In Depth

Reaction: Dominic Cummings ‘refuses to resign or apologise’ after lockdown breach

Labour says PM’s support for top aide reveals ‘one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else’

The government has this morning suffered its first resignation after the prime minister’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings said that he does not regret the decision to drive 260 miles from London to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

In an unprecedented step for a Downing Street adviser, Cummings yesterday read a statement and took questions at No. 10, during which he revealed he had not consulted Boris Johnson before driving his family out of London after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms.

Cummings said he believed he had acted “reasonably” and within the law, adding: “I don't regret what I did.” 

In response, Douglas Ross, the minister for Scotland, this morning announced his resignation, writing that he “cannot in good faith” tell constituents who were unable to say goodbye to loved ones or see sick relatives that “they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right”. 

The Guardian, which alongside the Daily Mirror broke the story, says that the dispute over Cummings’s future has “continued to rage unabated” since the press conference. 

The paper’s political editor Heather Stewart writes that the intention of the press conference was to make “Cummings appear more humble and the journalists prurient and bossy”.

However, “it might also have been easier for viewers to walk in Cummings’ shoes had the story not been peppered with reminders of his privilege,” Stewart adds.

The Times’s political reporter Esther Webber compares Cummings’s performance to an England football match, writing that “it started quite promisingly… But there was also some sloppy defending which might end up costing him later”. 

Comparing the scene to a “socially-distanced bar brawl”, the paper’s sketch writer Quentin Letts adds that Cummings “managed the statement easily enough - betray[ing] no nerves - but was less fluent during questions, when he started stammering”. 

“Sorry proved to be the hardest word for arrogant” Cummings, according to the Daily Mirror, which adds that his “pathetic groping for loopholes to justify his reckless 260-mile drive… will fool nobody”.

Pippa Crerar, the Daily Mirror political editor who broke the story alongside The Guardian, tweeted:

 “[Cummings’s] behaviour was a prime example of Downing Street’s elite acting as if the rules they set for us don’t apply to them,” the paper adds.

The Daily Telegraph notes that the press conference saw Cummings appear to “defiantly insist” that he had not broken the rules, but says the PM’s closest adviser also “made a series of admissions likely to draw further scrutiny of his decisions”. 

Among these are his decision to leave London without informing Boris Johnson and his claim that he did not go public about the trip earlier to avoid “causing confusion”.

The paper adds that the press conference has also done “nothing to silence the calls from opposition parties for him to resign”. A spokesperson for the Labour Party said that “the British people were looking for at least an apology from Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown. They got none”. 

They added that millions of people have made “extraordinary sacrifices” during the pandemic and that Boris Johnson’s support for Cummings shows “the message from this Government is clear: it’s one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else”.

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The Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, added that it is now “beyond doubt Dominic Cummings broke multiple lockdown rules”.

Labelling the events a “Domnishambles”, the Daily Mail reports that rebellious Conservative MPs are “piling pressure” on Downing Street to sack Cummings. 

The paper says that Tory MPs have been inundated with messages from constituents, with one senior Conservative MP telling the paper the “backbench WhatsApp group is full of pretty annoyed people”. “We are getting thousands of angry emails every day, including hundreds of emails from Brexiteers and Boris cheerleaders,” the MP added.

The criticism from the Daily Mail, which is usually supportive of Boris Johnson, added to the pressure mounting on Johnson calling for Cummings to resign in a move The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson says “poses [a] challenge to the PM”.

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