So here goes with Part 2 of the analysis of Tory MPs’ letters to the hundreds of thousands of people who have written in protest at the hypocritical and life-threatening Johnson/Cummings lockdown breakdown scandal.
For those who missed it, here is part 1.
And here is the blog I posted this morning of the appalling lack of empathy shown by Matt Hancock to a letter in which a constituent talked of a family member who had to die alone because, unlike Cummings, they had obeyed the Health Secretary’s macho outburst: ‘This is not an instruction. It is an order.’
Hancock sent the cut and paste stock letter he was sending to all who complained about Cummings, and his cheery ‘Dear Seamus … Regards, Matt’ is designed to show not just that he wants to be on first name terms with someone he has never met, but also make it look like he read the letter himself.
There are plenty of other examples, but my favourite is David Cameron’s successor in Witney, Robert Courts.
I posted yesterday his Johnson/Cummings-defending letter. I have now had several of his constituents send me the identical letter. Well, I say identical, apart from the top line …
‘Dear Amanda (if I may),’ reads one.
‘Dear Michael (if I may),; reads another.
Dear Sara (if I may),
Dear Chris (if I may),’
Is it not enough to make you throw up?
Dear Mr Courts, (if I may)
Any chance you could actually respond to the different points your constituents make in their very different letters?’
The perils of cut and paste are obvious. I get a lot of correspondence. Sometimes, if there is too much (as now, for example, but then I asked for it, urging people to send me all these letters) I might do a stock response. But I will say that is what it is. And even then, I might scribble something more personal, if they raised something more personal.
Yesterday I highlighted the Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall, who is so lazy/incompetent/unempathetic (perhaps all three) that his letter included this wonderful paragraph
‘[Insert if there has been a bereavement: May I add my condolences to the recent loss of a family member. The current situation has made the ability to mourn the passing of loved ones all the more difficult. I send my best wishes to you and your family.]’
He, along with a Scottish Tory who did the same, has now apologised, unlike the man they were debasing themselves to defend.
Now, there are a lot more much better examples of MP correspondence today than yesterday, (though grammar and apostrophe use remain poor) but before I get to those, let’s give an award, in a crowded field, to the Biggest Tory Tosser this exercise has so far produced. The runaway winner is Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham and a leading light in Leave Means Leave (though to be fair some of the angriest Tory letters, MPs and public, have come from ardent Leavers.) The only leave going on for Holloway today is the leaving of his senses.
Take a look at this exchange.
Constituent [whose aunt has died]: ‘Am I wrong not being there for my mum and my daughter? Should I attend the funeral? Please reassure me that it’s not different rules depending on who you are? I say nothing more about the general incompetence shown in dealing with Covid, but I think this will be the straw that break’s the camel’s back. People are angry.’
Holloway: ‘You again.
‘I am sorry to hear about your aunt. (No, you’re not, or else you would not speak to her like this.) But how useless of you to suggest the public are so stupid that they don’t follow the rules because of the way the media present behaviour of one man. Do you not believe their intelligence?’ (What an illiterate, insulting, nasty piece of work he is. Another one I had never heard of till today. How the hell did people like this get elected?’)
Winner of most predictable response Award goes to Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, best known for blocking Bills that might stop men taking pictures up women’s skirts, or protect girls at risk from female genital mutilation. He defended Cummings’ work ethic and said he should be using it to focus on getting rid of social distancing and tackling illegal migrants crossing the Channel.
Another award-winner, for the longest letter, is Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland (how the hell did we ever lose Copeland, Jeremy?) who is also Boris Johnson’s private parliamentary secretary. So unlike many, who have used the cut and paste ‘I have never actually met Mr Cummings,’ she seeks to convey a real closeness to Durham Dom. (Has nobody told her he has total contempt for most Tory MPs, which is why it is so odd so many are bending over backwards to save him?)
Mrs Harrison gives out a fair amount of personal stuff amid all the cut and paste, including details of losing her father in January, and not being able to visit her mother during lockdown. However, one of her constituents was unmoved: ‘I don’t want your autobiography, I want an answer to my questions about Cummings,’ she replied.
Another was ‘unimpressed’ that ‘I gave her the respect of addressing her as Mrs Harrison, and she called me by my first name, thereby not according me the same respect. We have never met, and I was raising a serious complaint. Then all I got was what you called on your blog a “cut and paste defence of Cummings.”’
This particular constituent then got someone else to write to Mrs Harrison, making totally different points, and got the exact same reply.
[Understand the anger; all had hardship; personal loss; family and friends; reference to hundreds of fixed penalty notices in Cumbria]
Then tons of cut and paste, starting with: ‘As someone who was placed in those particular circumstances, I believe (bad grammar, risks confusing who the I and he are and what they are doing) he took a pragmatic and risk-averse approach, which was within the exception of the guidelines to ensure there would be childcare for his 4-year-old son should he and his wife both become incapacitated by ill health.’
I won’t bother you with all of the rest. It is more convoluted than Cummings’ statement in the garden. Just a few lowlights …
‘In his risk assessment the methodology (she has bought his fantasy that he is a scientist not a spin doctor) was to prevent harm to his son, to protect the public from infection and to continue to support the Government’s vast efforts in policy and financial terms to protect livelihoods and save lives, whilst his own boss, the Prime Minister became increasingly incapacitated himself…
‘I’m sure we have all now seen the hordes of paparazzi (HORDES!!! Wtf! A few media and a few members of the public!) which frequent his home on an almost permanent basis (er, not until he made himself the story and, by the way, most journalists are not paps). As a parent myself, albeit of older children, I would feel incredibly vulnerable and scared for my family’s safety if this was happening to me…(nah, you get used to it, Trudes)
‘With so many key figures in Government missing, Dominic (I am loving the relentless use of his first name. Not for her the “I have never met this toxic tosser” used by many of her colleagues; oh no, this is a full-on love letter) intended to go back to work to aid the Government’s response to Coronavirus. (Hero!) He had played a huge part (hero) in developing policies at a pace and with agility (superhero) never experienced by any Government, certainly in peace-time Britain.’ (I think she means the challenge is the greatest we have ever faced, but as expressed, she is saying Cummings has shown more pace and agility than anyone in government since the war…. Dreadful grammar. Or weird….
(But now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the one person on earth who not only bought the eye-test test-drive bullshit, but is determined to explain it at even greater length than Durham Dom!)
‘He had experienced some periods of eye strain. Eye strain is not a designated symptom of Coronavirus, but much scientific evidence has shown a correlation between eye strain and having Coronavirus. As his trip back to London would entail near 300 miles – he set out on a test drive for 30 miles, around 10% of his total journey, (well no, because it was in the opposite direction) to evaluate his ability to drive the long-distance journey safely.
‘According to his statement, Dominic pulled up after 30 miles near Barnard Castle, they did not visit or walk around the grounds of the castle. They pulled up on an isolated area outside. Whilst they were out of the vehicle, they did not come into contact with anyone and therefore did not risk spreading Coronavirus….
‘Working as I do in No. 10 with the PM, I’ve met and spoken with Dominic on many occasions (I am really important) and find him to be polite, thoughtful and very good at his job. He is particularly passionate about the levelling up agenda and recognises our potential in Cumbria (does she really want “Cummings backs Cumbria” headlines?), and the policies which will drive change and realise much more opportunity, especially in manufacturing, science, nuclear and farming sectors. He and I share that ambition …
‘From what I’ve seen,(in other words, I don’t know him that well) Dominic is not an extrovert character, nor does he demonstrate the flair of charisma so predominant in the Prime Minister, but I do believe he is at heart, a kind, considerate and decent man with our country’s priorities as his priority. (Oh no, don’t make me cry.) I know that he will be crippled inside – as anyone would be – along with his wife and family at being catapulted (catapulting himself through his arrogance and classic elite stupidity) into a hate storm for making a judgment call, which he genuinely felt was right at the time.
‘Above all, I feel that the events surrounding Dominic Cummings have been an unhelpful distraction to our fight in beating Coronavirus. (Too bloody right, Trudes!)… I therefore believe it is best that now the police have clarified events that we move on and put the full focus on the war against this virus.
‘The risk of a second peak is still very real (because we have been useless) and whilst every effort is being made to develop both treatments and a global vaccine, neither are inevitable nor will be available soon. Testing and contact tracing with social distancing and personal hygiene is our only tool in the toolbox (apart from Johnson) to prevent thousands of lives being lost prematurely and livelihoods being damaged beyond repair.’
If she has verbal diarrhoea, John Redwood, normally so verbose on the TV and in Parliament, is a master of brevity when it comes to his response to constituents about this matter.
‘I have considered these matters and understand the Prime Minister wishes to keep his adviser despite opinion in the country about his actions. In view of this I agree it is time to move on, to tackle the serious economic problems created by this crisis. That is what I am doing as this matters a lot to the lives of my constituents. Yours sincerely,
The Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP, D.Phil, FCSI, Member of Parliament for Wokingham’ (Christ, the titles are almost as long as the reply.)
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, and another who likes you to know he is a ‘Sir,’ (which is why I don’t use it ), is equally to the point, aka dismissive.
‘I will of course pass onto the Prime Minister the views of all my constituents on this situation and convey the strength of feeling from those who have been in touch with me, but this is ultimately a matter between the Prime Minister and his special advisor.’
But the absolute standout champ in the brevity battle is Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby. His response. ‘I have passed the message up through the usual channels.’ And runner-up Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, who said simply: “I have noted your concerns and appreciate you taking the time to contact me on this matter. Should I be of any further assistance in the future (“further” suggests there has been assistance already), please do not hesitate to contact me again.’
Others do engage. Take Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole. His constituents, parents of two Anna and Simon Patton, wrote to him asking: ‘What is your opinion on Dominic Cummings, who clearly broke this advice? If someone in my household has symptoms of Covid19, should we stay at home or can we travel to seek childcare?’
His reply begins with a cheery ‘Hello there,’ and goes straight to a bit of cut and paste Cummings-defence: ‘There is an exemption for people when it comes to caring responsibilities and an exemption for any other reasonable cause. This is an exemption I have advised local residents of on numerous occasions during this lockdown when residents have asked if they can travel to care for sick relatives, drive to London to collect relatives from airports or drive to various places around the country to collect children from University etc. (NB: If any of his constituents either have or have not been so advised after contacting him, please let me know via my website or on twitter)
‘It is all very clearly laid out in the guidance (no, it’s not) so I would suggest you consult that and make your own determination as to what you consider reasonable. (So, we can all do what the hell we like, can we?)
‘As to the more general point or Mr Cummings, I am sorry to say that as we live in a democracy which affords people due process, it is not for you, me or anyone else to determine whether a person’s actions fall within the law. What we do know is that the police were aware of this journey and decided that it was not worthy of a sixty pound fine or the more serious prosecution which was open to them.
‘Unless we have stopped being a democracy or abandoned due process, I really rather think we should leave such determinations to the agencies empowered to pronounce on such matters. (Unless it concerns scientist Neil Ferguson or Catherine Calderwood, the Scottish medical adviser, in which case Number 10 and Matt Hancock will feed a frenzy of the right wing rags and force them out.)
‘If my inbox is anything to go by over these past few weeks, there are many people who neighbours do not feel have been abiding by the rules. That’s not for me to determine though and my advice has been that they report these allegded (sic) breaches to the police and leave it for them to determine.
‘Unless of course we have embraced vigilantism – which given some of the mob that have gathered outside Mr Cummings’ home we might very well have – or trial by media, I will continue to respect our due processes.’ (Mob!! Hordes! A dozen or so journalists and a few passers-by, and he calls it a mob, and Trudes calls it hordes of paps. I suspect unless these idiots get their act together, they are going to see what a mob looks like before too long.)
The Pattons were not happy. ‘We are very disappointed with your reply. Whether or not Mr Cummings needed to drive 260 miles for childcare, it goes against the government’s own advice to stay at home when he drove to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”.
‘With the number of excess deaths in this country standing at above 50,000, I, along with millions of others, feel this makes a mockery of the government’s advice for everyone to stay at home and protect the NHS. It’s a good job that most other people have adhered to the guidance.’
Percy replied again, this time more irritated at being bothered than before, and again pleading ignorance, almost certainly a near permanent state.
‘As to the second trip to Barnard Castle, you will have to contact the police on that because it is the police who decide whether such trips are within the rules or not.
‘Trust me, for the past few weeks I have received endless emails and reports from residents reporting their neighbours for alleged breaches, but I am not sure those people will be asked to lose their jobs for a breach. If indeed there were one. As I say, I dont (why can’t these Tory MPs use apostrophes?) sit in haughty judgment on others, I let due process take its course. Labour’s Welsh Health Minister breached his own lockdown rules and remains the Minister – in charge of health!
Perhaps it really is one rule for one and another rule for another. (Jesus! He said that.)
You will be able to express your disappointment at the ballot box in 2024 should I decide to put myself forward for election again.’ (Have no fears on that one, Andy.)
Another one who at least engages properly is John Glen, MP for Salisbury, and a Treasury minister.
His constituent, Mrs Jo Primdore, a lawyer, told him: ‘I am at a loss for words to describe my utter contempt for what he did when we have heard so many stories of loss and sacrifice and of family members – and even a child – dying alone of this awful virus. Just think for a moment how terrified they must have been!
‘Under no circumstances should your party be seeking to claim that his behaviour did not breach the rules of lockdown and I would go so far as to say that if it appears that you, as my MP, are minded to do so I will never again even consider voting Conservative.’
He replied: ‘Dear Jo …. My view is that it would have been preferable if Mr Cummings had explained himself much earlier to have prevented some of the exaggerated reports and misrepresentation in the media. (bloody media again) I also see no reason to doubt that, right or wrong, he acted in what he thought were the best interests of his wife and son.(I do have reason to doubt it, he could easily have been putting them and others at more risk not less.)
Nonetheless, the trip to Barnard Castle in particular has been seen by many as (er …. IS is the word you are looking for) extremely difficult to justify. I appreciate that a lot of us would have wanted to make similar journeys, if we had felt it was acceptable. It is certainly not the first place that springs to my mind when I want to test my eyesight! (sardonic humour, nothing wrong with that and he is a minister so can’t really just say out loud “what a f-ing jerk!!)
‘Overall, it is clear to me that this was not a casual decision to visit family and nor was it done without thought for placing the least burden on others.
‘Nevertheless,(there we go again, means there is no defence for what he did) I am acutely aware of the anger that remains. Most of us have steadfastly followed the rules to the letter and spirit and would not have contemplated travelling that distance for any reason, even though few of us can honestly say we faced identical circumstances as Mr Cummings. The rules gave everyone a degree of discretion when dealing with caring responsibilities and I acknowledge that some people have fewer options open to them than others.’
He says he will convey the anger to the top. ‘I am really sorry you are so upset by this event – I sincerely empathise with how angry and let down you feel and I want to thank you and your family for the sacrifices you have made. I can assure you I have made them along with you and I look forward to better times ahead. Please be assured that the Prime Minister continues to lead the government response (oh no!) which will not and is not being (grammar malfunction) hindered by the media commentary. For my part, I will continue to be working hard in the Treasury and indeed locally to support businesses and individuals wherever possible. ‘
Jo Pridmore then wrote back at length, going through his reply line by line. She asked if he seriously believed Cummings’ defence, adding her own view that it was ‘palpable rubbish’ and saying Johnson had been ‘Trumpian’ in his response. She said the eye-test road trip, far from showing love and concern, put his family at risk, and asked a question many others have asked – why didn’t his wifet drive? She points out that Johnson has been exposed as an intellectual lightweight, capable only of ‘word salads,’ and feels he needs Cummings for a bit of weight.
Mr Glen replied: ‘I entirely respect your opinion … I completely accept that he still made a judgement call which is substantially different from what many of us would have made in the same circumstances and the disappointment and anger of people who have bent over backwards to do the right thing is understandable.
