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Tory pressure on Johnson mounts over Cummings’ lockdown actions

A minister quit and dozens of Tory MPs called for Dominic Cummings to leave his role as Boris Johnson’s senior aide.

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Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings (Stefan Rousseau/Jonathan Brady/PA)

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings (Stefan Rousseau/Jonathan Brady/PA)

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings (Stefan Rousseau/Jonathan Brady/PA)

Boris Johnson is facing Tory fury over the actions of his senior aide Dominic Cummings, with one minister quitting in protest at the adviser remaining in his Number 10 post.

Douglas Ross, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland, said on Tuesday that he could not remain in government after hearing Mr Cummings’ efforts to defend his trip from London to Durham despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Dozens of Conservative MPs have said Mr Cummings should go despite ministers seeking to protect the controversial adviser.

Efforts to defend Mr Cummings’ actions even led Health Secretary Matt Hancock to indicate that fines levied on parents flouting lockdown rules due to childcare concerns could be reviewed.

In his resignation statement Mr Ross, the MP for Moray, said: “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the Government.

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the Government was right.”

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw added his voice to dozens of Tory MPs who called for the aide to quit or be sacked by the Prime Minister.

Downing Street insisted the PM had not split the Government by backing Mr Cummings.

But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio 2 that his own postbag showed “many people still disagree” with Mr Cummings’ actions.

Critics accused Mr Cummings of undermining the Government’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, which has so far been linked to more than 47,300 deaths in the UK.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

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(PA Graphics)

Mr Cummings said he had driven to Durham to isolate in a property on his father’s farm because of concerns over who would care for his four-year-old son if both he and his wife were incapacitated by Covid-19.

At the Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock was asked by a member of the public whether the Government would now review all penalty fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown.

Mr Hancock said it was a “very good question” and indicated he would consult the Treasury and “look at it”.

Tory MPs confronted with angry correspondence from constituents over the weekend made clear their views on the row, with at least 27 calling for Mr Cummings to go.

Former attorney general Jeremy Wright called for Mr Cummings to quit, saying his actions may technically have been within the rules, but efforts to combat Covid-19 had been due to “people accepting wholeheartedly not just the letter of the restrictions that have been set out, but also their spirit”.

Former chief whip Mark Harper said Mr Cummings “should have offered to resign, and the Prime Minister should have accepted his resignation”.

MPs from the 2019 intake – who owe their positions in part to the campaign Mr Cummings helped run – also called for him to face the consequences of his actions.

Simon Jupp said he felt “anger, disappointment and frustration” and suggested Mr Cummings should consider his position, Craig Whittaker said  he should be reprimanded and Elliot Colburn said he should resign for undermining the Government’s messages on controlling the spread of the virus.

In an extraordinary press conference in Downing Street’s garden on Monday, Mr Cummings argued that his journey to Durham in March was justified as he sought to protect his family’s health.

But many questions remained unanswered, including over his subsequent drive to Barnard Castle which he said was to test his eyesight after it was affected by Covid-19.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the journey, some 25 miles from where the aide was isolating, was “completely appropriate” because he was “preparing to return to work” by checking he was safe to drive the long trip back to London.

Former Greater Manchester Police chief constable Sir Peter Fahy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mr Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle “certainly appears to be against the Highway Code – it’s not the way to test your eyesight, and put potentially other people in danger”.

Experts at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and Moorfields Eye Hospital said there was little evidence to link Covid-19 to eyesight problems.

Some 71% of Britons believe Mr Cummings broke the lockdown and 59% think he should resign, according to a snap poll of 1,160 adults by YouGov after the aide’s defence, which suggested his statement had turned public opinion further against him.

In other developments:

– Some patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are to be given access to the drug remdesivir, which has been shown to shorten recovery time;

– Mr Hancock confirmed that there could be “local lockdowns” in future if the test and trace system identifies coronavirus hotspots;

– Ryanair said it would increase flights to 40% of its normal schedule from July 1;

– John Lewis said it would begin a phased reopening of stores from June 15;

– Health officials sent out a rallying call to Covid-19 survivors to donate their blood plasma as part of a trial to see whether it could be used as a treatment for patients.

PA