Well, I asked for that … if you urge people to send letters to MPs, and keep me in touch with their replies, I shouldn’t be surprised then to get bombarded. So this post has been edited down from well over 40,000 words of cutting and pasting the letters, many of which seem to have a fair but of cut and paste work done to them in the first place.
I am just little old me with a bit of research support, but thank you for sending them to me. Not just to those who have sent the replies, which I am still working through. But for naming those who have not. That is a subject we can return to another time. It is scandalous how many MPs, especially Tories, simply do not bother taking their constituents’ correspondence seriously. To those not getting a reply, I suggest you tweet them daily, until they reply, tagging your local paper, saying ‘You are my MP. I wrote to you on [date]. Many other MPs have written back to their constituents, as you will see [post this blog or other media stories on this issue]. What makes you so special?’ Or, a more or less polite version according to your taste.
To those who have never written to their MP before, here is a reminder of how you make contact. And, to those who have had a reply, and are not satisfied with it … write back and tell them that too. Believe me, MPs can be shifted in their views by their mailbags and inboxes.
One Tory MP, with whom I have been friendly for many years, and who has yet to finalise his reply to constituents (Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings will not enjoy it when it comes) told me he had had over 1,300 emails about Cummings, more than any single issue ‘since you lot tried to get rid of foxhunting,’ when the Countryside Alliance organised a mass write-in and one of the biggest protests ever seen in Britain.
‘I reckon half a dozen have taken what you might call the Number 10/Central Office line,’ he said. ‘The rest are just cold, hard anger.’
Many of the replies, I suspect, are going to fuel that anger. So many of them clearly are saying what they don’t really think, and certainly not what their constituents think, but the cut and paste ‘Cummings defence’ sent to them from Number 10, Party HQ and the whips’ office.
As a grammar Nazi, I am also truly appalled, and shocked, at how badly written so many of them are – and don’t give me the ‘it will be someone in the office who did it,’ excuse. If it goes out in your name, you make sure it’s right. I really think they need a re-education course in the use of commas, apostrophes and how to avoid split infinitives. Perhaps Johnson could take it. He would be better at it than he is at being Prime Minister.
Some are not just spineless but so stupid/lazy that they don’t even take out what car dealers might call the ‘optional extras’ set out in the suggested email from Central Office.
Look at this from Totnes MP, Anthony Mangnall
‘You are right to be concerned at the actions of Mr Cummings. I understand the depth of anger that a senior government adviser may have broken the rules the rest of us have followed. (‘may have’ = weasel words. All italics to follow are my thoughts, or what I imagine to be the real thoughts of the MPs whose letters I publish. I use square brackets where I am trying to précis the blah.)
Mr Mangnall goes on, I kid you not, this was sent to many people:
‘[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.]’
Let me tell you something … if an MP had done that in our time, their feet would not have touched the ground. Laziness and incompetence matched with a 100percent empathy by-pass. But then, why should we be surprised when, day after day, Johnson – when he can be bothered to turn up – and his nodding dog ministers stand up at that No 10 flannel-lectern and say ‘our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of those who sadly have died.’
What they would say, if they had an ounce of honesty, is this: ‘Sadly, because we were so slow to tackle the virus, and have pretty much screwed up every step of the way, we have contributed massively to ramping up the death rates, so we are now global leaders in Covid mortality. But, as ever, our thoughts and prayers are with the Prime Minister as he tries to save Dominic bloody Cummings.’ People might respect them for telling the truth for once.
Indeed, I would love it, as Kevin Keegan might say, if at one of these wretched briefings, and certainly the next time the Liar-in-Chief bothers to show his face, a journalist asked: ‘Could you please name five nurses and social care workers who have died in this crisis?’ I suspect most would struggle with one.
One of the most prolific non-empathetic expressers of empathy is the ever tiggerishMatt Hancock. He replies to his complaining West Suffolk constituents as follows.
‘Thank you for writing to me about Dominic Cummings. I understand that this is a sensitive issue, and I want to assure you that I continue to put all of my efforts as Health Secretary, and as your MP, into stopping the devastating effects of coronavirus so that we can get back to normal as soon as possible. (Not going very well.)