‘I also acknowledge that individuals who face the electorate usually come to develop a heightened sensitivity that we must not only do what is technically correct but also what will be seen to be right in the eyes of others, which is at odds with what we have seen here and I am sorry for that.
‘For what it is worth, I can assure you I will be complying with any instruction I am given to contain the disease, avoid burdening Salisbury District Hospital, and keep the people of Salisbury safe.’ (Decoded – Cummings is awful, Johnson should have sacked him, but I am a minister and can’t say it.)
Now I don’t want to give the impression these Tories are all uniformly terrible, so stand by for a fairly long run of decent letters saying more or less the right thing, namely what they think, and certainly what most of their constituents think.
This, from Mark Garnier, MP for Wyre Forest, is excellent
‘I have a small amount of sympathy for the plight of his family as they came down with CV19. ..However, I also sympathise with the anger that is being levelled at him. The guidance if sick is to stay at home – not any home, or someone else’s home, or even a second home. You must stay at your own home. He admitted to, firstly, going to Downing Street when he should have been self-isolating. He then, literally, packed his car with Coronavirus and drove it to an area where there was relatively little infection. When he had recovered, he embarked on a bizarre road test of his ability to drive. This is in clear breach of the Highway Code rule 91 (fitness to drive) and rule 92 (eyesight). Aside from that, it was just plain dumb.
‘The Bishop of Worcester did an excellent interview on Sky. When asked about the Prime Minister’s plea that Cummings’s was merely following a basic instinct to protect his family, the Bishop made the point that a civilised society supresses many basic instincts in the interests of civilization and wider society. That is what millions of people have done. They have obeyed the rules of lockdown against their own instincts and desires – to be with loved ones, to protect friends and family and to be with dying relatives – in order to protect wider society against this appalling disease. They have all done their bit, including many on the front line putting themselves and possibly their family at mortal risk. So why didn’t Dominic Cummings, an architect of all these measures, do likewise?
‘Whilst I have no affection for him, I do recognise that he has value in government and my initial thoughts were that he should probably be kept. But it is clear to me that despite his story, despite an element of politics in this, and despite his value to the government, his remaining in No10 now causes too many problems at multiple levels. For him to stay would be to reject the valiant efforts of millions of us all who have done what we can to squash this infection. His resignation is now the only way forward.’
David Amess, MP for Southend West ‘I have never met the gentleman. Since I was first elected to parliament in 1983 there have been controversies about any number of special advisers, (ahem) but none quite like the present controversy. (indeed, and I didn’t do press conferences in the garden.)
‘I am only too well aware of the enormous sacrifices which we have all been asked to make. The full efforts of our nation, and most certainly our Government, should be focussed on ensuring that we get through this crisis as quickly as we possibly can. The present controversy is a complete distraction from those efforts, and I am totally dissatisfied with the way in which the issue is being handled.
‘There needs to be immediate action, and without going into the arguments for and against the Chief Adviser’s position, he should be suspended from his office whilst a full and thorough independent investigation is held. This message is primarily for my constituents, but I have copied it to both the Prime Minister and the Chief Whip.’
Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow: ‘As someone who has been designated a ‘shielded person’, I personally have followed the advice to the letter and have left my house once only since March 19. That was last week to check the car battery and give the car a short run. I did not get out of my car. During the period of the lockdown I also haven’t once seen my family nor those close to me. Working, as instructed, from home, I’ve continued to do all I can to work hard every day to try and ensure everyone in our community is supported…
‘It has always been my view that there can never be one rule for one and another for others and that those who have flouted the government’s clear advice, whoever they may be, should face the consequences. Thus I do agree with you that this has not been handled well by the Government. The outcome appears particularly insensitive to the feelings of the many hundreds of thousands who have suffered real loss and made such sacrifices in the interests of the overall good of everyone.
I will write directly to the Prime Minister to raise your concerns at the highest level. Once again, please let me personally apologise for the distress this unfortunate matter has caused you.’
Wow – ‘apologise!!!’ – long time since we heard that in the mouth of a Tory.
Damian Collins, MP for Folkstone and Hythe: ‘We are not in a position where we can just act on instinct, instead we have to make decisions based on the rules that have been created to stop the spread of this deadly virus.
‘I believe that the guidance given to “stay at home”’ was clear, and that deciding to drive his family from London to Durham so that they could self-isolate at his parent’s (parents plural, apostrophe after the s, Damian) farm was against the intention of the rules of the lockdown. Indeed, as the former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has stated, had Dominic Cummings been stopped by the police whilst making this journey he would almost certainly have been told to go back to London. Also, whatever the reason behind his trip to Barnard Castle, that was also in breach of the lockdown rules.
‘Dominic Cummings should have taken advice, and informed either the Prime Minister or senior staff at 10 Downing Street, before acting in this way. He did neither. Given the difficulties we have all experienced during the lockdown, I believe it would have been reasonable to have expected that he would have sought to isolate with his family in London and make the same kind of support arrangements that other families have had to make at this time.
‘It would have been better if Mr Cummings had explained his actions sooner and apologised. His failure to do this has damaged his position and it would now be best for the government and the country if he resigned.’
Bloody hell, I agree with every word, and I praised him earlier this week for taking up the cause of League One and League Two football clubs who are weeks away from collapse unless the government and the Premier League help them.
Today’s Tories seem to be faring better than yesterday’s from my analysis. William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove, writes a rather thoughtful letter, which he is honest enough to admit he is sending to all who write to him about Cummings, devoid of the ‘Dear XXXX (if I may)’ first name pretence of others, but asking people to write back if he has not dealt with specific points they wanted him to answer.
‘There is no point putting any gloss on it,’ he writes of the Covid issue generally, ‘the whole situation is grim.’ The worst health crisis since the Spanish flu, he says, and a dreadful economic crisis to come. ‘This upsets me profoundly,’ he says, arguing it requires absolute focus by the government, and adding: ‘Political distraction is an indulgence too far.’
He says Cummings should have been suspended pending an inquiry, or resigned, and he is absolutely right. As stock letters go, I would say his is the best I have seen, in terms of tone and empathy, managing to make it both personal but also cover, I imagine, most of the points raised by his constituents.
Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon: ‘Like you, I have felt a mixture of anger, disappointment and frustration in recent days. We are all making significant sacrifices and coping with situations we couldn’t imagine just a few months ago. Many of us, including myself, have lost people in our lives and haven’t been able to see family and friends. It’s been incredibly tough for everyone.
‘Although I believe his actions were motivated by a father’s desire to do what he felt was necessary to protect his family in exceptional circumstances, if placed in the same situation I wouldn’t have made the same decisions and would have since considered my position.
I will continue to share my views and those of my constituents with the party leadership. This has been a deeply unhelpful distraction we could do without as a nation dealing with a pandemic.’
Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, of course has a great personal backstory which gives her a fair bit of capital in this: ‘I have been working this weekend as a nurse in the NHS so I have not seen or heard much of the media … but I do know the many sacrifices people have made to try and fight this disease, from not seeing loved ones in weeks to financially suffering because of the inability to work due to lockdown.
‘Firstly be reassured that I have fed the anger about the whole situation to the PMs (apostrophe error) team as it is not just what Mr Cummings did that has been so difficult for everyone to deal with but also the manner in the which it has been handled.(needs commas)
‘Secondly while the temptation is for everyone now to break lockdown, lockdown is actually there for you and your family’s protection. The strict socially distancing measures are working and we are now seeing the lowest levels of infections and deaths for nearly eight weeks. This does not mean the virus has gone and the only way to protect yourself and your family is to still follow (split infinitive) these rules, set by the leading medics in the country. We have no cure yet for this virus and you have done the right things by following the scientific guidelines which have been proven in other countries to work too. Having looked after many patients with the virus during this crisis, lockdown rules also protect those of us in the NHS and social care who are putting our lives on the line trying to save as many people as possible.
‘I understand your anger and your frustration . Having looked after dying patients whose families could not be with them at the end, there are experiences in the last eight weeks that I never want to witness again but don’t let your anger or frustration over events of the last 48 hours put you or your loved ones at any further risk. Please be reassured that I will be crystal clear with the powers that be about the anger and frustration from constituents over what has happened’
Though Alun Cairns, MP for Vale of Glamorgan, stops short of calling for Cummings to be sacked, he doesn’t hide his views, and expresses them well. He says if Cummings had been his constituent, and he had asked whether his circumstances were so exceptional that he should travel, he would have said no. He also posted a link, so people could complain directly to Number 10.
‘We have all made significant sacrifices and I feel strongest for those who have lost loved ones or have wanted to care for family at these most difficult times and have not been able to do so because of the restrictions..
‘Living in the public eye, we are expected to show good judgement and there is concern that Mr Cummings actions could undermine our effort against Covid-19. He believes that he acted within the letter of the law but it is clear that any breach – apparent or actual does not help our national message. People have the right to feel let down. A full explanation at the beginning, or an apology could have helped…
‘I have been challenged to call for Mr Cummings resignation but believe that further disruption to the decision-making process will not help the situation. I took the same view when Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Health Minister, who is working tirelessly along with others, was reported to have broken the guidance a week or so ago. His departure would have detracted from vital decisions to help us get through this. I want all governments, all parties and the public to focus on making things better and easier for us all, rather than greater disruption.’
Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham: ‘Mr Dominic Cummings seems to have been out of line to break lockdown instructions. Personally, I felt rather ashamed as the rest of us are all bidden to obey the rules and those directives appear to have been broken.
[Cut and paste re Durham]
‘So, going back to the rules, did Cummings break them? The answer is yes – on the face of it. Technically Cummings could argue that he was exercising his right under the 4th acceptable reason for going outside; a requirement to ensure his child was in a safe place when he and his wife were ill or about to be so. I am afraid though that I find that very weak. Even if he was technically allowed to leave his house for the sake of a child it looks very bad that he went 240 miles and hardly an example to the rest of us.
‘The truth is that, whether Mr Cummings broke or didn’t do the right thing, he certainly destroyed the spirit of the rules by what he did. It will make it very difficult for us, the rest of the population, to accept the largely voluntary restraints we have lived under for 9 weeks. I apologise for that because those rules remain in place. I am afraid I believe his position is thus untenable.’ (Hear, hear)
And another one, nice and brief, Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton: ‘I cannot condone what he did, nor accept that his interpretation of the guidelines was reasonable. My constituents have gone to great lengths to stay at home during this crisis. Many have endured enormous strain, and in some cases, real suffering. They are entitled to feel badly let down by someone in leadership with an obligation to be an exemplar. I am ensuring that this, and critically, the strength of feeling in my mailbox, have been communicated to the highest level of Government.’
That is NINE Tories in a row I have been nice about. I will now have a lie down, before returning to more conventional Tory fare …
So step forward Duncan Baker (it is quite incredible how many of these MPs’ names I did not know until now) MP for North Norfolk. He starts well, but just wait for what he says at the end.
[Understand the anger, very disappointed, expressed displeasure through ‘the appropriate channels’, Cummings a father blah, Durham police blah]
(This bit is nearer the mark, though confirms that some of these MPs see Cummings not Johnson as leader.) ‘Dominic Cummings is a high-profile public figure. He may not be an MP but, given his role and profile, it is absolutely vital he leads by example. In my view, he broke the spirit – if not the letter – of the guidance designed to limit the spread of coronavirus. He should now have the courage to admit his judgement was questionable and should be reprimanded. It is clear that he has undermined the whole essence of the government’s key “Stay at Home” messaging. Given my strong stance imploring people not to visit their second homes here in North Norfolk, you can imagine how strongly I feel about this situation.
‘I listened to his press conference and respect that he may well have had the best of intentions in mind for his family. But, for me, a person with a significant part in shaping the rules we have been following has an absolute duty to adhere to them. I take my role as your MP very seriously and believe it is absolutely vital for those in the public eye to act appropriately. So many of us have diligently followed the rules to the absolute letter, making huge sacrifices. In my view, that is what Dominic Cummings should also have done.’
Now, it is hard to disagree with much of that but why, Duncan Baker, did you then have to ruin it with this?
‘This story has become a distraction from the otherwise exemplary response by the government and by all of us here in North Norfolk.’
(Exemplary? Exemplary? They have ballsed it from the start, when Johnson couldn’t be bothered to take it seriously, right up to today, when we are the last European country still to be registering substantial deaths day by day. Exemplary? Per-lease.)
Into the ‘bit weird but deeply personal and very interesting’ category goes the letter to constituents of Katherine Fletcher, MP for South Ribble, the highlight of which is her revelation that, having self-isolated with symptoms, she woke up to find her deodorant in the fridge without knowing how it got there.
She also twice says she feels ‘impotent,’ which is not good for an MP invested with power placed in them by the people. ‘I am not sure I have felt, especially as a new MP, so frustrated, cross, or impotent as I do now.
‘Let me start by saying I have never met or spoken to Dominic Cummings.(another one. No wonder he couldn’t get anyone to look after his son. He doesn’t seem to have met anyone who admits ever to have met him, apart from Trudes.) I have no truck for him but then I also have no axe to grind.
[Fake news; horrid media; Jenny Harries; exceptional circumstance.]
‘Mid March, I came down with something. I haven’t felt so rough in a very long time, poleaxed by extreme fatigue. I had a temperature and a slight cough so I packed up my bag, walked home and did the responsible thing, isolating alone as per the guidelines. I wasn’t tested as there is no special scheme for MP’s (no apostrophe needed) and rightly the NHS and carers came first.
‘This wasn’t planned, or pleasant, not least because I had no internet or food in. If I did have Coronavirus, then I do not wish it on anyone else. After a few days in bed, I came round to discover my deodorant in my fridge. No, I have no idea either, but it gives a sense of how out of it I must have been. I remember thinking “ What if I had to look after someone? – good job I didn’t”.
‘BUT – Here is my frustration…. My small team and I have worked round the clock, since the start of lockdown to try and give the correct interpretation of guidance to constituents. I have had to tell people they can’t go to funerals, say goodbye to the ones they love, see the family newborns that they will grow to love, visit the graves of parents, siblings or worse, children, and visit friends who are dying.
‘I have had to give explicit advice on how to pick up children from university, repatriated family members from airports, how to care for a family member with a mental health condition, check in on elderly relatives with dementia. I have given advice on support for businesses that may never operate again, to people whose holidays might not get refunded, to those whose perfect wedding days plans have been ruined. And much more.
‘So when a row like this rages it makes me as your MP put my head on my table and want to cry. Some of your messages describe in detail the sacrifices you’ve made, it’s genuinely heart-rending. As the Prime Minister said yesterday in the House of Commons “ I am deeply sorry for that hurt and anxiety (this) has caused”.’
This is all pointing to’ Dom must go’, but: ‘If the police charge him with a crime or that he is shown to have lied, yes, but otherwise, I’ve made my views known in private, where they are more effectively expressed than in a public pile on. I don’t really subscribe to the lynch mob, now or at any time, in part because I don’t think I would like the world to decide whether a member of my extremely loyal and able team should be sacked. Treat others how you expect others to treat you etc.
‘Be assured I am cross though. At a time when we should be still focusing on the remaining weeks of this pandemic, spending my days replying to understandably hurt and angry constituents is not what I should be doing, because there are much more important things for South Ribble. I’m now delayed in writing; to the Chancellor about helping businesses export, as well as the Dept. for Transport about better bridges across the Douglas and Ribble, the green lane link and Midge Hall getting a new station. I’ll spare you with the rest of the list of things that have been put back.
‘This is also why I feel impotent in many respects.’
The constituent who sent it to me told me she was ‘disgusted’ by it, because she wasn’t pressing for Cummings to be sacked, but at least it had a bit of heart in it.
