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Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings has faced mounting calls to resign over a journey he made during the coronavirus lockdown. The political strategist had made a 260-mile trip to Durham from London with coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Cummings was seen entering the prime minister’s Downing Street residence on Sunday morning, a Sky News reporter said on Twitter.
ITV’s political editor Robert Peston cited a “very senior member of the government” as saying it is “only a matter of time” before Johnson asks Mr Cummings to quit.
On March 31, Durham police were “made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city”.
The force said officers “made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.
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“In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the arrangements around self-isolation guidelines and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”
Downing Street appeared to have been standing by the PM’s chief aide, saying in a statement: “Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.”
The statement said: “At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported.
“His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”
What did Boris Johnson say about Dominic Cummings?
Mr Johnson addressed the press conference on Sunday and began by speaking about Mr Cummings, saying he had spoken to his advisor at length earlier that day.
The Prime Minister said Mr Cummings had acted as a concerned father saying: “He has acted responsibly, legally and with integrity”.
He said: “I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I have 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.”
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Mr Johnson also said “some” of the allegations about Mr Cummings’ behaviour during self-isolation were “palpably false”.
“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.”
MPs were quick to take to Twitter to condemn Mr Johnson for his statement, calling it a “failure of leadership”.
Westminster group leader for the SNP, Ian Blackford, tweeted: “Boris Johnson told us to stay at home and to isolate if we had Covid-19. There was no caveat that this does not apply to Dominic Cummings.
“By supporting Cummings at his press conference Boris Johnson displays a failure of leadership and undermines his own public health messages.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas also critiqued Mr Johnson’s defence of Mr Cummings, writing on Twitter: “Unbelievable – PM says Cummings has acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’.
“In fact he’s acted arrogantly, illegally and with gross irresponsibility.
“Even by PM’s own abysmal standards, this must surely be the lowest point.”
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