Mr Cummings gave a full and detailed (and untruthful) statement on Monday 25thMay (happy birthday to me) in which he outlined the reasons that led to his journey to Durham. Journalists were immediately given the opportunity to question him (without the mute button that the Liar-in-Chief and I use) and I am satisfied with Mr Cummings’ account (Because if I said anything else I would lose my job, and who else is going to employ me?)
‘While I believe Mr Cummings was correct to find childcare for his toddler (toddler! He is four for God’s sake! Toddlers stop toddling at two; added to which they didn’t get any childcare when they got there. They went for walks in the woods and drives to a castle) when both he and his wife were getting ill (getting ill, not even ill – I reckon Matt’s letter has been run past a lawyer) I completely understand that others do not share this view.’
There then follows a wonderful non sequitur … ‘I am so proud at how the country has come together ….!’ Seriously! He said that. The only way to finish that sentence would be with the words ‘to unite in condemnation of this utter hypocrite and the weak narcissist who insists we all have to defend him.’
Next up Grant Shapps, Welwyn Hatfield, Transport Secretary, who at least has a decent manner about him and was just unfortunate to get the short straw last weekend when the Johnson/Cummings scandal broke, and he was down to do the media. Marginally to his credit, ‘sources’ (I have them too) tell me he was dying inside as he stood at the lectern, or sat in the TV studios, and pretended he didn’t think Cummings was a pretty reprehensible human being who had no place at the heart of government.
But, collective responsibility and all that, you will have to read between the lines a bit with this one.
‘I appreciate this issue sparked a significant national debate and that there are plenty of people who are extremely angry about it,’ Shapps began..
[Five pars of Tory HQ cut and paste re Durham police … blah … Regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, …. Blah … factual inaccuracies in media (sic), and this little bleat: ‘Somehow corrections never quite make the same splash’ [as the original story.] (No, they don’t, not when they’re true.)
‘Nonetheless,’ (ah, I do love a “nonetheless” – let’s see what he really thinks) I do appreciate that given the whole country was making a significant effort to observe the rules, (might have added, “and still ar”e) it’s perfectly proper for people to ask searching questions about Mr Cummings’ behaviour. At his own press conference on Monday night Cummings (oops, no Mr, lack of respect showing) answered in substantial detail about the choices he made at the time and why. He was then properly subjected to cross-questioning by the media for a considerable period of time. (unlike us at the briefings)
‘I also appreciate that not everyone (myself included) will be convinced by the choices he made. Although we now know that Cummings (lack of ‘Mr” again) drove all the way to Durham without stopping, there has also been significant attention on his visit to Barnard Castle – the town, rather than the castle itself’ – (lovely detail.)
[More cut and paste Durham police]
‘Motives are of course important and some have suggested it’s one rule for him and something else for the rest of us. I don’t think the facts support that accusation. (well, I do, and they do, but I have to say this bit.) For example, he presumably could have tried to get himself tested on the basis that he was pretty central to the national fight against COVID-19 – however neither he nor his wife were in fact tested, as doing so might be seen to abuse his privileged position. (Wow! Even Cummings hasn’t used this one in his compendium of excuses.)
(My favourite bit coming, in which he confirms his enduring passion for the A66 and for mending broken bicycle chains – I want one of his Bike Vouchers, as my ‘dérailleur’, which is actually one of those words I know in French not English, is broken) ‘As for my thoughts on this, earlier in the week, I had been asked by No10 to speak at the Downing Street Press Conference on Saturday in order to launch a series of important COVID-19 transport announcements.
‘The following morning I was also pre-booked for the Sunday programmes – Andrew Marr (on BBC1) and Sophy Ridge (on Sky) to provide more detail about plans to bring a half-a-million bikes back into a state of repair (with Bike Vouchers), complete the dual-carriageway across the country (along the A66 in the Pennines) and bring bus and tram services back online for £286m. Needless to say, I didn’t get to discuss much of that, which is a great pity because these announcements, and others contained in my speech, will end up mattering to everyone who uses transport – which is all of us. (getting a bit waffly here, Grant, you know, everyone = all of us.)
