U.K.'s Boris Johnson Urged To Fire COVID-19 Czar Cummings Over Lockdown Double Standards

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Dominic Cummings. BBC screenshot.

[The View From London]

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister faces growing calls from across the political spectrum to get rid of his top adviser. It has emerged that Mr. Dominic Cummings, the prime ministers top aide and key architect of the government's policy on fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the U.K., has breached a key tenet of the rule he helped craft.

The allegations are that Cummings and his wife drove 260 miles from London to Durham in the North East of England while they both had Covid-19 symptoms. Cummings says he only made the trip when he felt better. The reason Cummings took the long trip was so that he could be near family who would then help to babysit his son when he made the trip back to London for essential work.

Millions of people in the U.K. have been isolating under the government's coronavirus lockdown rules. A significant section of the society feel betrayed by a government whose top advisers are unwilling to abide by or adhere to their own recommendations. Cummings' situation is not unique, in thousands of households in the U.K. there are family members who feel unwell with various afflictions ascribed to disorders of the body politic, but they are unable to travel to nurse their loved ones back to health.

This apparent breach by a top government adviser has vexed many ordinary Brits. Police have been stopping people who make long distance trips and turning them back from whence they came. In some cases citizens have had to pay financial penalties for similar indiscretions that the prime minister's top aide has been accused of.

Several senior U.K. conservative members of parliament have also said that Cummings must resign pointing that they are expending too much political capital on the issue that represents a clear breach of public trust. Officials at 10 Downing Street, the prime ministers official residence, have insisted Cummings acted "reasonably and legally."

Cummings travelled the 260 miles from London to the North East of England in March. But there are new reports that say the PM's top aide made the long distance trip on two occasions. The second trip is said to have occurred on April 19.

The Transport Secretary Grant Sharps tells Sky News that reports claiming Cummings made the 260 mile trip from London to Durham twice are completely untrue. Grant Sharps says Cummings returned to London on April 14 and "he has remained in London since." Number 10 says the new claims are "inaccurate."

A witness claims he saw someone who looked like Cummings in Barnard Castle in the North East of England on April 12 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. If true, it would mean that once the PM's top adviser travelled to Durham, 260 miles away from London, he made a further 60 mile round trip from where his family lived.

The prime minister, Johnson, made a brief statement at 5pm UK time on May 24 and addressed the concerns of the British public regarding perceived hypocrisy of the governments requiring people to stay at home while his senior advisers are making long distance trips. This is just some of what Johnson said about Cummings: "In travelling to find the right kind of child care at the moment when 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."

This is not just a partisan issue with the opposition trying to sully the reputation of the PM's top adviser. Notable conservative MPs have also demanded that Cummings should step down.

MP Steve Baker set off a chain reaction of Conservative calls for Cummings to go on the morning of May 24, with seven Conservative MPs now calling for the " dispensable," aide to quit. "It is intolerable that Boris' government is losing so much political capital. Three changes are immediately required: 1- Govt needs competitive expert advice 2- Govt must insist on high software engineering standards 3- Dominic Cummings must go," Baker Conservative member of parliament for Wycombe, tweeted.

"With the damage Mr Cummings is doing to the government's reputation he must consider his position, lockdown has had its challenges for everyone. It's his cavalier 'I don't care; I'm cleverer than you,'- tone that infuriates people. He is now wounding the PM/Govt & I don't like that," tweeted Conservative member of parliament for North Dorset, Simon Hoare.

Johnson now has a challenge on his hands because he needs to get the public to commit to continue to follow the lockdown rules when it appears as though his chief adviser does not.

Keir Starmer, the opposition leader from the Labour Party, calls Boris Johnson's defence of Dominic Cummings "insult to sacrifices of British people." Cummings enjoys the full support of the prime minister, for now.

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