John Whittingdale, MP for Maldon, and a minister, also has a very personal take, and one that, had it been me, I think I would be a lot angrier than he seems. ‘My mother died a few weeks ago. She died alone and I was not able to attend her funeral as, at that time, no mourners were allowed to attend even the crematorium. I have still not been able to visit her house. This was extremely upsetting but I accepted that the rules applied to me as much as anyone else and that my abiding them was helping the national effort to overcome this virus. So many families have had to make sacrifices like this it is understandable that there is anger when people feel that others have not behaved honourably.’
He then cites the Jenny Harries’ defence, before adding: ‘He [Cummings] had driven to isolate himself and his wife and child near family who could help them if they became very ill. This was not a trip, as some had suggested, to visit elderly parents and they would not be required to help with childcare. Few families would have the option to do this as the availability of a separate property within walking distance of close family is a luxury which most people do not have. But that did not make it unlawful. …As your Member of Parliament, I should make clear that I do not believe that any Government adviser or Minister is above the law. If the police found that Dominic Cummings had acted in a way which had legally contravened the lockdown then I would expect him to resign.
‘However, I do not believe that I should support hounding him out of the very important role that he does just because his behaviour did not “look good”. I do not believe that anyone should lose their job for lawful decisions made at a time of great personal stress. It would be both easy and politically convenient, given the public anger at his behaviour, to join the calls for his resignation, but having heard his full account of his actions, I do not think it right to do this.’
Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire, is more on the weasely side of things, praising and backing government guidance, though praising local authorities (far too few of them ever do that) but on Cummings, focusing on things the media got wrong, rather than the central undisputed facts … ‘unresolved questions about allegations that Mr Cummings visited his parents, had been reprimanded by police and that he had visited the North 3 times. These allegations were of particular concern, because the lockdown is a vital part of the fight against the virus and must not be undermined. Mr Cummings has now given his account and it seems these allegations were untrue. The media chose to give the false impression that he was travelling up and down the motorway repeatedly, ignoring police warnings and breaching the self isolation of his elderly parents.’
(Then, he tries a bit of sympathy for Johnson – good luck with that one, Olly!)’ As you will know, the Prime Minister suffered very serious symptoms and was lucky to live. His advisers mostly caught the disease. (because they had been totally cavalier about social distancing including at press conferences when they advocated it for others and Johnson was boasting about shaking hands with infected patients ffs!) The No 10 inner circle knew that contracting the disease could leave persons in hospital fighting to survive and unable to care for a child. This seems to have been the background to Mr Cummings’ decision.’
Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen: ‘These [lockdown] measures are for everybody to follow – me, you, and every single other member of the British public – and Mr Cummings is no exception. Many families, including my own have had to make difficult decisions and sacrifices over recent months and it is testament to the resolve of the vast majority of the British people that they have complied with these restrictions so diligently. The anguish that constituents have faced during this crisis, particularly in not being able to comfort members of their family who were ill is particularly distressing. So too is where this has involved a death and they have not been able to attend a funeral.
‘Dominic Cummings has explained his actions, and I am sure we can all sympathise with the desire of a father and husband to keep his sick family safe. However, the reaction to his statement shows that Mr Cummings’ interpretation of the Government advice was clearly not shared by the vast majority who have done as the Government asked, often to great personal sacrifice.
‘I have robustly conveyed the strength of feeling that is held on this matter by people locally across Rossendale & Darwen to the Prime Minister and his team. I hope this is satisfactory.’ (Not really)
Gagan Mohindra, MP for South West Hertfordshire, sends out a statement issued the day after the Cummings/Johnson briefings
[Never met him. False allegations, child, apostrophe error in a constituent’s that should be constituents’, but then this rather good question: ‘How can I, as your elected Member of Parliament, continue to advise you to follow the guidelines if they are not being followed in No.10?’ He says it is a matter for Johnson if he stays but at the least there should be a thorough, independent investigation into not only whether Mr Cummings’ trip to Durham was in line with Government guidelines, but also into the actions of the media over the last few days. They too were not following social distancing guidelines whilst congregating outside Mr Cummings’ home.
Then says we must not be distracted. Fair enough, at least he called him out.
Not so Saqib Bhatti, MP for Meriden, total cutter and paster.
‘I have complete faith in the judgement of the Prime Minister and wholly support his decision. I totally understand that many people do not share my opinion and may have acted differently in these circumstances…. I am satisfied that Mr. Cummings made a reasonable journey in line with medical guidance, within the letter of the law and that he was trying to do the right thing by his family in extremely difficult circumstances.
[More cut and paste, Jenny Harries (God she has been used a lot in these cut and paste nodding dog jobs]
Peter Bottomley: MP for Worthing West, and Father of the House don’t you know!
Even though it is missing a comma, I do like this sentence: ‘I have not met Dominic before nor would I wish to defend him.’
However, he goes on: ‘ In my life of public service, I do not recall asking for a resignation, regardless of party. It is not my intention to start now. This will disappoint some calling for resignations.’ (Hey ho. Has he seriously never called on anyone to resign?)
He writes at length with more general observation, then turns to the media. ‘I remain a vocal supporter of the BBC and our national and local media in their efforts to hold public figures and government bodies to account. I share in trust for our Civil Service and local government. (good man) It is a wry thought (nothing wrong with those) that the success of the messaging when lockdown came owes something to a person who is now the news story. Sometimes on cases like this, we might trust in our own individual judgements rather than any trial by media.
Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke Central, says the hundreds of emails she has received ‘all’ reflect ‘anger, disappointment and frustration.’ While I have read each and every single one,(you sure?) I regret that I am not able to respond to all emails individually.’
She is another one who feels compelled to say she has never met Dominic Cummings.’He is an appointed advisor at No.10 and not involved with the Conservative Party.’ (Mmmm, no, course not.)
‘I want to make my view on this very clear – nobody is above the law and there should be no ‘one rule for some, and another rule for the rest’… It would therefore be very unfair if the public felt they were in a disadvantaged position from those in positions of power. I have had many letters on this subject, and I can assure you that I have made my views, and yours, very clear in communications to the Government and the Prime Minister.
Paul Holmes, MP for Eastleigh: ‘I accept the criticism that this [Cummings’ actions] is at the very limit of what the guidelines permitted and is likely to be highly controversial. I can also say to you that I would not have taken these decisions myself in these circumstances, and that these rules now need to be clarified so that others do not misinterpret them…
‘Though I believe his actions were motivated solely by the desire to protect his family, I believe that Mr Cummings has made errors of judgement, and I would have responded differently given the guidance that Government has issued.
‘I don’t think that the handling of this situation over the last 72 hours has been the Government’s finest hour, and I believe that the questions posed to Mr Cummings should have been answered earlier. I have raised both your and my own concerns about his conduct and will continue to do so over the coming days… Sadly (important point alert) I do think that this situation has undermined the wider messaging around this public health emergency. However, the fact remains that we need to continue to follow the health advice to keep people safe.
Andrew Mitchell: MP for Sutton Coldfield, ‘I would like to apologise (oh here we go, someone is going to say sorry for this shitshow) for not having replied earlier. (ah, that.)
‘I fully understand the anger and irritation that you feel. I want you know that I have specifically passed on your comments to the Chief Whip.(no you haven’t, you’ve said there are a lot of angry people out there). Many people are making significant sacrifices and like many others my own family is forcibly separated by this lockdown.
It seems to me however that the Prime Minister has decided that Mr Cummings is to remain as one of his senior officials and I do feel it is important we must put this matter behind us so that we can concentrate fully on the many urgent and difficult problems that beset us.
I know that drawing a line under this was not the aim of your email and I very much respect what you have said. But as we gradually come out of lockdown I am deeply concerned about the economic circumstances and financial consequences which are affecting so many of my constituents in Sutton Coldfield.’
Rob Butler, MP for Aylesbury,
‘Throughout the coronavirus crisis, I have been clear that we should all comply with the government guidance. That means everyone equally, including all advisors to the government.
[Cut and paste analysis of them, Jenny Harries cited as support AGAIN- she needs to do a Van Tan]
I therefore acknowledge that the guidance can be interpreted in the way Mr Cummings has done.
(Then he gets a bit better. )’However, Mr Cummings himself said “there is room for reasonable disagreement” about whether he should have stayed in London, and I do not criticise anyone who does indeed disagree with him. Personally, I find the trip Mr Cummings took to Barnard Castle very difficult to justify and am disappointed that he did not apologise for it.
‘It may not be much comfort, but I can assure you that I have made this point emphatically to people in the government who are obviously more senior than me. I have also stressed the strength of anger in the emails I have received, and explained that I sympathise with many of the points that have been raised.’
[Long list of issues he has been working on.]
Vicky Ford, MP for Chelmsford, minister for children.
[Thanks people, thanks NHS, care homes, volunteers, and says ‘my thoughts and prayers’ with the grieving.]
‘Although he has said in his statement that he followed the rules, I respect your opinion (but won’t say if I agree) that his actions breached the guidelines at that time. I completely understand the strength of feeling on this matter, and I have conveyed this to senior levels of Government.
Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, gets close to winning the fence-sitting verbiage award. He says he has received ‘hundreds of emails an hour for the past few days,’ talks of the many difficult decisions people have had to take,’ then says: ‘That’s why, although I can appreciate the pressures that led to Mr Cummings leaving for Durham, I share the frustration of so many. Government guidelines are there to keep our whole society safe and everyone should follow them, particularly those who were so intimately involved in writing the rules. This raises questions of integrity and that is why this has been the subject of so much intense debate over the weekend and why I have let the Government know my views (which I haven’t stated here) and shared many of those I have received.’
Simon Fell, MP for Barrow, is another fence-sitter. ‘As well-intentioned as this journey may have been, it also clearly undermines the message that the government has been putting out through this pandemic. You won’t find me defending him. But I’m not going to condemn him either. Like him or loathe him, Mr Cummings is a father who wanted to look after his son. I’m sure we can all at least sympathise with that, even if we’d have acted differently.’
Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, like so many, begins by saying: ‘I have never personally spoken to Mr Cummings so I, like you can only base my comments on what I have seen in the media and his account of events at the press conference. He says that Cummings’ child is ‘disabled,’ something I have not stated anywhere else. He posts the YouTube link to Cummings’ briefing, which he describes as ‘painful viewing,’ sets out a bit of on the one hand, on the other, points out that Labour haven’t called for his sacking (you well might ask, like I am asking why I am doing this exercise, not a group of MPs or party officials) says his position is a matter for Johnson, and criticises the way Number 10 has handled it. (“amateurish” would be generous.)
Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, echoes fellow former Cabinet minister turned select committee chair Jeremy Hunt in saying what Cummings did was wrong and stupid, a terrible distraction, but the government now needs to focus on the more serious issues before it.
‘Mr Cummings made a misjudgement, and I believe that at the outset he should have made a sincere apology and that the Prime Minister should have accepted it – acknowledging publicly that a mistake has been made. We are all human, people can make errors of judgement under stress, and I’m sure the family were genuinely worried about their situation.
However, it was a misjudgement: Dominic Cummings badly underestimated the strong sense of solidarity we have all have with each other, that has been so striking during this crisis, and the pain of people who have had to endure heart-breaking separation from their own loved ones, sometimes at the end of their lives.
It is essential that all the attention of the Government must be concentrated on the complex and difficult decisions to be taken during the days and weeks ahead, and Mr Cummings has caused a serious diversion from that.’
A current minister, Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, tries to pretend Cummings is one of many. ‘There have been several high profile individuals, including opposition MPs, who have stepped outside the guidelines. These rules are essential … however, we are all human, and everyone makes mistakes especially when acting under pressure. I have not called for any of these individuals to be sacked and therefore I will not be doing so in this instance either. Mr Cummings has explained himself to the Prime Minister. … I, like many people, feel an earlier, full explanation of his actions would have been helpful, as would an apology. However, now is time for us to move on and concentrate on beating this virus.’
Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, is largely cut and paste, though I found this line intriguing. ‘Many people do not believe his version of events, and that’s perfectly fine. … At times during his statement, it was uncomfortable as Mr Cummings is clearly not in a role where he is normally subjected to such fierce media interrogation as he was during the questioning, but it was completely necessary in the circumstances.’
He broadly defends Cummings , with the ubiquitous cut and paste Jenny Harries a witness for the defence, says he should not be sacked, but adds: ‘I believe that there is a legitimate question to be raised in respect of Mr Cummings driving to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight and I do not believe this was advisable. I personally wouldn’t have done it.’ But then he is back in creep mode.
‘Whatever one’s political view, Mr Cummings excels in his role as Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister, especially during times like this.’ (Well, no, actually. Cummings presents himself as some kind of pandemic predictor expert, so how come we are top of the world for death? And how come if he is so good at his job, he has reduced the government to the chaos of recent days?)
David Rutley, MP for Macclesfield, short and sweet, have cake and eat: ‘I believe many local constituents and people across the country would not have taken the same course of action as Mr Cummings – myself include. I also feel that Mr Cummings should have made a clear apology.’
Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley, thinks Cummings made a big mistake, has had a determinantal impact on the handling of the crisis, but move on.
Matt Vickers,MP for Stockton South, (cake and eat) ‘I want to make it clear, I cannot condone anyone who breaches the rules and regulations set down to keep us safe. … As a back bench, MP I do not have a role in the hiring and firing of special advisors…. My role as your MP is to ensure your voice is heard, and that’s exactly what I will do.’
Edward Timpson, MP for Eddisbury, informs us he has four kids, wouldn’t have done the same as Cummings, but ‘these are personal, moral judgements.’ (which is why Boris Johnson can’t see the problem). He then posts a link to the model employment contract and code of conduct for Special Advisers, and tells people how they can complain if they think it has been breached.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke: ‘Dominic Cummings was, no doubt, acting in the best interests of his family, and we should show compassion and understanding for the situation that he personally faced; but he did not follow the clear instructions from Government to the whole country and that is why there is such widespread anger…
‘The ability to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is greatly dependent on the good behaviour of the public and our adherence to the instructions of the Government. I hope that the actions of one individual will not stop the British public from continuing to put first the welfare of the most vulnerable in our community.
Mr Cummings’ resignation or dismissal is a matter for his employer, the Prime Minister. I will however, certainly be conveying to the Prime Minister the strength of feeling that this incident has provoked in my constituents.’
Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne, and Business Minister (apparently) ‘I fully appreciate why people are frustrated and concerned about the actions of Mr Cummings. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister had an extensive and frank conversation with Mr Cummings about the many stories reported over the weekend, and about what had actually happened. Following this conversation, the Prime Minister was satisfied that Mr Cummings acted both legally and responsibly, and that many reports were simply not true.
Faced with the prospect of having no one to look after his young child, Mr Cummings made the instinctive decision to find childcare before both he and his wife were incapacitated by coronavirus. Mr Cummings has spent over an hour explaining his actions to the public during an extensive press conference. I firmly believe it is now time to move on.
Families across the country have been faced with very difficult decisions during this crisis. People will make their own judgement about whether or not they would have acted in the same way faced with such a family emergency. (Decoded – I wouldn’t, or at least that is what I want you to think.)
James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, and Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, share the final award … greatest number of words used to say absolutely nothing.
That’s it for now. I am particularly interested to see how Cabinet and other ministers are dealing with constituents’ complaints. If it is anything like Hancock, God help us.
As requested from Stephen Hammond
Dear Mr Murphy
Thank you for contacting me about Mr Cummings’ behaviour.
I listened to his explanation of his actions. Whilst one might have some sympathy with his motives and his concern for his family, I am angry that so many have sacrificed so much for public safety and yet this man has decided his interpretation of “doing the right thing“ overrode the clear instruction of Stay at Home. It is clear to me that Mr Cummings has broken some of the guidelines which we all were instructed to follow.
I am concerned that his actions have undermined our, and my, efforts to keep Wimbledon safe. My concern moving forward is the distraction this is causing at a time of national crisis and the way it is undermining confidence in the public health message. Public adherence to the rules is achieved by consent in this country and that is made much harder if people feel it is one rule for them and another for senior Government advisors.