‘By that stage I was aware of further details in the case of Mr Cummings (Mr is back.) I knew, for example, that the initial police statements had been inaccurate, but (we hadn’t leant on them yet) that they had yet to be corrected by the police. I also knew that Mr Cummings had not made further journeys or – at that stage – told his own side of the story.
‘As I say, I think it would have been better for him to have spoken sooner (but Johnson was meant to sort it all on Sunday.) Not because everyone would have agreed, (including me) but because I think people should be able to assess both sides of any issue, particularly when there were so many errors in the original reports.’
Good effort, Shapps. B-minus. A lot of bullshit but enough tone to suggest you know it is bullshit.
No such praise for another Cabinet minister, Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk and, God help us, currently trying to sort trade deals at a time the rest of the world thinks we have stopped being a serious country. She obviously considers herself too important and too busy to write longish letters, as Hancock and Shapps did. She also has a massive problem with grammar and punctuation, and is clearly a commaphobe.
‘Good evening and thank you for taking the time to write.’ (The ‘Good Evening’ tactic is a very old one … it suggests it is not just an auto-letter drafted by a minion, but is being handwritten by Lizzie, sitting down at the kitchen table after clearing up after dinner, at the end of a long day trying to work out the difference between non-trade tariff barriers and import-export licences, to give her voters a very personal and considered response. Not.)
‘The British public (but not Durham Dom) have shown tremendous regard for the stay home, stay safe policy and as your local MP I have enormous respect for everyone and the collective actions that have been taken to combat Covid-19.
‘I believe everyone will accept that this has been an incredible challenge for the UK and the overwhelming priority for the government has been to protect jobs and the health of the nation (60,000 dead and counting) and this is what the government is focused on. Regarding Dominic Cummings; (strange use of semi-colon) on Monday he gave a detailed account of his actions and the reason (interesting use of a singular there, as there were many reasons, none of which stacked up) why he took these decisions. (Reason singular, decisions plural!) The Prime Minister said ‘he (is the “he” Johnson or Cummings? Her grammar is awful) is deeply hurt and sorry for all the pain the country has been going through’ adding ‘the overwhelming priority is to tackle coronavirus.’
In the last of her three paragraphs, she then found room for a couple of the Covid bingo phrases that thousands have been ticking off at the briefings (though poor Lizzie has yet to be asked to do one, and perhaps this was her pitch to be asked. It can’t be easy knowing Priti Patel is a more palatable public face as a woman minister in the Johnson Boys’ Club.) ‘These are truly unprecedented times in the UK – (you actually do need a semi-colon there, Liz, not a dash) modern day Britain has never faced such a situation before, (yay, could this be aa correctly placed comma?) that (Damn, no! It should have been a full stop) is why the government is working flat-out on the pandemic and is why I back the Prime Minister (who doesn’t work very hard at all.)
Liz. (Back to the ‘good evening’ feel.)
Sir Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, and chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, is another who kicked off with a cheery ‘Good evening.’
Doubtless pissed off at the recent revelation Number 10 were trying to resist any one on one meetings between him and Johnson, he does not exactly rush to the defence of his leader or of Cummings.
‘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. (That must include me, I fear, as I got a fair few burghers of Altrincham and Sale to write to you, Graham, but you are quite important in all this.)
‘However (I like a good however, though a Shapps-style nevertheless would have been better), 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 (gets in the word Cummings hasn’t learned) 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 (good attack on useless government messaging) 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 (would not have used those five words if he believed Cummings’ story) in the interests of his family. Without repeating the details, (confirmation he doesn’t believe Cummings’ account and wishes to spare himself th ecredibility-sapping embarrassment of repeating it,) 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,
[Cut and paste several pars re Durham police]
‘One interpretation (but not yours or mine, see the ‘however’ to follow) 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 (i.e I agree)– 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.(Johnson should have sacked him) Many people also wrote to me who have endured tragic experiences over the past few months. (This is a common theme, and the one many MPs fear most, hence the ToryHQ/Totnes cut and paste]. 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. (I have made clear he has used up bucket-loads of political capital and we will use it against him in future.)
‘The employment of Special Advisers remains a matter for the Prime Minister. (He should have sacked the twat, but he is weak as piss.)
I thought I was onto a bit of a scoop yesterday when one of Theresa May’sMaidenhead constituents sent me a letter he received from the former Prime Minister. I was planning to release it just as someone popped up on the telly talking about it. Hey ho. So long as they all get out there somehow.
Mrs May, somewhat admirably considering how treacherous and disloyal Johnson was to her, has been nothing but supportive of her successor, even as she has watched him flounder even more than she did. But the Johnson/Cummings scandal has clearly got right under her skin.
‘What this matter has shown is that there was a discrepancy between the simple messages given by the Government and the details of the legislation passed by Parliament.
‘In these circumstances I do not feel that Mr Cummings followed the spirit of the guidance. I can well understand the anger of those who have been abiding by the spirit of the guidance given by the Government and expect others to do so.
‘One of my biggest concerns has been that the ongoing focus on Mr Cummings has been detracting from the most important task, which is dealing with coronavirus and starting the process of recovery and easing lockdown’
By her standards, that is damning.
Now to one of her best-known ministers when she headed the Cabinet, Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom and Ewell. Again, you need to read a little between the lines. Doing so, I suspect he has written a letter to Number 10 simply saying his constituents are furious. Then again, he may have done nothing, and just wants his constituents to think he has. That was the view of the woman who sent it to me … ‘Failing Grayling fails to get off fence’ was her email header. For once, I am a bit more sympathetic, though not to his bleat (God they do bleat these Tories) about organised email campaigns. Sometimes it is only if such campaigns are organised that MPs get to understand that something matters, which they would otherwise ignore.
‘I should say that I take this issue very seriously. My heart goes out particularly to those who have lost relatives recently. And I know that many people have made sacrifices in the past few weeks, not being able to see friends and relatives or missing out on special occasions. I missed seeing my father on his 90th birthday.
‘So I do absolutely understand your concern and have made sure that Downing Street is well aware of the strength of feeling in this area, and of my own views in this matter. However I have also always taken the view that discussions I have about the personal conduct of people in Government should be done in private conversations and not through the media.
‘Along with the legitimate concerns of many of my constituents, there is also now clearly an orchestrated email campaign trying to get me to attack the Government publicly about the issue. Some of my email responses to constituents at the weekend have already been passed to the media. I am not prepared to be involved in this.
‘So apart from assuring you that I have made sure that the centre is well aware of your concerns, I do not intend to say anything else publicly about the issue.’
Another of May’s ministers, Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire, writes: ‘I’m really sympathetic to your comments, and agree that the government must make sure all those who are involved in setting out the rules for citizens should be making sure they uphold them in their own lives (gets to the heart of the reason her constituents are so angry; one rule for us, another for them, and makes clear she shares that anger – note the ‘really sympathetic) I’m incredibly proud that the vast majority of residents across South Northamptonshire have acted responsibly throughout this crisis, despite often very harrowing experiences both with families and jobs.
‘As you will have seen from Monday’s press briefing, Dominic Cummings maintains etc (loaded word – means she doesn’t believe him) In seeking to represent the views of my constituents, I have written to the Prime Minister to make him aware of your strength of feeling.’
Julian Smith, MP for Skipton, who was the first post-Labour Northern Ireland Secretary who actually understood the politics there, and was therefore far too able to stay as a Cabinet minister under Johnson, is another for whom attacking his own side is something of an anathema. So this is May-style damning too.
‘The commitment to following the rules by you, your family and so many other families and citizens during this lockdown has been extraordinary and has made a critical difference to the slowing of this awful disease, protecting the NHS and avoiding further deaths. It is vital that we all continue to adhere both to the letter and to the spirit of the government guidance as we have to do everything possible to avoid a second wave of infection.
‘The Prime Minister and Mr Cummings (yep, they will fall together) have now both made statements. I am not planning to make any public comment as I believe that the Prime Minister is acutely aware of the level of anger across the country but has taken, and is unlikely to change his decision on how to proceed. I will of course send him a copy of your email.
‘I am personally in no doubt about the level of anger about this episode and I am really sorry but not surprised that you and so many others have felt so let down by it.’
Anger explicitly shared by another member of the May Cabinet, Damian Green, MP for Ashford, who said he had told the chief whip, and Cabinet ministers, of his displeasure. ‘My main concern, even beyond the details of the story such as the drive to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, is the effect of his travelling to Durham on the behaviour of others.’ (Yep. And when this test, track and trace gets going, though the government incompetence so far, one wonders if it will, I wonder just how many people will say they spent 15 minutes with Durham Dom.)
Jeremy Hunt, ex-Health Secretary who has been trying to press Johnson to get a grip on testing, says what Cummings did was’ a clear breach of he lockdown rules – coming back into work when he had been with his wife who was ill, driving to Durham, visiting Barnard Castle.. These were clearly mistakes both in terms of the guidance which was crystal clear and in terms of the signal it would potentially give out to others as someone who was at the centre of government.’
But, he said, he had known media storms, was not calling for his head, and felt there were many issues more important than Cummings.
Next up the former Brexit minister David Jones, Clywd West. He was the leader of the Vote Leave campaign in Wales (so much for the opposition to Cummings being about his role in helping Johnson win for Leave, rather than his role in helping Johnson destroy the UK’s standing in the world.)
‘As I am sure you will appreciate, I have received a number of emails concerning this issue, including messages from individuals both criticising and, in some cases, (a couple) defending the actions of Mr Cummings.
[Cut and paste re public reaction to crisis].
Nevertheless, (here we go again with one of my favourite words) it is certainly true that people are becoming weary of the restrictions necessitated by the lockdown and the economic impact they have sustained during that time. Against that background, it is unsurprising that the news of Dominic Cummings’s journey to Durham should have generated such widespread outrage. As the details of Mr Cummings’s journey emerged over the last weekend, considerable doubt was expressed as to whether it could be justified under any of the exceptions to the Government’s guidance. In such circumstances, it was right that he be required to account for his actions ….
‘It is worth examining what Mr Cummings told the press against the established facts (his story doesn’t hold up.)
[Concern for child; story of journey to Durham; reasons given; things he did there; reasons given; police; Barnard Castle; medical advice (though no mention of eye-test drive); Johnson decision alone to keep him.]
‘Whether Mr Cummings does resign is, of course, a decision that only he himself can make. I have to say that I would be very surprised indeed if he was not still considering his position, even at this time. He will be well aware of the outrage his actions have generated. I am bound to say (one of my favourite phrases, the master user of which was Robin Cook, whose shoes none of today’s Cabinet were fit to polish) that a 250-mile journey to seek childcare support – irrespective of the exceptions to the Governments guidelines (his apostrophe malfunction, not mine) does seem excessive … I feel I would have sought it closer to home …
‘I can wholly appreciate that many will be appalled that Mr Cummings made the journey to Durham, when they themselves conscientiously remained in their own homes. It has, of course, been a very difficult time for all of us and our families, and we have all made considerable sacrifices in our own lives. ….
‘The Prime Minister (who can’t do the job and thinks Cummings can help him try) has decided that Mr Cummings should not be dismissed. Political leaders frequently have to make such decisions, many of which meet with public disapproval.’
Then, for me, the killer point (literally):
‘The whole episode has, of course, been very regrettable. Even if, as the Police have determined, Mr Cummings did not break the law, there is a dangerous possibility that the adverse public perception of his actions has negatively impacted on the good efforts of the Government to retain support for the Covid restrictions. That, ultimately, is the real damage that may have been done.’ (If there is a second wave, or further lockdowns which people choose to ignore, and the death rate rises again, Cummings will be partly to blame.)
Another ardent Brexiteer, Bernard Jenkin, is the man Boris Johnson installed as chair of the Liaison Committee in the hope his long-held love of cronyism would help him to continue with his life of indolence and self-indulgence. But Jenkin seems pretty determined to be nobody’s patsy.
‘I understand how frustrated and angry you are. Mr Cummings actions (yet another one who forgot what he was taught about apostrophes) raised serious questions about whether a senior government adviser was implementing the lockdown guidelines with his own family in the same way the government was expecting of everyone else…. It was always evident to me that there had been a technical breach of the guidelines (not necessarily of the law) and it has been today been confirmed by police that in their view there may have been a minor breach of lockdown rules.
‘Like you, I am far from happy about the confusion and upset this incident has caused.’
