” in wanting the best for his family.
“Everybody in this dreadful pandemic has had to make sacrifices for the good of the country," he said.
"Thank goodness the vast majority of people in this country have abided by those rules.
“And it’s absolutely imperative that the message that comes from the top is adhered to by the people from the top as well.”
That view was echoed by Mr Warburton, the MP for Somerton and Frome, who told BBC Breakfast that while he understood Mr Cummings’ “instincts” as a parent, he had not been “terribly impressed” with the Prime Minister’s response.
He said: “We’ve not been offered the chance to interpret the rules. That’s really not how it works, otherwise there’d be complete chaos.
“We’ve all suffered under the regulations. There are parents not being able to see children, elderly people isolated and alone, people like my own father who died alone, relatives cut off from people they love.
“But what my constituents are seeing, and what I’m hearing from hundreds and hundreds of emails and letters and phone call is double standards.
“And that’s really not a good look, particularly when it’s around someone who themselves has been part of defining the rules which all the rest of us have to endure.”
"The Prime Minister has gone through all the details with Dominic Cummings and has been assured that no rules and no laws have been broken" - Cabinet minister Gavin Williamson
Mr Warburton said of the senior adviser: "If the Prime Minister had drawn a sort of public line in the sand and sacked him, I think the vast majority of the public would have been both reassured by that sort of handling and also would have had the seriousness of the Covid situation I think impressed on them.
“To me, enough is really enough and I think that he is damaging the Government and the country that he’s supposed to be serving.”
'ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE CUMMINGS' ASSURANCE'
As the Cabinet met to discuss the next stage of the Government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions amid anger from some senior ministers, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told Sky News he “absolutely” believed Mr Cummings’ version of events.
The Cabinet minister said: “If he’s made it clear to the Prime Minister that he didn’t break the law, I absolutely believe that assurance.
“Because you wouldn’t expect someone to be not giving the absolute categorical truth to the Prime Minister. And I absolutely, firmly believe that that is what he’s done.”
Speaking on the Today programme later, Mr Williamson said Mr Cummings had been “absolutely clear that there was only one trip to Durham”.
And he said: “Dominic Cummings had been very, very clear to the Prime Minister that he had gone to Durham as a result of the challenges in terms of childcare that he was having to deal with.
"He made that trip up to Durham.
"The Prime Minister has gone through all the details with Dominic Cummings and has been assured that no rules and no laws have been broken. That’s what the Prime Minister was very clear [about] in terms of his statement yesterday.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe