In Depth

Reaction: 61 Tory MPs defy Boris Johnson’s call to ‘move on’ from Cummings scandal

Conservatives breaking ranks to demand sacking of the PM’s right-hand man

Boris Johnson is facing a Tory rebellion as a growing number of MPs ignore his call for the country to “move on” from the lockdown scandal surrounding No. 10 adviser Dominic Cummings.

Appearing in front of the cross-party Liaison Select Committee yesterday, the prime minister declined to answer questions about Cummings’ conduct. But interventions by a string of senior Conservative MPs including ex-chancellor Sajid Javid and former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt have fuelled nationwide anger over Johnson’s refusal to sack his most powerful aide

Mordaunt, who now serves as paymaster general, accused Cummings of “inconsistencies” in his account of his decision to drive from London to Durham after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms, reports The Guardian, which adds that “fury among Conservative MPs has grown by the day”.

 Javid has insisted that the 260-mile journey was not “necessary or justified”, and in a letter to a local constituent also said he was “deeply concerned” by Cummings’ decision “to return to Downing Street directly after coming into contact with a family member who was ill”. 

According to the newspaper, the number of Tory MPs wading in to criticise the top aide has now reached 61, of whom 44 - more than half of Johnson’s parliamentary majority - are explicitly calling for Cummings to get the boot. The rebels include two government whips.

Yet despite the “political ding-dong”, the PM yesterday “brushed aside” demands for an inquiry into Cummings’ movements, says the Financial Times.

The paper notes that while Johnson told MPs that “a lot of what was written... about my adviser was false”, he declined to comment on what exactly was wrongly reported, while also “fail[ing] to apologise” for Cummings’ actions.

Indeed, Johnson attempted to dodge questions by “practically spray[ing] the room with non-Cummings gobbets”, writes The Times’ political reporter Esther Webber. 

Amber Rudd last night added her name to the list of Tory MPs calling for Cummings’ resignation, arguing that he was “making things worse” by remaining in post. “Dominic has been a winner for [Johnson] on these campaigns but he’s not instrumental to good government,” Rudd told ITV’s Peston programme.

Describing Cummings as the PM’s “talisman, a lucky charm”, she added: “He is a public servant, it should be about service, and at the moment he is not helping this country.” 

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The theme of public service runs across the front page of the Daily Mirror today, which asks Johnson: “Why don’t YOU do YOUR duty?”. The paper also carries a comment piece by Keir Starmer, in which the Labour leader writes: “Let’s begin with something Boris Johnson can’t bring himself to say but the rest of us know: Dominic Cummings broke the rules.”

The scandal has delivered “a very simple message: it is one rule for them, another rule for everybody else”, says Starmer, adding that Johnson’s “unwillingness or inability to do the right thing has left the government looking untrustworthy, unprincipled”.

The Telegraph reports that a “furious” Emily Maitlis last night “asked for a night off” after the BBC ruled that she had broken impartiality guidelines with a monologue about the row.

Maitlis “caused a politic storm” when she opened Tuesday night’s episode of Newsnight by saying: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that and it’s shocked the government cannot.” 

She went on to criticise Johnson’s “blind loyalty” to his special adviser, in an introduction that the BBC said “had fallen short of required standards”.

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