I am disappointed he chose not to apologise however Mr Cummings conceded that many reasonable people will not agree with his actions. I share much of the confusion and anger that so many constituents have expressed. I would have not made the decisions that he did. I have not seen my elderly parents since the beginning of March.
I have always tried to do the best thing for Wimbledon and whilst I think it would be served by Mr Cummings leaving his role, I accept that is the Prime Minister’s decision who he employs as a Special Adviser. I have made my concerns and the anger of my constituents very clear to the Whips and colleagues in the Cabinet and asked that they pass them to the Prime Minister.
All best Stay safe.
thank you for contacting me further about Mr Cummings’ behaviour.
It is clear that Mr Cummings has broken the guidelines which we all were instructed to follow. I find his explanation unconvincing. I am angry that so many have sacrificed so much for public safety and yet this man has decided his interpretation of “doing the right thing “ overrode the clear instruction of Stay at Home. His selfish act has undermined our, and my, efforts to keep Wimbledon safe.
I have made my concerns and the anger of my constituents very clear to the Whips and colleagues in the Cabinet and asked that they pass them to the Prime Minister.
Mr Cummings should of course have resigned as any honourable person would have done and not put everyone else in this wholly invidious position. I cannot defend the indefensible and I have no intention of doing so. I have always tried to do the best thing for Wimbledon and it is now served by Mr Cummings leaving his role.
All best Stay safe.
Fri, 29 May, 18:42 (2 days ago)
to Emily, me
Dear Mr and Mrs Hutchinson
Thank you for your recent email over the conduct of Dominic Cummings.
As we are receiving hundreds of emails per day, it has been impossible to provide as rapid a response as some constituents would like. Normally we aim to respond within 10 to 15 working days but in the light of the pandemic, I and my staff have been working flat out to try and respond on a timelier basis. I apologise for what some see as a delay, but I was also waiting on further information on the issue.
There has been palpable and understandable anger from people, contacting me, who believe that double standards have been applied. I recognise that much of the outrage has come from people who have never contacted their MP before and are bitterly disappointed with the behaviour of a senior member of staff serving the Government.
I am sorry that this has so adversely affected such a large number of people who are trying to do the right thing at this testing time.
Since the start of the pandemic the Government’s message has remained simple but blunt. This has meant an increasing number of people have suffered distressing and heart-breaking situations of a sort not seen in this country in recent times.
Dominic Cummings made decisions that he believed to be in the best interests of his family and the welfare of a child was at the heart of this. One interpretation is that Dominic Cummings behaved in accordance with the rules but took advantage of the detailed exemptions to reflect his family’s situation as he saw it.
I am not going to defend Dominic Cummings’ actions, however – for many of us – it appears that this was certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the Government’s message and that his actions should result in his dismissal or resignation.
The Durham Police have now issued a statement saying “Durham constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.”
“Durham constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.”
I have received hundreds of messages from constituents, mostly from those who are angry that Mr Cummings has retained his job. I have passed my views as well as those of constituents to the Prime Minister as the decision for his continued employment remains with him.
Thank you for letting me know your views, your input is always welcomed.
Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP
Chesham and Amersham
Constituency Office 01494 721577
Westminster Office 0207 219 4061
But still no reply from Dehenna Davison the MP who represents me and the Bishop Auckland/Barnard Castle constituency
Thank you for writing about Dominic Cummings. Please find my views below.
POSITION ON DOMINIC CUMMINGS
Thank you for contacting me about Dominic Cummings. I have received several hundred emails and messages about his conduct and am struggling to reply individually to them. I hope you will accept this as a statement of my position on the basis of what we know at the moment.
I completely empathise with the fury expressed by my constituents. The public has been incredibly disciplined throughout this crisis, many suffering grievously as a result of compliance in good faith with the rules.
From what has been reported, it looks to me like Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules on a number of counts. I have particular difficulty understanding his account of the Barnard Castle outing.
Because we are human we all make mistakes under pressure and our judgement when ill can be impaired. The difference is that those in the public eye have their errors displayed for all to see. It is also the case that Mr Cummings has over the years made many enemies. They and his political opponents are among those who have been calling for his scalp, including locally. Equally, people contacting me with no obvious axe to grind are angry that one of the main authors of the rules has apparently not observed them. It’s hardly surprising if they view that as wrong and unfair.
Mr Cummings has chosen not to step down. Whatever the truth or otherwise of his version of events, there remains the very real risk that his continued presence degrades credibility in the government and thus the fight against COVID19. That must surely be apparent to him and I hope he will be reflecting further on it. However, whatever you or I think about an individual, and I should say I know Mr Cummings only by reputation, we should be prepared to extend the same fairness that we would want for ourselves. We must avoid trial by media. Therefore, for as long as Mr Cummings protests that he acted lawfully and reasonably and insists on remaining in post, and subject to any inquiries by Durham Constabulary, I would say there is a good case for an independent analysis of the facts.
Many of those who have written to me have demanded a public statement calling for Mr Cummings’ dismissal. I have reflected carefully and my position is finely balanced. However, I have concluded that only the Prime Minister can weigh his adviser’s behaviour and the impact his conduct is having on managing the pandemic with the value of Mr Cummings’ anticipated future service to a government whose objectives I wholeheartedly support. I am not in a position to assess the need for Mr Cummings and would be uncomfortable calling for him to be dismissed without a dispassionate analysis of the evidence, facts that I am almost certainly not in full possession of.
I will continue to communicate with government at the very highest level the clearly expressed views of my constituents for which I am, as always, grateful.
I received the above from Andrew Murrison MP after I contacted him regarding Mr Cummings.
A variation on a theme from Tom Randall, Gelding Notts MP. Thinks Cummings operated at ‘the limits’ eh?
Limits of credulity!
Dear Steve Murdock,
Thank you for writing to me about the conduct of Mr Dominic Cummings.
I have received several hundred e-mails about Mr Cummings and his behaviour. I dislike sending generic answers to individual e-mails but, given the extraordinary number of e-mails on the same topic wanting a swift reply, I hope that it can be forgiven in this instance.
Over the last months, my office has dealt with nearly a thousand cases relating to the Coronavirus pandemic, from anxious business owners seeking financial support, to queries about Government policy, to healthcare concerns. I’ve also heard from many constituents who are suffering (and I don’t think suffering is too strong a word) from the mental impact of staying at home, separated from loved ones. In your e-mails to me about Mr Cummings, many of you told me about the difficulties you have had and the sacrifices you have made. I am keenly aware of the physical, financial and mental hardship we are facing. I also believe that the rules apply to all.
Mr Cummings is an adviser to the Prime Minister. I have never met him. When stories first surfaced about his travel outside London, I was very concerned and questioned whether his position was tenable.
But there are two sides to every story and I dislike the idea of trial by media. I had severe misgivings about what had reportedly happened, but I thought that I should wait until I had heard Mr Cummings’ side of the story before forming a definitive view.
At his press conference on Monday, Mr Cummings explained the circumstances leading up to his decision to leave London in considerable detail. He said that there was no-one in London who could have looked after his child and that there were concerns about safety if he remained at his London address. Having seen the recent scenes outside his house, I am minded to believe him. He also said that he had driven from London to County Durham in one, uninterrupted journey and that he and his wife and son stayed in a property on his parents’ estate isolated at all times from anyone else. I also accept this account.
I appreciate that Mr Cummings’ decision to leave London is controversial. He also took advantage of things, like a spare cottage on his parents’ estate and private woodland to exercise in, which you and I can only dream of. Given his need for childcare, which was not available in London, I believe that he was operating in, or rather at the limits of, the Government’s advice on seeking childcare as outlined by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries, OBE at the Downing Street Coronavirus briefing on Tuesday 24th March: “although we are encouraging everybody to stay in their own households, that’s the unit, the same risk exposure, clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance”.
To my mind, the need for childcare provided by his family, coupled with concerns about staying in London, makes Mr Cummings’ decision understandable. I think, on balance, it was reasonable. Mr Cummings faced an unusual set of circumstances and I believe that he tried to make the right decision in a short period of time.
Many of you have expressed to me your anger and frustration at these events and, as your MP, I will convey that message to Government. I accept that this matter has not been handled well and had more information been offered sooner, a lot of confusion and damage to the Government’s message might have been avoided. Those who have made sacrifices in this pandemic will feel let down, even if they think that Mr Cummings acted reasonably.
Mr Cummings has been subject to a great deal of press scrutiny. He has given a detailed account of his actions. I appreciate that others might draw different conclusions than the ones I have. Now that he has explained himself to the public, my focus will return to offering support and advice to Gedling’s residents at this difficult time.
I’m grateful to you for letting me know your thoughts and thank you again for taking the time to write to me.
Tom Randall, MP
Member of Parliament for Gedling
House of Commons
I’m still waiting for a reply from our shiny new Tory MP for Redcar & Cleveland, Jacob Young. Given his performance to date, I’m not holding my breath.
What a shambolic replacement for our previous MP, Anna Turley.
I sent this to my MP, David Morris on Sunday. I have since had a very brief reply asking for my postal address if I expect a reply. I know that is a requirement, which is why I included it in my original email. Since I highlighted that fact in my reply, nothing.
Dear Mr. Morris.
I am writing to express my dismay and disgust at your party’s response to Dominic Cummings’ utter contempt for lockdown rules.
My father-in-law passed away in Omagh, County Tyrone, from a long-standing illness, on Friday 24th April. My husband was unable to travel to Northern Ireland to say goodbye to his father. He was also unable to attend the funeral, and has yet to comfort his grieving mother in person due to lockdown conditions. This situation has been exacerbated by the different messages coming from the 3 countries it would be necessary to pass through on his way from Halton to Omagh.
I was absolutely appalled to hear of Cummings’ jaunt up the country, with zero regard for the lockdown conditions imposed on us mere mortals. But that feeling has actually paled in comparison to the rage I feel for the Prime Minister’s response to this scandal. With his response, Mr. Johnson has dismissed the considerable pain and suffering endured by those of us diligently following lockdown rules, and those who have suffered loss during this period.
I implore you to stand up and represent the good people of your constituency and country by passing on our legitimate feelings of outrage to the Cabinet.
How dare any of the so called Labour who fought against a Labour win in two general elections question how any seat was lost.
To those for whom politics is a game, this is on your hands as well as the Tories hands. Sixty thousand people dead. Well done.
hi , i’m afraid I gave up writing to my MP Steve Double when he replied to my concerns about a long term fraudster and her partner arriving and operating in my village, taking nearly half a million out of people’s saving and cameron’s big society with a rant about how I and others were being disrespectful and undermining a great effort to save our village blah, blah blah . also it’s one of the most serious cases that was “parked “ by action fraud
this “disrespect “ is now called by the police Operation FADY !
Double is a brexiteer and a parliamentary aid to Matt Hancock
personally I find him obnoxious, not very bright and corrupt in the old meaning of the word as the young researcher he bent over his desk and then sacked when they were discovered could tell you. His wife Anne is the brains of the outfit of you could call it that.
I’m hearing that he has a stock reply that is basically what you have already up above
Thank you getting in touch to share your view of the actions of Dominic Cummings.
I am grateful for the many constituents, yourself included, who have made their views clear and I wish you well. Of course we share in deep gratitude to the individuals, like yourself, working hard to keep everyone safe, healthy and happy. I have chosen not to defend Dominic Cummings. The below reflects a week of listening to constituents and sharing their concerns.
There is quite a volume of correspondence relating to Covid19. We are trying to deal without delay with urgent casework. Responding to you may necessarily have taken longer than usual. For this we ask for your understanding and thank you for your patience.
As a nation, we have taken the necessary actions to reduce the peak and throttle back the transmission of Covid19. We now must work to restore normal life as much as possible whilst remaining vigilant and careful to take the precautions needed to prevent a second wave of illness.
As Member of Parliament, I will continue to do all I can to help those who come to me for assistance.
My team and I do our best to highlight policies that need correcting to the Prime Minister, Chancellor and other responsible Ministers whenever appropriate, to push for fairness for all. I could list a number, mainly in the health field, that were successful. We have had a number of successes.
Many have concerns about the situation with Dominic Cummings, with condemnation of his actions and some with. I appreciate all who have taken the time to write and I wish to assure you your views are taken into consideration. In my life of public service, I do not recall asking for a resignation, regardless of party. It is not my intention to start now. This will disappoint some calling for resignations.
I share sympathy for each household that has been affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19. The pain of this pandemic has touched us. My doctor daughter volunteered to pause her hospital consultant role to help on the frontline. Friends of ours have died; parents of colleagues have died. None of us are immune to the far reaching effects of this disease.
Some have been forced to make heart-breaking decisions during this lockdown period, with painful separation from loved ones whilst they are at their most vulnerable. We share in gratitude and understanding that these have been vital to reduce the spread of the virus.
This has been particularly difficult for those who were alone during illness or left to grieve alone at their time of greatest need. Many still face dreadful hardship. They need help. My team and I want you to know that we are ready to do all we can to try to assist you.
We can give a general thanksgiving for our communal resolve to abide by the guidelines to keep those around us safe and healthy. Some may join a general confession that they inadvertently acted beyond the guidance or the advice in a stressed or panicked situation, or out of fear for a loved one believing this was necessary.
We can review the overall figures and ascertain that even with some actions at odds with the rules, the overall task of helping to combat the disease has been working. This is down to all who stayed at home, protected the NHS and practised social distancing when making necessary journeys.
The role of the media in this story has received some attention and criticism. I remain a vocal supporter of the BBC and our national and local media in their efforts to hold public figures and government bodies to account. I share in trust for our Civil Service and local government.
It is a wry thought that the success of the messaging when lockdown came owes something to a person who is now the news story. Sometimes on cases like this, we might trust in our own individual judgements rather than any trial by media.
I try to offer balanced opinions and understand all points of view. It is not always straightforward or easy. I will fight for causes that are just. When needed, I hope to be someone you can trust. All the time I aim to be a representative for everyone, regardless of whether or however they vote.
We will slowly return to some semblance of normality. We must build confidence in our Government and trust in those making decisions which so greatly impact our lives, particularly in these unprecedented times. I continue to do what I can to represent the wide-ranging interests and views of constituents, pursuing decisions that are beneficial for our shared lives.
Constituents are reminded to include their full name, address and telephone number in correspondence. Time allowing, I am pleased to be able to listen directly to those sharing their views over the telephone. Do share your telephone number if this is your preference and indicate in any email.
Thank you for reading this response and for sharing your views.
Sir Peter Bottomley
Member of Parliament for Worthing West
Father of the House
Email: BottomleyP@Parliament.uk Tel: 0207 219 5060
From: Sue McGill
Sent: 24 May 2020 11:21
To: BOTTOMLEY, Peter
Subject: Dominic Cummings
Dear Mr Bottomley
I am a key worker in the Community ( Community Nurse). Amongst the patients I care for are the elderly whom have isolated and not seen family . I too have stayed at home away from friends and family when not working as not wanting to share or pass on any of the virus.
And yet, Mr Cummings is allowed to wander freely across the country possibly spreading the virus.
Please ask the question why is this so .. is it a rule for one and not for others.
I am totally disappointed in these actions and the support that is being given, especially when people have lost loved ones and not been able to see them.
Yours an extremely outraged keyworker constituent.
2 Brookenbee Close
Sent from my iPhone
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Hi Alastair, I emailed Cannock MP Amanda Milling on 25th May as yet no reply. She is co chairman of the Tory Party so must be too busy to reply to the likes of me.
Here’s Robert Buckland’s response to me, don’t think you’ve included it yet.
Many thanks for getting in touch with me about Dominic Cummings. I have received quite a few emails on this matter in recent days, so I apologise for the delay in responding to you.
After the revelations emerged over the weekend, I was glad to see Mr Cummings give an explanation as to why he acted as he did, and this has been rightly questioned by the media.
Durham Police have investigated the situation and have concluded that whilst there might have been a minor breach, they will take no further action. You will appreciate that owing to the operational independence of the police and my constitutional duty as Lord Chancellor to uphold the rule of law, it would not be appropriate for me to give a view on the merits of an individual case.
I am, however, acutely conscious as to the strength of feeling on this issue, which I completely understand. This has left a deep impression on both me and colleagues in Parliament and the Government.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a turbulent, difficult time for all of us and deeply sad and traumatic for many too. Now that Durham Police have reached a conclusion on this matter, it is imperative that we remain focused on reducing the spread of the virus which will enable us to continue easing the lockdown measures and begin rebuilding our economy.
My office and I have been working flat out since this pandemic began to help answer residents’ questions and support small businesses access the finance they need. I also have a dedicated section of my website where individuals can find reliable and up-to-date information on government’s response and what support schemes are available, including those offered by our fantastic local charities.
Many thanks again for getting in touch and my very best wishes to you at this uncertain time.
This obviously didn’t answer any of the actual questions I asked him, so I’ve written this back to him….
Thank you for your response. I appreciate how full your inbox must be at this time. It’s obvious that this would be the reason why your response has not addressed my individual questions but explores the case more generally. I would however like to hear your opinion on important remaining questions however:
1. Firstly, a the press conference, Mr Cummings claimed: “For years, I have warned of the dangers of pandemics. Last year I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning.” Today it has emerged that he was referring to a blog post on his website from March 2019, but web archives have revealed that the blog was edited by Mr Cummings on 14th April 2020 to add a reference to coronavirus. Full details here: (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52808059). The meaning of this is that Mr Cummings used a Downing Street press conference and an audience of millions (something special advisers should not be doing) to tell a pre-arranged lie, purely with the aim of either making himself look clever or perhaps to convince people that he never took the pandemic lightly. Are you happy being part of a government that is employing a senior adviser who would take such nakedly dishonest action?
2. Now that Durham police have stated that Dominic Cummings might have committed a minor breach and given the strength of feeling in the country do you personally feel that he should at least apologise?
3. Given that people are now citing the actions of Dominic Cummings when talking to police about possible lockdown transgressions (https://metro.co.uk/2020/05/26/policeman-says-people-are-using-dominic-cummings-excuse-break-lockdown-12758996/), do you think that the failure of Dominic Cummings or the government to acknowledge any fault whatsoever makes people more or lesson likely to follow the rules essential to managing the pandemic?
From: ELLIS, Michael [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 29 May 2020 16:29
Subject: From Michael Ellis MP
In my last email response to your enquiry I referred to the developing story about Mr Cummings. You may be aware that the Durham Constabulary have since reviewed Mr Cummings’s actions and have decided they will take No Further Action in this matter.
I invite you to read the full police statement from their own website here: https://www.durham.police.uk/news-and-events/Pages/News%20Articles/Durham-Constabulary-press-statement–.aspx.
While I am always happy to answer constituency questions where I can, I very much agree with the police and others that the matter should now be considered closed.
The Rt. Hon. Michael Ellis QC MP
Member of Parliament for Northampton North
Solicitor General for England and Wales
House of Commons
0207 219 7220
Follow me on Twitter by clicking here
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Sent: 29 May 2020 04:30
To: ELLIS, Michael
Subject: Dominic Cummings
Dear Mr Ellis
I am grateful for your prompt reply to my email of 25 May in which you discuss Cummings’ case and conclude that you do not support calls for him to resign. I am disappointed and here is why.
Dr Harries clarification of “providing care” for a child does not cover the Cummings’ journey to Durham. She describes a scenario where both parents are too ill to care for a child. Mr Cummings claims merely to have believed it possible that he and his wife may become that ill.
It was not reasonable for Cummings to believe his son was at risk of not being cared for. According to Cummings, he did not display symptoms until he was in Durham. He also states that his wife’s symptoms had improved sufficiently to take care of their child before deciding to make the journey. The child could have been placed into local authority care as a last resort.
You fail to mention an important aspect of the case, the visit to Barnard Castle. Durham Police say that Cummings was likely to have broken lockdown regulations then. By Cummings’ account he did not spend far more time walking than driving. So I would very much like you to answer this question: Do you believe that Cummings broke the law in travelling to Barnard Castle?
Cummings’ preposterous justifications for his journeys to Durham and Barnard Castle are insulting to the all of us who have suffered and made sacrifices during the pandemic. He has angered the nation and made himself a laughing stock. By protecting him, Mr Johnson has shown himself to be weak and untrustworthy. The Government has put more effort into saving Cummings than saving lives. Cummings should be held to a higher standard because of his role in government yet he is treated as an exception. The message is clear! There is one rule for us and another for you.
I keep thinking of Ismail Abdulwahab, the 13-yr old who died in hospital without family to comfort him. Cummings attempts to use loopholes in the rules that prevented Ismail from being cared for by his mum or dad in his dying moments. That is despicable.
But what really makes my blood boil is that the majority of your colleagues, in private, are ashamed to be associated with Cummings. They see the damage his continued presence is causing, yet few are willing to put the country first. The hope appears to be that the anger will dissipate and the opinion polls will not be too badly affected. That cynicism over such an important and emotive matter is indefensible.
So, I am keen to know whether or not you be informing your constituents of your support for Mr Cummings via the press or some other means. Let them know your views on the matter, they have a right to know.
From: ELLIS, Michael [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 27 May 2020 18:19
Subject: From Michael Ellis MP
Thank you for your email which was received over the bank holiday weekend.
Please excuse the general nature of this response; I hope it will address the thrust of the point you have raised about Mr Cummings and I wanted to respond within two working days of receiving your email.
I have been a barrister in criminal law for nearly 27 years; for seventeen years I prosecuted and defended criminal cases in the Crown Court (mostly in Northampton Crown Court) ranging from murder to low-value theft.
The crucial principle of English justice is that a person is innocent until proven guilty- and I am sure we would all want that standard of English justice to be maintained in every single case, as if it were being applied to ourselves or a loved one. The British people rightly hate the idea of unfairness. I also know the people of this country have undergone terrible hardships and loss during this pandemic and I assure you that I will feed back your strong views to government.
In the case of Mr Cummings there are of course political as well as legal dimensions, and having also been a politician for over a decade I fully understand that people in public life must expect to be held to a high standard. Even unelected members of staff like Mr Cummings, not just elected MPs, are nowadays also clearly expected to conduct their lives in an unreproachable and exemplary fashion.
The Law and Mr Cummings: (words coloured in light blue are direct quotes, italics are my emphasis)
The Government’s ‘Stay at Home’ guidelines say people who live with someone who develops symptoms “must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.” (See this passage in the official document here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection#if-you-are-living-with-children.)
The same guidelines also say: “If you are living with children: Keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all of these measures will be possible.”
On 24th March, at the very start of the lockdown, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries was asked by a journalist: “Imagine you’ve got a two-year-old who is healthy and both parents or an only parent gets ill- what is meant to happen to that child?”
Dr Harries said in her response that if there was no access to formal care support or to family “they will be able to work through their local authority hubs.” Dr Harries did not explain exactly what that would mean but I think it is clear the child could be put into local authority care as a last resort if there were no healthy adult family member available to care for it.
Mr Cummings has defended making the journey from London to Durham with his wife, who was ill with suspected coronavirus. They have a four-year-old child. He has said that he drove to family in Durham so their child would be looked after by family and presumably therefore not risk being taken into care if both parents remained in London and became ill and incapable.
Mr Cummings says he had “behaved reasonably and legally”.
The Law covering this in England says “no person may leave the place they are living without reasonable excuse.” See the law here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/made.
The key question therefore is what amounts to a “reasonable excuse”?
The law says a reasonable excuse “includes the need” and then gives several reasons, including at Section 6, subsection 2 paragraph (d): to provide care or assistance……to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;
See that list of ‘reasonable excuses’ in the law here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/made.
A 4-year-old child is a vulnerable person. The law therefore stipulates that providing care for a vulnerable person is a reasonable excuse for travelling out of the family home.
On the basis of this law and in these circumstances I therefore agree with Mr Cummings that he behaved reasonably and lawfully.
In the eyes of most people the case of an infant child being taken to his relatives when the parents were ill with Covid-19, or believed they were, would amount to a “reasonable excuse” to travel. Let us remember that what Mr Cummings is being criticised for here is an act of attempting to support his family, not because he was going to a party or some other frivolous reason, of which we have seen examples from other people in the public eye. Later his child was actually taken to hospital by emergency ambulance on medical advice so I think his concerns were proven justified.
There is another issue in my view which separates Mr Cummings’ situation from the average scenario. Most people do not have to contend in their personal affairs with a baying mob of hostility outside their home- he told the press conference on Monday that he had received threats and that his house was a target, and indeed that has been witnessed on the news for all to see for themselves in the past couple of days. The location of his London home is in the public domain and he is a public figure. I think that adds to the ‘reasonableness’ of his wanting to leave London in his personal emergency situation. His wife had said that she was understandably frightened by what was happening outside and that in my view would have made leaving London in their circumstances even more reasonable.
Mr Cummings has disclosed that his mother’s brother, his uncle, died of the virus and he could not attend the funeral. Now we know both sides of the story I think there is no reason to say that ‘there is one rule for him and one for everyone else’ – he did what the rules allowed him to do and what most people would have done in his situation.
I realise that the above does not answer every point raised by this incident and I also completely understand that it will not satisfy everyone. There are many whose minds are already made up and no amount of evidence or counter-balance will change their mind. There are many too whose politics will play a part in how this incident is perceived, and indeed the political opposition parties have been meeting to coordinate their joint tactics in this. There is after all no doubt that this controversy has been exploited by political opponents for political point-scoring.
What I have tried to do above is give a response based on the Law and backed-up by links to the law and evidence. On that basis I do not support calls for Mr Cummings to resign.
I hope the above is helpful in giving a fair and unbiased response to your email, and doing so within my usual response time of two working days.
The Rt. Hon. Michael Ellis QC MP
Member of Parliament for Northampton North
Solicitor General for England and Wales
House of Commons
0207 219 7220
Follow me on Twitter by clicking here
Like me on Facebook by clicking here
Sent: 25 May 2020 18:54
To: ELLIS, Michael
Subject: RE: Dominic Cummings
Dear Mr Ellis
I have just watched Mr Cummings’ press briefing and now have a clearer picture of his version of events. There is no longer a need to conduct an investigation I am now convinced that the Prime Minister must dismiss him immediately.
I have followed the PM’s “Stay at Home” message to the letter at some cost to me and my family. We have made sacrifices to help play our part in protecting the NHS and the country. I have not been able to see my teenage sons face-to-face since the date of the lockdown. And many other families have faced far more heart-breaking circumstances than us. It is an insult to suggest that we overlooked wriggle-room that would have spared us suffering. I fail to understand why potential exceptions to the strict “Stay at Home” message were not made explicit.
Mr Cummings’ account beggars belief. He did not properly explore options in London. He drove 260 miles across the country to what is effectively a “second home”. He says that he went for a drive to test his eyesight breaking the lockdown instructions and possibly the highway code. Implausibly, he is unsure whether he stopped for fuel on the return journey. He says that he, his wife and the PM have sought to keep details of his actions out of the press. He did not apologise for any of this.
If the Prime Minister does not dismiss Mr Cummings the distraction will continue, the mixed healthcare messages will proliferate and the Government’s ability to respond to Covid-19 will be damaged. Please encourage your party to concentrate on saving lives rather than saving careers.
Sent: 25 May 2020 17:53
Subject: Dominic Cummings
Dear Mr Ellis
The Prime Minister’s press briefing yesterday has done untold damage to public confidence in his government at this most important time. In defending the indefensible actions of his advisor, he has undermined his own instructions to the nation and risks a section of the population rejecting current and future government guidance. Please will you impress on your colleagues the urgent need for an investigation into Dominic Cummings actions and a clarifying statement to the nation from the Prime Minister.
Your silence on this matter will not have gone unnoticed by the people of Northampton. I ask that you go on the record and provide the leadership for your constituents that has been lacking from the Prime Minister.
Hello, I am still awaiting a response (even a copy and pasted one would be welcome!) from Gillian Keegan MP for Chichester. My first email was as follows:
Dear Ms Keegan,
I am sure your inbox must be full of messages from angry and disillusioned constituents, so I will be brief and ask direct questions. I hope you will have the integrity to answer these honestly with your own personal opinions, not those prescribed by Conservative Central Office, and that if you do not know the answers you will use your time and resources to find the answers.
I will not ask you questions at this stage for those aspects of this shoddy story that remain in dispute (ie his purported visited to Barnard Castle, and the supposed second visit to Durham on April 19th) but limit myself at this stage to those aspects of the story that are undisputed.
Answering these questions and replying to my email should only take a few moments, except for those questions where you might have to ask your staff to do some research to find out the answers for you.
1. Was it responsible for Mr Cummings to leave his home a day after testing positive for Covid-19? (Yes or no.)
2. Was it responsible for his wife to leave home when already displaying symptoms of the disease? (Again, yes or no)
3. If the reason for them leaving home was to sort out childcare for their child, when explicit government advice was not to leave home, why was it necessary for them both to leave home? (This might take some explaining.)
4. Is it correct that Mr Cummings’ sister-in-law lives in London, and could reasonably have been asked to provide this childcare? (This is yes, no or “I don’t know, but will find out and get back to you”.)
5. If this is not correct, is it reasonable to think that Dominic Cummings should have some friends in a city the size of London who he could have asked for help with childcare, at a time when it has been notable how the community has been pulling together to help each other? (A yes or no scenario again.)
6. If he does not have any friends in London, does this say something about the nature of the man and his personality? (A longer answer required, I suppose.)
7. When did the Prime Minister first know about Mr Cummings’ visit to London? (If you do not know the answer this, please find out and get back to me.)
8. Did Dominic Cummings and his family stop for fuel, comfort stops, food or any other reason between leaving his home in London and arrival in Durham, a journey of at least 4 and a half hours? (Yes, no or “I don’t know, but will find out and get back to you”.)
9. If you agree with the Prime Minister that Mr Cummings acted responsibly are you going to let your constituents know that you feel this way? (Yes or no)
10. Conversely, if you do not agree with the Prime Minister are you going to have the moral courage to stand up and say so? (Yes or no)
I very much hope that you will answer these questions of mine, and not simply respond with a generic answer following the guidelines that you will have been sent by Central Office. If you do not know any of the answers I hope that you will regard it as your public duty to research the answers.
I look forward to hearing from you at your very earliest convenience.
A few days later she gave apathetic interview in our local paper, the Chichester Observer, when she spent a lot of time saying absolutely nothing:
When asked for her opinion on the saga, Chichester’s MP said she can ‘truly appreciate people’s frustration’ but finds it ‘difficult to put myself’ in the situation of Mr Cummings.
“So many have sacrificed an enormous amount to follow the rules and protect others,” Mrs Keegan said.
“We are all anxious to see our families and are now entering our tenth week without being able to do so, something all of us are finding really hard. Ultimately, this sacrifice has been worth it as the NHS hasn’t been overwhelmed and we are now moving cautiously towards a new normal, with greater freedoms.
“As your MP, my focus is entirely on supporting our local services and those of you who have reached out for extra help and support to get through this pandemic.
“Many are very concerned about their health, jobs, businesses and children’s education and future. I apologise to those still waiting, the volume has been unprecedented and we still have many cases to respond to.
“We have received a number of emails from people who are angry with Dominic Cummings and the choices he made to deal with his personal situation. Many disagree with his choices (some agree) and question whether they were within the spirit of the lockdown or within the guidelines.
“As the facts of Mr Cummings’ situation are disputed and there are ongoing investigations, I have made the range of views from constituents known to my Government colleagues.
“I find it difficult to put myself in this situation as I have not had Covid-19, nor do I have a young child, and faced with this situation would hesitate to advise any parent what is best for their family.”
Mrs Keegan said we need to ‘continue to be cautious, keep distant and follow the guidelines’ during this ‘vital period’.
She added: “The Government is focused on making the key decisions which will lead us to the next phase and start to open up and rebuild our economy.
“This will not be easy, we have a great deal of uncertainty ahead of us and we will need all of our collective effort to do so.”
I emailed again. Still no response:
Dear Ms Keegan
Do not think that your pathetic statement to the Observer absolves you of the courtesy of answering my email, fully, with your own opinions. Hopefully by the time you get round to it you may have formed some, or maybe by then you may have a better idea what opinions are most expedient for furthering your political career.
I am not holding my breath.
Rachel Maclean (MP for Redditch), not replying to my mum’s emails (she’s sent two). She was quite annoyed that I’ve already received an excellent email from my Labour MP, Alex Davies-Jones.
Thank you for writing to me recently on the subject of the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser, Dominic Cummings.
I understand that many people are concerned by this issue, especially when so many of us have been following Government guidance so diligently for so long. I am therefore sorry that you felt compelled to write to me and that you have had to wait a few days before getting my response – I wanted to see how the issue unfolded and in particular hear what the police had to say about that matter and whether they intended to take any further action. Also, a number of people have written expressing slightly different views, or making a range of points, so I hope this generic response covers as many angles as possible.
I think we can all agree that Covid-19 has proved to be an incredibly testing time for everyone – whether they are at the top of Government, the front line of the NHS or isolating anxiously at home. I am fully aware of the huge difficulties that the pandemic has placed on all of us and the continuing toll of family separation. One of my own close family members has been in Withybush Hospital (and more recently South Pembs) since February, including nearly three weeks of intensive care, with none of us able to see him.
At his Downing Street press conference on Monday, Dominic Cummings described his actions and decisions when confronted with the onset of Corona virus. And, as I have mentioned, we have now all seen the updated statement from the Durham Constabulary regarding his period of isolation at his parents farm. This can be found at: https://www.durham.police.uk/news-and-events/Pages/News Articles/Durham-Constabulary-press-statement–.aspx I am sure that everyone will by now have reached a view, as has the Prime Minister as his employer.
Now that it has been confirmed by the police (and the Prime Minister) that no further action is being taken, my task is to focus all of my attention on defeating Covid-19 and restoring the Welsh economy as quickly and safely as possible. I am sure you will appreciate why this remains my priority.
Best wishes and thank you again for your patience and forbearance.
Rt Hon Simon Hart MP
Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire / Gorllewin Caerfyrddin a De Sir Benfro
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
T: 020 7219 3000
15 St John Street, Whitland, Carms SA34 0AN
T: 01994 242002
Response from Sir Graham Brady, received yesterday. Not sure whether you have had this one already but here goes.
Thank you for your recent email. I didn’t want to reply until the Durham Constabulary published its conclusions surrounding Dominic Cummings’ actions.
The last week has seen a furore over the conduct of the Prime Minister’s adviser, and there has been palpable and understandable anger from people, contacting me, who think they have seen double standards applied. Some of this has been orchestrated by the left-wing press, political opponents, campaigners or those that disagree with aspects of the Government’s key policies. However I also recognise that much of the outrage has come from people who have never contacted their MP before and are bitterly disappointed with the behaviour of a senior member of staff serving the Government. I am sorry that this has so adversely affected so many people at this testing time.
Since the start of the pandemic, I and colleagues have been arguing for arbitrary rules to be replaced with good information and an appeal to the public to exercise judgment and common sense, but the Government’s message remained blunt. This has meant an increasing number of people have suffered distressing situations of a sort not seen in this country before. Dominic Cummings made a decision that he believed to be in the interests of his family. Without repeating the details, he maintains that he drove from London to Durham without stopping and stayed with his family in isolation until it was safe to return. In order to make that return he says that he tested his driving capabilities by driving to Barnard Castle. Durham Police have now issued a statement saying,
“Durham constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
Had a Durham constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.”
Durham constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the regulations, not the general government guidance to ‘stay at home’)”
One interpretation is that Dominic Cummings behaved in accordance with the rules but took advantage of the detailed exemptions to reflect his family’s situation as he saw it. However – for many of us – it appears that this was certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the Government’s message. I have received hundreds of messages from constituents, mostly from those who are angry that Mr Cummings has retained his job. Many people also wrote to me who have endured tragic experiences over the past few months. Please be assured that although in order to reply in a timely manner it has not been possible to respond to you individually, I have read your words and they played heavily into what I have said to the Prime Minister about this matter.
The employment of Special Advisers remains a matter for the Prime Minister.
Sir Graham Brady MP
Member of Parliament for Altrincham and Sale West
To: Office of Graham Brady
Subject: Letter from your constituent
Wednesday 27 May 2020
Dear Sir Graham,
I write with regard to the current position around the Prime Minister’s
continued support for his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.
It has taken me some time to be calm enough to write to you, because of
the intense anger and disbelief I have felt over the last few days. The
appalling press conference, PM’s subsequent briefing and round of media
appearances by Michael Gove and Matt Hancock have reinforced the view I
have of a Government that is floundering and out of control. The
arrogance defies belief. It is almost inconceivable that our PM is
putting one man ahead of the health of the entire nation but that seems
to be the case and a weak Cabinet is allowing him to do that.
As my MP and Chair of the 1922 Committee, what is your view of the
situation? How does the Government expect people to take any notice of
the advice on COVID 19 when there is no recognition from Ministers that
Cummings bent, if not broke, the rules and no apology? Over 60,000
excess deaths already due to mishandling the response to the virus and
an economy that will suffer far longer term consequences than other
countries as a result of delaying the lockdown. What do you intend to
do about this? Who is going to assume responsibility for addressing
Predictable reply from my MP Robert Courts. Mostly a ‘cut and paste’ from his earlier statement and addressing none of my concerns.
Dear Mr and Mrs Coombs,
Thank you for writing to me about the actions of Dominic Cummings. I understand why so many questions have been asked and it is right that Mr Cummings provide answers. Fairness is embedded in the DNA of our nation and, at a time when the British public have made unprecedented sacrifices, it is only right that those making the rules abide by them.
At the outset, I have never met Mr Cummings and hold no brief for or against him. However, I have said that I think two factors ought to guide how we approach this matter.
Firstly, I do not think that the matter ought to be politicised. I fully understand that Mr Cummings is a divisive figure, who acts as something of a lightning rod for those who dislike what he is seen to stand for. Some people will never forgive him for his role in Brexit, some will dislike him because of his role in the Conservatives’ election victory in December. I accept that for those people, none of what I may have to say here will count for very much.
Nonetheless it seems to me only fair that any man should be judged by what he did set against the law at the time, rather than because people may not like him.
Secondly, I think this matter should be looked at with compassion: Heaven forbid that we should ever be parted from that. Mr Cummings has a young son at about the same age as my own and I fully understand the demands of looking after a toddler even when you yourself are fit and well. In addition, however, Mr Cummings’ wife was ill, he was becoming very seriously ill, he has a job that is pressured to an extent unbelievable unless you have seen it, at a time of national crisis.
With that background, it is worth reminding ourselves of the law as it stood at the time.
The reasonable excuses for leaving home listed in Regulation 6 of the Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations for England, as they stood at the time, are inclusive, not exclusive. In other words, the law does not define what constitutes a reasonable excuse: it merely lists some examples of reasons that would not be unreasonable. The law cannot provide detailed rules for every conceivable situation: some judgement has to be exercised.
Even once we accept that the law does not detail all circumstances, it is worth noting in any event that one of the examples given is “to provide care or assistance…to a vulnerable person” which clearly can include a child that cannot look after itself.
One week before Mr Cummings drove to County Durham, in a conference with the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, the Deputy Medical Officer, Jennie Harries, said “clearly, if you have adults unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d8gjTDkeGc – from 18:15)
And the guidance, in fact, says:
“If you are living with children
Keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.”
And so, the sole issue in the case of Mr Cummings is whether what he and his wife did, in the circumstances as they existed when they drove to County Durham, and when measured against the law as it stood, amounted to “a reasonable excuse”.
In his statement, he gave what I thought was a clear, detailed, honest explanation of what he did at the time, followed by extensive questioning by the media. If you have not seen it in full, then I would encourage you to watch it: https://youtu.be/-mSyZGy8LX8
The question is not whether we agree with him, or whether we would have done the same – but whether what he did was reasonable. Mr Cummings himself accepted that reasonable people might disagree with him – but that is not the question we have to answer.
Having listened to the clear explanation Mr Cummings has given, in which I thought he came across as a man who was trying to do the right thing for his family in extremely difficult circumstances, and when set against the law as it was, I do not think that the Prime Minister’s decision to retain his services is one that can be criticised.
As to whether there is one rule for Westminster and another for everybody else, of course: there is not. The law is what it is, and must be interpreted the same for everybody, dispassionately, coolly and without fear or favour. Were a member of the public to be investigated for a similar breach, I would expect that they too would be treated in a dispassionate manner, save that I would always find space for compassion.
Furthermore, I understand that Durham Police’s investigation has now concluded. A number of points of note arise from their statement, which you can read in full here: https://tinyurl.com/yc39cgtf
Firstly, the police correctly state “we are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home””. This is, of course, precisely the point I have made above.
Secondly, “Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence….” This goes further than the point I made, which only suggested that his action might have been reasonable. The police have decided that it was.
Thirdly, the Barnard Castle trip “might” have been a “minor” breach of the Regulations which the constabulary view as “minor because there was no breach of social distancing” and that had Mr Cummings been stopped at the time and accepted police advice “no enforcement action would have been taken.”
The media reports that the police conclude that Mr Cummings did break the rules are incorrect: the police statement only says “might”. This is not pedantic but a vital principle: the police assemble evidence, they do not decide on whether someone breaches a rule. Only a court can do that – or the person can accept it and receive an on-the-spot fine.
In this case, and fourthly, “there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public” – and so this issue will go no further.
And so the simple question that remains – and in fact has always been the question upon which I can give a position – is whether Mr Cummings should lose his job for a possible minor infraction of the rules for which the police have confirmed they will not be taking any action? If this case were one about a constituent, I would be arguing in the strongest possible terms that they should not be losing their job in such circumstances. I do not see any reason to take a different position about Mr Cummings.
Given the police have made clear that they are taking no action against Mr Cummings, I accept the Prime Minister’s view and, like him, regard this issue as closed.
If any further facts emerge then I will of course reflect on this again, but I do feel that the country ought to return to the very pressing challenge of safely getting our country out of ‘lockdown’ and rebuilding our economy after the horrible coronavirus pandemic. In any event, my primary focus will continue to be on supporting local residents and businesses through this unprecedented crisis.
However, please be assured that I am well aware of the strength of feeling on this matter and, as in all such cases, I can assure you that I have relayed your feelings to the Government.
Many thanks again for taking the time to write to me and keep well.
With every good wish,
Robert Courts MP
Member of Parliament for Witney & West Oxfordshire
Tel: 01993 22 50 20
STAY ALERT. CONTROL THE VIRUS. SAVE LIVES. GOV.UK/CORONAVIRUS
From: David Coombs
Sent: 31 May 2020 16:37
To: COURTS, Robert
Subject: Dominic Cummings
Dear Mr Courts,
As our elected Member of Parliament we are contacting you to make you aware how extremely dissatisfied we both are with the Government’s mis-management of the Dominic Cummings affair.
At a time when the nation should be (and previously was) pulling together in the battle against Covid-19 your leader’s complete incompetence and weakness in his handling of this issue will unfortunately lead to many more deaths.
Prior to starting to write this we thought it best to visit your own web site initially to obtain your e-mail address however we then noticed and read your own statement on Dominic Cummings. We have to say that if this was an attempt to set the record straight and move on to more important things it has completely and utterly failed to convince us. You must be one of the few people who didn’t see his televised statement as anything other than a complete ‘car crash’ and his actions and timeline of events is completely unbelievable and certainly doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as has been shown on many occasions by people across the political spectrum over recent days.
We can only assume given your record of fully supporting Mr Johnson prior to and since becoming PM that this is some sort of attempt to ‘close ranks’ which is extremely disappointing given the increasing number of your party colleagues who have at least shown some honesty in condemning Cummings’s actions. Actions which as recently as last night were considered wrong by the Deputy CMO. (what a shame the PM tried to stifle free speech at a recent briefing himself – what happened to open and honest government?)
The PM’s leadership in recent weeks has been nothing short of disastrous. His latest moves in easing lockdown are clearly driven by political and economic needs rather than the health of the nation. We have already seen numerous examples of social distancing being ignored which will I fear result in further unnecessary deaths.
It may well be too late but the only way this Government can recover any credibility in the eyes of the public is to require Cummings to resign or for the PM to dismiss him. I suspect neither will happen however we request that you as our representative in Parliament make the PM aware of our views which, from what we can see, represent the majority of public opinion.
We would appreciate a response confirming you have in fact done as we have asked.
David and Maureen Coombs
My reply from Dr Caroline Johnson
Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about Dominic Cummings.
I fully understand why this has stirred strong emotions for so many people, given the many sacrifices individuals have had to bear for the greater good. I’m very sorry to hear about your neighbour and I hope she makes a full recovery.
This is not a situation anyone would have wanted and I commend everyone who has followed the Government’s guidance to stay at home and helped to protect both the NHS and our wider community.
I have received an exceptional amount of correspondence since the weekend, both from those who support the Prime Minister’s decision to retain Mr Cummings and those who oppose it. I have done my best to take in all of the different opinions and commentary on this matter and, like you, to learn the facts and come to my own judgement.
The guidance followed by Mr Cummings on ‘staying at home’ during the lockdown does state that, “We are aware that not all these measures will be possible if you are living with children”. This can be read online, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection
Durham Constabulary has put out a statement that it does not consider Mr Cummings going to his father’s house to isolate an offence. The visit to Barnard Castle, in their view, “might” have been a “minor breach” that they do not believe requires further action. The statement can be read in full, here: https://www.durham.police.uk/news-and-events/Pages/News%20Articles/Durham-Constabulary-press-statement–.aspx
I believe that senior political advisors must be held to the high standards of their office and the Prime Minister was right to ask Mr Cummings to explain his actions extensively in a statement, and to answer all questions put to him by the media last Sunday, to allow the public to judge for themselves. Ultimately whether or not he keeps his job based on this information is not a matter for me, but for the Prime Minister. Having studied the above documents and Mr Cummings statement, I support the PM’s decision.
There has been extensive debate on the details provided by Mr Cummings and no doubt this will continue. Ultimately, however, we are still in a state of national crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic and I truly believe that the best thing we can all do now is focus on matters relating to public health in the coming weeks, including ensuring children are returning to school as safely as possible, that shops are starting to reopen with appropriate measures taken, and that the new ‘Test and Trace’ system is working so that we can ease the lockdown whilst also preventing a second wave of the pandemic.
This new system will ensure that anyone with symptoms receives a test and that their close contacts are traced. If someone tests positive, those contacts will be asked to isolate for the incubation period of 14 days to prevent potential viral spread. More information, including how to get tested, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-nhs-test-and-trace-service
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. I wish you and your family well at this challenging time.
Dr Caroline Johnson MBBS MRCPCH
MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham
MP for Chippenham Michelle Donelan’s letter to constituents was published on Saturday evening but only as a photo so the text can’t be copied here. I have sent to your speaker email address.
I understand and feel the public anger at the perceived situation regarding the actions of Dominic Cummings during the lockdown. So many families have sacrificed not seeing their loved ones, often in time of need, to protect them and the public for the fear of spreading Coronavirus.
My family and I have found it difficult too, like many others. My three-year-old son hasn’t seen his father for two months, and he doesn’t understand why. My son’s third birthday was also spent just him and me without his family.
During this difficult time, I have spoken to many constituents and heard many terrible stories of people losing loved ones without being able to see them. It really has been a dark time for most people in the UK and around the world.
However, having listened to his statement, I believe he offered a fair explanation as to the logic behind why he felt it necessary to make this trip. He and his family home have been targeted, and as someone who has suffered death threats, and targeted damage to my home and office, the safety of your children must be a priority. Mr Cummings acted as a father trying to protect his child.
In his statement, Mr Cummings explained that his choices were based on the lack of alternatives and the potential inability for both him and his wife to care for their child in London, and he presented specific sections in the guidelines apparently allowing him to find alternative childcare elsewhere. The legitimacy of his travel and permanence in County Durham and his adherence to the guidelines have been judged by the local police forces which, so far, have not fined him.
With specific regards to the car journey during Mr Cummings’ time to Barnard Castle, after a period of feeling so unwell I can understand why Mr Cummings’ wife might suggest this idea in order to avoid complications on the way back to London. I am sympathetic to this reasoning, but I do agree with the reservations of some of the people who have contacted me, and further, I do not feel I personally would have made this trip. I am remaining objective.
I know how the media can distort and exaggerate situations to make headlines, as I have had the same happen to me since becoming a Member of Parliament.
I also know how political agendas have been played out during this time and how Mr Cummings is a definite target for many opponents. We all should instead be working together for the sake of national unity during this unprecedented global crisis.
This aside, I do believe in the principle of innocent ‘until proven guilty’ and to not condemn people via social media and the mob rule, but instead to investigate their actions by the proper channels.
Regardless of one’s thought on this issue, I hope you will agree with me that the harassment Mr Cummings has received at his private residence, notably by crowds of people not maintaining social distancing, in London and his parents had to endure in County Durham is not acceptable.
If Mr Cummings has behaved illegally as some accuse him, it would be for Durham Police to investigate. I note that following looking into this matter, the Durham police have stated that there is no further action to be taken. However, surely as a matter of fairness, those from other parties who broke the rules at the height of the Coronavirus lockdown should be investigated too.
Most importantly, I believe that we should put our energies into fighting this terrible virus that has claimed so many lives. I will quite rightly, however, convey my constituents’ views to our government. So please rest assured that I will put your personal views forward.
Andrea Jenkyns MP
———- Forwarded message ———
From: Jeremy Quin MP
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2020 at 12:18
Subject: Dominic Cummings (Case Ref: J*******)
Dear Tom *******,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings.
We have seen, week after week, the huge toll this virus is taking on people, on livelihoods and above all on families and friends: not being able to visit relatives, some of whom have been in their last days, nor attend the funerals of loved ones.
I was therefore not at all surprised at the reaction to the newspapers’ revelations.
I did not rush to comment immediately as I wanted to hear both sides of the story. I listened closely to Mr Cummings’ detailed statement in which he answered an exhaustive list of questions.
Having done so I considered Mr Cummings’ actions and the views of constituents both expressing support and strong disapproval. I published a statement on my website on Thursday 28th May and am writing to set out my views. I am very sorry not to be able to reply to every email received personally.
I recognise that, at the time of his actions, he was under enormous pressure and was motivated by his desire to protect his son when he was worried that both he and his wife could be incapacitated. It was a human reaction. I also recognise that the care of a vulnerable individual can present “exceptional circumstances” in the application of the guidelines.
I accept that he remained in self-isolation with his immediate family; he was not staying with his sister or parents but in a separate cottage and remained socially distanced.
I appreciate that these factors may do little to soften the outrage I know many feel, especially having made such enormous sacrifices.
I understand why people may come to a different conclusion than me and have ensured that I have passed on the views of constituents who have emailed. However I came to the view that I did not feel his removal from office would be helpful, especially at a time when we are at a critical point down the path of suppressing the infection and need to focus intensely on this one overwhelming priority.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to email me.
Member of Parliament for Horsham
Horsham RH12 1AB
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Response from Chris Skidmore received 1/6/20.
Thank you for your email regarding the Prime Minister’s Adviser Dominic Cummings.
I have waited to reply until the facts of the case were clear, and the police investigation into the matter had concluded. This is a practice I have maintained ever since being elected as a MP, and will continue to do so.
I understand your frustration and anger at this situation. Millions of families have sacrificed so much to ensure that the spread of the virus has been contained, and it is important that we continue to do so. I know personally that this is a very difficult time for everyone, having close family members who are being shielded also.
As I mentioned, the investigation by Durham Police into the matter has now reported. In their statement, the police have stated:
On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.
Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)
On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.
Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
The full statement can be read here: https://www.durham.police.uk/news-and-events/Pages/News%20Articles/Durham-Constabulary-press-statement–.aspx
In addition, Dominic Cummings gave his account of his actions to the media, in a statement which can be read here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dominic-cummings-statement-speech-transcript-durham-full-text-read-lockdown-a9531856.html
Mr Cummings has stated that he entirely understands why people may disagree with how he acted. It is clear from the police statement that he has not broken the law, and that any breach of regulations was a minor one. The Prime Minister has stated that Dominic Cummings has his full support, and as his employer, the matter over Mr Cummings’ employment rests with him.
Personally, while I agree with the Prime Minister who regrets the pain and anger caused by the confusion, I do not believe that Dominic Cummings should resign. I have not called for any other resignations, nor passed comment on individual circumstances of those who have been highlighted in the media previously, and I do not feel that at a time when we must be focusing 100% on defeating Coronavirus, that people who have not explicitly broken the law should be sacked. Mr Cummings is employed by the Prime Minister, at the Prime Minister’s discretion, and decisions are ultimately taken by the Prime Minister. I continue to support the decision that the Prime Minister has taken, as I support and have confidence in his government, and will continue to do so.
Thank you again for contacting me. I understand that this is not the answer you may have wanted, but it is the view that I hold.
The Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP
Member of Parliament for Kingswood
Initial response from James Brokenshire, followed by a further response after my reply in which I expressed disappointment.
Dear Ms Bates,
Thank you for contacting me about the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings. I understand the strength of feeling that this incident has caused given the requirements to follow the public health rules to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. I know that this has meant so many sacrifices. Given the number of emails and letters I have received and my desire to provide a response in as timely a manner as possible, I am sorry if my reply does not address all the points you highlight, but I hope it sets out my thoughts on some of the key concerns.
Dominic Cummings’ compliance with public health restrictions has been put in the spotlight following his travel and stay in the North East with his family. He has asserted that he complied with the rules given the particular family circumstances which he set out in detail in his statement. People will reach their own views on Mr Cummings’ actions and I respect your opinion that they breached the guidelines. I have underlined the strength of feeling on this issue at senior levels of Government.
During a recent media interview when I was asked about the resignation of the Government’s then scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson over an alleged breach of the lockdown restrictions, I said that there could not be one rule for one and one rule for everyone else. This remains my position and no-one is above the law.
Ultimately, it is for the Police to determine if there has been any breach of the law and regulations. I note that Durham Police are reported to be reviewing the facts and circumstances to consider what further action may be appropriate. In respecting the operational independence of the Police, I do not think it would be appropriate to pre-empt the outcome of any such work by calling for Mr Cummings to resign. It is right, however, that should new information come to light, the Prime Minister review the situation again – as he has said he would.
It is essential that we remain focused on the urgent task at hand of dealing with the Coronavirus crisis. We must continue to control the virus to enable the release of lockdown restrictions and start the process of rebuilding our economy and life in general. Nothing can distract from this national effort.
Thank you again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I wish you and your family well at this difficult time.
Dear Ms Bates,
Thank you for your further email in connection with the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings. Following my original reply to you, Durham Police have obviously now concluded their review of the circumstances surrounding Mr Cummings’ time in the North East.
Durham Police have said that they do not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises Mr Cummings committed any offence. They have also said that the subsequent drive to Barnard Castle might have been a minor breach of the Regulations, but in the circumstances, they do not think that any further action is appropriate.
I recognise that you may disagree, but following the Police’s statement the Prime Minister has formed the view that the matter is now closed. Ultimately, decisions on whom he believes should advise him are properly for him. I am sorry for the upset this whole situation has caused at this incredibly difficult and sensitive time – especially when the challenges surrounding the control of the virus as well as the urgent need to rejuvenate our economy to protect jobs and livelihoods firmly remain.
Thank you again for contacting me with your further thoughts.
No standard reply from Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and South Downs. However, he has recently changed his automatic reply, which is worth noting in itself.
On 18th March I received this:
“Thank you for your email, which I am pleased to confirm has been received by my office.
COVID – 19 PLEASE NOTE – During this difficult time I remain in Westminster and will read all incoming emails. However, as a responsible employer my staff are now working from home and my ability to reply to all but the most urgent cases is significantly reduced. It will help all concerned if, wherever possible, constituents are understanding of this and take comfort from the fact that the email has reached me and been read without requiring a reply.
It is a long established parliamentary convention that MP’s only act or communicate with their own constituents, so please check that your email includes your full name and full address including postcode and if not, please resend your email again now with that information. If you are not 100% certain whether I am your MP, you can find out by entering your postcode on the Parliament Website here.
In order to find out about my work you are encouraged to subscribe to my regular newsletter by following this link: https://www.andrewgriffithmp.com/subscribe
I receive a lot of standard emails which are pre-scripted by campaign websites and organisations. I do collect and read all of these emails and welcome this is a healthy and efficient way of constituents engaging in the democratic process and influencing the way in which I may vote. However, please understand that I do not have the resources to reply to them.
I should add that I am responsible for the safety and well being of my team and have a zero-tolerance for abuse in any form which, in addition to not being responded to, will be reported to the Parliamentary Authorities.
Andrew Griffith MP
Member of Parliament for Arundel & South Downs”
Recently it has been updated to state a preference for communications via the post rather than email (if you would like a reply). This was received by a friend on 27th May:
“The single best way to contact me is via a letter. All of these will be replied to personally by me and it also supports our important rural postal service.”
And then all the standard stuff about only communicating with their own constituents etc.
It seems a bit odd to tell constituents that they will only get a reply if they pay for a stamp and post something. It also seems to fly in the face of minimising non essential journeys when an email carries zero chance of spreading the virus.
I emailed my Plaid MP and received this response. I wasn’t even acknowledged by my name! :
“Thank you for your e-mail to Jonathan Edwards MP.
Mr Edwards has asked me to forward his reply in the first instance.
Please find Mr Edwards’ reply below.
Please do not hesitate to contact the constituency office if Mr Edwards can be of any further assistance in the future.
Many thanks for your message. I share your sentiments.
For me there is a wider issue than the actions of one individual in the manner the British Government have used mixed messaging and smoke screens as a political tactic during this affair to maximise confusion.
The best article I have read on the affair is by the Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole.
I think the scale of matter goes far beyond the actions of one individual. It raises wider questions about political discourse over recent years.
I hope this brief reply gives you an indication of my thinking. Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me.
Yn gywir iawn,
Jonathan Edwards MP/AS “
I have now received a full comment on Dominic Cummings from Sheryll Murray South East Cornwall.
It is quite a classic and I would like to send it to you it, but not sure how?
My MP , Miriam Cates, still hasn’t answered my e mail of 25/05/2020 – although I have been informed in the automatic answer that they can’t respond to mass ‘campaign’ e mails but not to worry, my thoughts have been passed on to the relative minister – I didn’t send a campaign e mail, I raised a point of concern with my MP and I expect a better response than that.
I think you’re missing John Howell MP for Henley.
Here’s the two emails I received:
Thank you for emailing me. I can understand that this issue is causing concern. A number of questions arise from the stories in the Guardian and the Daily Mirror. However, I personally do not know the full details of Mr Cummings visit to a location near his child’s grandparents and I am not going to play the role of judge, jury and executioner that many in the press and on social media want me to play. I am certainly not going to do this until I am aware of all the facts.
This is the current advice https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing I do not know whether his child needed special medical attention and care; I do not know whether his wife needed hospitalisation, and, I do not know from whom he may have sought advice. I know nothing of Mr Cummings domestic life.
In the advice you will see that moving children is permitted in certain circumstances. So, as I am as yet unaware of all the circumstances I do not think it appropriate for me to comment without finding the details. Thank you for your input.
Followed by this:
Thank you for your email concerning Dominic Cummings. I understand your feelings on this issue and appreciate all that you have been doing at this time.
I have put my views on this on my website at https://www.johnhowell.org.uk/news/response-regarding-dominic-cummings
I am sorry that I cannot engage with further correspondence on this issue as I now need to focus on dealing with other problems that constituents are facing.
The Blog says this (supports calls for an inquiry):
At the weekend I wrote:
Thank you for your email. I understand and share your concerns. The advice to stay at home has been important in dealing with the pandemic and it has been difficult for many people, including me.
Dominic Cummings is a public figure and as such his actions deserve scrutiny. I said over the weekend that I would seek more information and I have now done so. However Dominic Cummings has been a figure of hate for some time amongst some and we need try to separate the politics from the personal in this situation. In the interests of due fairness, I believe that the only way this can be done is for an independent investigation, rather than simply dismissing him, and I have supported the calls for the Cabinet Secretary to do this quickly.
On Monday Dominic Cummings made a statement setting out his side of the story and answered media questions. I thought the statement showed that he takes seriously the need for scrutiny and that he approached it with a great deal of humility. However, the political antagonism towards him has become clearer too even though he shared personal details such as not being able to attend the funeral of the member of his family who died during this period.
Following that Statement I continued to support calls for the Cabinet Secretary to conduct an independent investigation. I still think that that is the best option regardless of what the Prime Minister said at the Liaison Committee in the House of Commons. I shall therefore continue to call for such an enquiry. This does not need to be a long process and would be more in the interests of justice than simply dismissing him. The purpose of such an enquiry is not to establish the facts of what happened but to establish the nature of the actions.
I have every sympathy for the many and varied problems that we have all faced in this lockdown. All Government guidelines require us to use common sense and do what is right in our own circumstances; it is impossible to set out guidance for every possible situation. This does not suggest a free for all and I do not accept that this affair has ended the need for compliance with the rules of lockdown. There is nothing I would rather see than the end of this virus and I will continue to follow lockdown guidelines to achieve this.
Some people have asked me to make a statement on whether or not I think Dominic Cummings should resign. I did not do so in the case of Professor Neil Ferguson or of Dr Catherine Calderwood and I am not going to do so now simply because it is Dominic Cummings involved. I have called for those who can investigate fully and independently to do so. I will not add to the public hounding led by the media.
I have finally received a response from my MP, Nadine Dorries. You can see my initial email (I sent two) as well. Feel free to use it as you see fit. Could she be more patronising? Or indeed a worse MP? I particularly like ‘if you’ve any other issues you’d like to raise’ as she’s barely answered a single email I’ve sent her – and I’ve sent quite a few.
Thank you for your email about Dominic Cummings. I have taken note of constituent correspondence on this subject and the strong feelings expressed.
I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me. If you have any other issues you’d like to raise then please don’t hesitate to write to me again.
From: Sharon Eckman
Sent: 25 May 2020 09:16
To: DORRIES, Nadine
Subject: Letter from your constituent Sharon Eckman
5 Long Row
Monday 25 May 2020
Dear Nadine Dorries,
I, along with the vast majority of the country, have followed the
lockdown rules to the letter. I know people who haven’t been able to go
to family funerals, my friend’s husband has been in intensive care for
9 weeks with Covid and she has not been able to see him, parents with
autistic children who have had Covid STILL keeping to the rules. Need I
Yet once again it’s one rule for Dominic Cummings and this government
and another for the rest.
