Boris Johnson says Dominic Cummings ‘acted legally, responsibly and with integrity’ in lockdown row
Boris Johnson backed his chief aide Dominic Cummings (BBC)
Boris Johnson has offered his unequivocal support for Dominic Cummings, saying he “acted legally, responsibly and with integrity” despite a major lockdown row.
Fronting the Downing Street press briefing, the Prime Minister said that “in travelling to find the right type of childcare”, his chief aide “followed the instinct of every father and every parent”.
He added: “And I do not mark him down for that.”
Mr Johnson had been under pressure from his own MPs to sack Mr Cummings after it was revealed he travelled 260 miles from his home in London to his family’s residence in Durham in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown.
He admitted the row had the potential to damage the Government’s message abut sticking to the rules to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 infections.
But the PM then gave a thorough defence of his advisor, dismissing reports he broke the lockdown a second time as “palpably false” and backing all the actions he took.
“I want to begin by answering the big question that people have been asking in the last 48 hours, and that is, is this Government asking you, the public to do one thing whilst senior people here Government do something else.” he started the press conference by saying.
“Have we been asking you to make sacrifices, obey social distancing, stay at home, whilst some people have been basically flouting those rules and endangering lives?”
Mr Johnson went on: “And it is basically because I take this matter so seriously, and frankly it is so serious, that I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings.
“And 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.
“And though there have been many other allegations about what happened when he was in self-isolation and thereafter, some of them palpably false, I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly, and legally and with integrity and with the overwhelming aim of stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives. “
The PM added: “And I stress this fundamental aim because it is because of this country's collective resolve in achieving that aim that we continue to make progress.”
Quizzed on what guidance Mr Cummings was following, the PM replied: “The guidance makes it very clear that where you have particular childcare needs that has got to be taken into account.
"As I've said, 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, and as far as I can see he stuck to the rules and he acted legally and responsibly and with the sole objective of avoiding such contact as would spread the virus.
“His objective was to stop the spread of the virus and he behaved in such a way as to do that.”
Pressed on the matter, he added: “One of the reasons it is so important and one of the reasons I was so determined to come and talk to everybody about it is that I can totally get why people might feel so confused and as you say, so offended by the idea that it was one thing for people here and another for others.
“But really having looked at what happened, having looked at his intentions and what he was trying to do for the good of his family, I really think most people will understand what he was trying to do.
"And above all what he did, if you look at the measures he took, they were designed to stop the spread of the virus.
“And I think at all times behaved responsibly and legally.”
Responding to the statement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, said: “This was a test of the Prime Minister and he has failed it.
"It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people that Boris Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings.
"The public will be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the Prime Minister’s closest adviser and another for the British people."
He added: "The Prime Minister’s actions have undermined confidence in his own public health message at this crucial time.
"Millions were watching for answers and they got nothing. That’s why the Cabinet Secretary must now launch an urgent inquiry."
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