Dominic Cummings is ‘man of honour and integrity’ says Michael Gove amid row over Durham lockdown trip
Michael Gove repeatedly defended the actions of Dominic Cummings (PA)
Michael Gove has offered a rigorous defence of Dominic Cummings’ actions in driving 260 miles amid the lockdown and called him a “man of honour and integrity”.
The Cabinet Office minister said the Prime Minister’s chief aide had given an account of his trip to Durham that was “exhaustive, detailed and verifiable”, despite continued calls for him to resign over the matter.
And he even sought to defend his former special advisor’s decision to travel 30 miles to check his eyesight, claiming he too had driven “on occasion” to test his vision.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove said he only found out about the trip when it was revealed by the Guardian and the Mirror on Friday evening.
"When I read the story I was convinced there would be an explanation from Dominic, because I know he is a man of honour and integrity,” he added.
Defending Mr Cummings he said: “I think Dominic completely understands the sense of concern people felt as the story broke.
“I think the account he gave yesterday was exhaustive, it was detailed, it was verifiable. I think people will make their own mind up as they listened to Dominic’s account.
“I think most people will understand he was under pressure, and sought to put the health of his wife and son first, and took care to ensure they as a family unit were not in danger of infecting other people.”
He later told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What's clear is that he didn't break the law, he didn't break the rules, he sought to protect his family.
"And he also sought to ensure the risk of anyone in his family infecting anyone else was absolutely minimised.”
At a press conference on Monday, Mr Cummings had sought to explain why he was spotted in Barnard Castle, a town around 30 miles away from Durham where he was staying at his parents’ farm, in apparent breach of the lockdown rules.
Asked what his excuse was, Mr Gove said Boris Johnson’s most senior advisor was "preparing to return to work" and wanted to be "confident" in his ability to drive to London.
Told "preparing to return to work" did not appear under the regulations, the minister replied: "No, but the key thing is Dominic is a key worker and being in a position to return to work is a sensible thing.
"It'd have been entirely within his right to return to work that day on the basis of the advice he had been given, that's my understanding, so that drive was completely appropriate."
Asked if it was within the guidance, Mr Gove said: "I believe so.”
And speaking to LBC he went further, questioned if he would have gone "on a 60-mile round trip to test your eyesight”, he replied: "I have, on occasions in the past, driven with my wife in order to make sure, what's the right way of putting it…”
Presenter Nick Ferrari said he was “staggered" by his answer, but Mr Gove added that the "people who know me would know that I am not an authority on driving”.
And he clarified the point he was "seeking to make" was as "someone who took seven attempts to pass their driving test, I'm not going to pass judgement on other people's driving”.
But the calls for Mr Cummings to step down over the affair have continued, with minister Douglas Ross resigning and senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale saying on Tuesday that his “problem has always been that he believes that he is always right, and that he can do what he likes irrespective of what anybody else thinks or says”.
He told BBC Radio 5Live: “He has proved to be an embarrassment to the Prime Minister, an embarrassment to the Government, an embarrassment to members of the Cabinet who have had to stand up and try to defend his position, and he ought to go.”
It comes as the key figures in opposition parties including the SNP, the Lib Dems, DUP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP, Greens and Alliance are due to hold a meeting on Tuesday morning to “discuss the next steps in holding Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings to account”.