I am beyond furious. It is an utter disgrace that Cummings is being
protected by Johnson, it is an utter disgrace that he is allowed to
continue in post when others have sacrificed so much to adhere by them.
As my representative in Parliament I insist you make my feelings known.
Response from Mark Francois, received just now…
Thank you for your recent email regarding the Prime Minister’s adviser, Mr Dominic Cummings. You might like to know that this is one of around three hundred which I have now received from my constituents on this subject. Given the large number of emails, it has taken me a few days to reply but I am now responding to each constituent in turn, yourself included.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of Mr Cummings’ actions, as we have now been in Lockdown for slightly over two months, I can well understand why they have led to a considerable amount of public anger. For instance, for someone who might have been living in a flat without a garden with two very lively children for two months, obeying the guidelines, I can immediately see why they might feel pretty aggrieved, by what they have seen reported in the national media.
As I understand it, Mr Cummings continues to insist that, partly because of the exceptional circumstances provision within the guidelines, regarding care for young children, he did not contravene the guidelines during his trip to Durham, to isolate with his family. However, while I was watching his detailed explanation during his press conference, I was struck that one thing was still missing – an apology.
For instance, if he had said something to the effect that: “I do not believe what I did was contrary to the guidelines but, nevertheless, if I have caused any offence or anger to other people who have had to endure the Lockdown, then I sincerely apologise”, I think then more people might at least have been minded to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, for whatever reason, he did not.
As your Member of Parliament, I have made plain to my own Party Whips and indeed to senior staff in 10 Downing Street that I still feel Mr Cummings should publicly apologise for all the upset he has caused – whether inadvertently or otherwise. I will continue to argue that Mr Cummings should publicly apologise, when I return to Westminster tomorrow.
In the meantime, I copying this letter to Mark Spencer MP, the Government Chief Whip, so that he is aware of my feelings on this matter.
Miriam Cates MP has now replied – a bit long and rambling but more or less endorsing Dominic Cummings actions, and no other correspondence will be entered into!
From Jane Hunt, MP for Loughborough
Many thanks for your email regarding the actions taken by the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister.
I have read every email received on the subject and noted your anger and disappointment about the events that have happened. I have also passed on a note of this dissatisfaction to the office of the Prime Minister, highlighting the strength of the feeling of a number of the Loughborough constituents. Not all messages received were against what had been done, but very many were.
I do not think it is for me to comment on the actions taken in instances such as these. My understanding is that the matter has been raised with Durham Police and that they have the authority to take action should they think it appropriate.
I am also far less concerned with the actions of one man and his family than I am for the concerns of local residents. You have contacted me in your thousands during the lockdown with questions and requests for help regarding your business, your jobs, your health, education, PPE and many, many other issues which have all been hugely important. I an my team have tried to assist every constituent by finding answers for you and arguing the case on your behalf where needed. To me, that is what I am here for: to represent the Loughborough constituency in Westminster and to get the very best for our residents that I can.
In the heat of the answer regarding Mr Cummings, it is possible that we may lose sight of the purpose of the lockdown. Unchecked, the virus would have been far worse and would almost certainly have engulfed the capacity of the NHS to deal with the infection. Your actions have been instrumental in reducing the virus and I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have taken personal action during this period to ensure their personal health and that of their families, neighbours and the local community has been maintained. You have done the right thing and I ask that you please continue to do so.
I recognise that there will there will be many who are still very angry about this situation, but I would ask that we focus on our local area: on getting our business back up and running; on setting to work to improve Loughborough town centre and support our local shops and pubs; and on supporting our school, colleges and university as hey move towards helping their pupils and students return to their studies safely. As it is only in doing so that we can ensure our communities continue to thrive.
With my very best wishes.
Jane Hunt MP
Thank you for your email regarding Dominic Cummings and the ongoing Covid19 outbreak.
My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones during this difficult time.
I totally understand the frustration people feel – in our area there has been a high level of compliance with guidelines which has helped control the virus. Thank you for the many personal sacrifices you have made. Like everyone else my family have not been able to spend time together and this has been particularly difficult for grandparents and grandchildren. During the last couple of months a number of friends have lost loved ones from other causes, and of course social distancing has made it even harder to bear. I myself recently attended a funeral of a friend and it was clearly an even more difficult experience for the close family as a result of the Covid19 restrictions.
My team and I have been working flat out to help people locally with all kinds of problems caused by the virus and there are lots of other issues that we need to focus on and get right: like how we reopen schools and local shops safely; and how we deal with the job losses and hardship this virus has brought, and how to get the economy back on its feet.
Regarding Mr Cummings, the facts have been emerging in recent days, so it may be too soon to come to a definitive judgement.
As far as I can see, he isolated himself and his family in a separate house on a remote farm. Apart from an unavoidable trip to A&E for a seriously ill child, they didn’t come into contact with anyone.
I agree that as someone setting the rules it would have been far, far better if he could have self-isolated in his primary residence in London. Against that, he says he had no-one to call on to look after their four year old locally and feared both parents would be completely out of action. As a parent in that situation I would always seek to do the best for my children, and it’s difficult to say how one might react in similar circumstances.
I am aware that Durham Police launched an investigation into the matter and having subsequently looked at the evidence they concluded that no further action would be taken. They did not consider that anything was done that would have caused them to charge him, or any other citizen.
I will now focus on supporting businesses, small business people and trying to help save as many jobs as possible as we start to reopen the economy, whilst not being complacent about the very real threat that Covid-19 poses.
Once again thank you for contacting me.
Marcus Jones MP
My MP’s reply (Tory, Burton and Uttoxeter) is very convincing and almost makes you believe that
1. She cares
2. She understands and she may be in a similar situation
However, quickly changes gear and supports the government
Statement regarding Dominic Cummings
Tuesday, 26 May, 2020
Thank you to those who have emailed me over the past few days in relation to Dominic Cummings. I have held off publishing my response because I wanted to wait until we had all the facts and until after yesterday’s press conference. If you didn’t watch the press conference, I would urge you to do so:
As I am sure you can imagine, I have had hundreds of emails over the past few days from people angry about the revelations that have come to light. These sentiments have been clearly expressed to the Prime Minister, and like you, I was also angry about the suggestion that a senior Government official might not have been sticking to the same regulations that you and I have.
Over the past 10 weeks, I have spoken to many constituents and given advice about what I believe the regulations do and don’t allow, and I know many residents and their families have had to make huge sacrifices and some very difficult decisions. As a single parent of a young daughter, I also understand the very real concerns about what would happen to her if I had got the virus; and I know this is something that many constituents have also worried about.
I do not know Dominic Cummings and have never met him. However, I do recognise that he clearly battled with similar decisions, amid doing a stressful job and feeling his family home was under threat. Mr Cummings has set out the facts of the matter and the reasoning behind the decisions he took. I welcome his openness about this, but clearly it would have been better if he had come forward with this information sooner.
I know many constituents who have heard the statement have raised further questions about alternative actions that may have been available to him. Mr Cummings was extensively questioned by the media yesterday, and I do not believe there is anything further to gain from an unelected official being questioned further. I think Mr Cummings has explained how he believed his actions fit within the regulations, but I do not believe I would have made the same choices that he did.
Above all, I feel that this weekend has been an unhelpful distraction from the genuine needs of my constituents during this pandemic. I will take the time to respond to the 300+ emails on this matter, but please bear with me while I prioritise those who are asking for assistance with personal or business matters.
I know constituents are very angry, and I’m concerned by the messages I am receiving that the confidence in the guidelines may have been threatened. Please remain steadfast in your commitment to them. To all of you who have stuck to the rules and made personal sacrifices to do so, I am enormously grateful to all of you. Please do not let your anger over Mr Cummings’ actions undo all the hard work you have put in to flattening the curve and keeping yourselves and your families safe.
Reply from Gareth Bacon.
Includes the extraordinary claim that DC thought he had to go to Durham to avoid his child being taken into care.
Also states that DC was being harassed by ‘hostile political activists’ outside his house.
Gareth Bacon was one of the first to issue a statement purporting to believe DC’s excuses.
Note how he shuts me down before he signs off, saying he won’t comment further.
Dear Ruth Thorpe,
Thank you for your email about Dominic Cummings.
I fully acknowledge the sacrifices made by so many during the lockdown period and the very real anger that many people have regarding Mr Cummings’ reported movements. The overwhelming majority of people, including me, have observed lockdown as best they can and many people have lost friends or relatives to this virus and seen others become gravely ill. Nobody has been untouched by this crisis and the perception that someone in a senior position might be flouting the rules understandably makes people very angry.
I posted a statement on Monday evening (25th May) following the press conferences at Downing Street. In my statement I set out my views. You can view the statement here:
I have tried to be open minded about it – there was much speculation circulating in the media before he gave his press conference. The key points for me were the fact that his wife was sick (although they did not yet know it was COVID), he might get sick (as he later did) and that if he did childcare would become a major problem. Added to that, his home address is known and is regularly barracked by very hostile political activists, which is deeply unpleasant, and not something that most people have experienced, but which he has been subjected to off and on since the Referendum four years ago.
He would not have had access to childcare at home, other than his son having to go into care. I know of no parent who would ever allow their child to go into care if they had an alternative, which is why I believe he chose to drive to his father’s farm and self-isolate there. He is fortunate to have that option, which many people do not. But, as I said in my statement, I do not believe that that on its own is a reason to condemn him.
Since I issued my statement, the Durham Constabulary issued a statement (28th May) regarding the findings of their investigation. Had the Durham Constabulary stated that a serious infraction of the law had taken place I would have revisited my position.
If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to read Durham Police’s statement in full.
It can be viewed here:
The salient parts read as follows:
“On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father. Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.” (my italics, highlighting and underlining)
It then goes on to describe Dominic Cummings’ journey to Barnard Castle, stating:
“Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing. (my italics, highlighting and underlining)
Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.”
The statement concludes:
“Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.
Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.” (my italics)
They have concluded that there was no breach in relation to the trip to Durham and only might have been a minor breach in relation to the drive to Castle Barnard that requires no further action. Therefore, in the absence of any additional facts I will not be changing my position and have nothing further to add on this matter.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Gareth Bacon MP
Tel: 0207 219 6806
Office of Gareth Bacon MP
Member of Parliament for Orpington
Parliamentary Office: Constituency Office:
Office of Gareth Bacon MP 6 Sevenoaks Road
House of Commons Orpington
London BR6 9JJ
0207 219 6806 01689 820347
Parliamentary protocol dictates that Members of Parliament may only deal with issues on behalf of their own constituents. All appointments are subject to Parliamentary duties and may need to be changed accordingly.
From Sir Greg Knight
Dear Kim Bevan
Thank you for taking the time to comment about the actions of Dominic Cummings.
Being informed of your views is important to me as your Member of Parliament as it allows me to relay your observations directly to Government and raise them at the highest level. I have now conveyed your sentiments on to the Prime Minister who is aware of what my constituents think of Mr Cummings and his trip to Durham.
Ultimately, it is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to decide whether Mr Cummings’ behaviour, in any respect, warrants the decision being made that his own adviser’s employment should be terminated.
The Government guidance under which Mr Cummings acted says: ‘If you have children, keep following this advice to the best of your ability. However, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.’
However, I am aware that some people still wish to see Mr Cummings resign from his position and as mentioned, I have already passed on local concerns expressed to me in this regard.
My own view is that he should not receive preferential treatment but like everyone else, he should still be afforded the prospect of being dealt with fairly. If he fails to abide by the law of the land, I would expect to see an investigation to be carried out by the police.
The issue of whether or not the lockdown law was broken is not one for the Prime Minister to determine, nor for me, or the press but is a matter for the police. Indeed, I understand that Durham Police have now concluded their investigation into the allegations made against Mr Cummings.
The police have determined that his initial trip was not a breach of the lockdown but have also suggested that Mr Cummings might have committed what they call “a minor breach of the guidelines” when he drove to Barnard Castle on 12th April.
In respect of this “minor” possible breach, the police have also now announced that they will not be taking any further action.
Living through the lockdown has not been easy for anyone and there are many lessons to be learned so we can respond effectively in the future. Our globally unprecedented package of financial support means millions can return to jobs that would otherwise have been lost and the new test-and-trace strategy should mean that, looking ahead, coronavirus can be better contained,
I do believe that we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who have stayed at home and to our exceptional NHS staff and the countless volunteers and key workers who have helped during this new and still unpredictable threat.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. I hope, as a nation, that we can remain on course in our shared goals to protect lives, defeat this virus and to return the UK to normality as soon as is safely possible.
Rt Hon Sir Greg Knight
Member of Parliament for East Yorkshire
Hello Mr Campbell.
Firstly, I just want to say well done. Please don’t stop holding these shameless, dishonest, toadying lackeys to account.
I wrote to my local MP, by email, on Thursday 28th May…….probably two or three days later than I should have done. Though I was quite busy, working, self-employed, from home, trying to reinvigorate the UK economy. My MP is Robbie Moore, Keighley and Ilkley (your old stamping ground, I believe), who took the seat at the last election for the Conservatives with a very slim majority of 2,218.
After having sent a few follow-up emails, I was told, yesterday, that a written response is in the post to me.
While wondering what took Mr Moore so long, and what he might have been up to, a took a quick glance at his Twitter feed. Little on there of interest……and certainly, as far as I could tell – I don’t use Twitter myself – no mention of Dominic Cummings and issues surrounding this. I did see that Mr Moore had found the time, rather than replying to my email, to tweet/retweet some heartwarming stories about local volunteers (usually children, to avoid any political pitfalls) in the Keighley and Ilkley areas. There have been a lot of these MPs’ appeals to, and applause for, the great spirit of the British public over the last few weeks.
So………….my question is this: am I able to ask for a Freedom of Information request as to which MPs have spent any time over the last 10 weeks, between tweeting & altering old blogs etc., in volunteering in Covid-related activities/organisations (i.e. preferably recognised, organised groups; rather than unverifiable claims of shopping for elderly neighbours etc.). I have never made an FOI request before. Looked online, and still unclear whether I can make an FOI request of MPs.
PS…….for the record…….I volunteered for the Ilkley Coronavirus Response team, myself (one of 457 people to do so), and did leafleting early on around Ilkley; I also volunteered for the NHS Volunteer Responders on the first day……………though have not had any request to do anything for them; I also (verifiably, or possibly unverifiably……ha ha) do shopping for an elderly neighbour, which predates Covid lockdown.
Any help on this question would be gratefully received.
PS just re-read this email, twice, to check on my punctuation etc.. I hadn’t realised that you were such a grammar Nazi (nazi?). I have probably made numeours errors, but do please note by double full stop when I end a sentence with ‘etc.’.
Dear Mr Davey,
Thank you for your email about the Prime Minister’s adviser, Dominic Cummings. Please forgive me for taking longer than usual to reply. As you can imagine, I have received a very large number of emails about this issue. I have already made my own position clear to the Prime Minister and have also made sure that he is aware of the strength of feeling of many people who live in my Epping Forest constituency.
I share your concerns about the importance of observing the very restrictive rules under which we have all had to live during this unprecedented crisis. It would have been better if Mr Cummings had stuck more rigidly to those rules and set an example for the rest of the country.
My heart goes out to the many, many families who have not been able to be with their loved ones at their time of need and sometimes, tragically, in their last hours.
Whether Mr Cummings was right or wrong, I had hoped that he would apologise for the consternation that his course of action has caused. I am disappointed that he has not done so.
I hope that, looking forward, we can now all concentrate on doing our best to continue to combat the effects of the Virus and to help each other to get through this very stressful time. The vast majority of people throughout our country have worked with dedication and behaved with good sense during these difficult and disturbing weeks. We have achieved the first goal, to protect the NHS. I hope we can now go on working together to look after people who are vulnerable and to get our country moving again.
I appreciate your taking the time to contact me about this controversial and sensitive matter. As ever, your views and opinions are important to me.