He posts a link to his exchanges with Johnson at the committee hearing this week, when he called for an independent inquiry ‘to determine whether there has been any lack of responsibility or integrity. I am sorry the Prime Minister said he had not done this.’ He then urges constituents, ‘despite the anger and disappointment this has understandably caused you,’ nonetheless to continue to stick to the guidelines.
‘I am sorry this has caused many people anger and unhappiness. I hope at least you will accept that I share this feeling.’
At the other end of the scale, nobody will be surprised to learn, is Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, who writes of this ‘explosion of correspondence, unprecedented in my 23 years in Parliament, over one long weekend on the actions of a non-elected adviser, which are open to interpretation both sympathetic and condemnatory, itself indicates we are in times strange to all of us.’
[Flannel re recent weeks, followed by a rather lame effort to say the attack on Cummings is about Brexit, not Covid]
‘In the UK, these Covid-19 factors are being laid upon the character of our recent politics. A culture of growing polarisation and intolerance for the other’s point of view and, certainly it appears to me, an alarming unwillingness to properly understand why others might have a different perspective, but instead too often out the most malicious interpretation on others’ motives… The tragedy of the Cummings affair is that like the virus itself, it demonstrates that this polarisation, intolerance and lack of generosity of spirit remains deep in the British body of politics.’ (Little reflection as to whether the virus of populism may have played a part in this.)
‘That this polarisation has infected (he is loving the virus theme) the consideration of the merits of the actions of an ill Cummings family could hardly be clearer. In the critical public commentary there has been scant consideration by most, if not all, of the merits of the human judgments of parents trying to serve their family best, consistent with protecting the rest of us, which is the object of the policy on which he helped advise at the most senior level. We have even had a dozen or so bishops threatening to withdraw collaboration with the Government on this pandemic (no evidence for this statement at all, they just said they thought Cummings was wrong to act as he did) based on this issue alone without having heard the detailed context of Dominic Cummings (another apostrophe clown) decisions for his family. In this context one can understand why we saw the unprecedented business of an official giving a full explanation of his personal conduct and submitting to questions on it in the garden of Number 10. (Really?)
‘My views on the merits changed listening to Mr Cummings during Monday’s press conference (on your own here I fear, Crispie.). Once I understood that (they are really loaded and properly posh with loads of houses in one place) the opportunity to self-isolate as a family unit, within close distance of immediate relatives on an isolated farm, who were perfectly placed to pick up their child caring responsibilities if the virus overtook them, (‘getting’ ill, as Hancock put it) the uninterrupted car journey, even if long, makes complete sense. Of course, this would be a situation available to strikingly few people, (I thought we were all in it together) but his actions were wholly consistent with the interests
(I am not going to interrupt his flow with any further comments from here on in – it is priceless. The guy should write Victorian style novels.)
‘The family’s 260 miles journey, in a car, was less dangerous to the public than travelling any distance on public transport. He was fortunate enough to have the ideal situation of an empty house, with both sister and parent in adjacent houses ready to provide for his family should they be needed. It was also reasonable for him to collect the other two members of his household from hospital, again in a car without coming into contact with the public. I also accept the reasons for a test drive before driving back the 260 miles, 15 days after his first symptoms which is in line with self-isolation guidance. We can send up the eyesight test issue in isolation but checking whether one would have the strength and endurance to make that long return car journey whilst in of his family and critically the rest of us as well. recovery from Covid-19, (which he may or may not have had and still hasn’t had a bloody test for God’s sake) struck me as appropriate and responsible – Sorry for that brief interruption.)
‘The context of his decisions and consideration of their merits also needed to exclude the rumour and innuendo surrounding them. For example, the speculation about a further outing on 19th April based on allegations by two unidentified witnesses, has been strongly denied by Mr Cummings and a formal statement from No 10 confirming this. Reports of the Durham police’s conversation with Mr Cummings’ father were also proven inaccurate when the Constabulary withdrew the suggestion that they gave him “specific advice’’ about the correct actions to be taken during the coronavirus outbreak to remain in accordance with lockdown guidelines, implying the police believed they had been broken.
‘These are the reasons I believe it would be wrong to fire Mr Cummings on the merits of this episode. I understand and personally applaud the Prime Minister’s decision to stand by his man at this time. I was struck by hearing the recent words of the new Labour leader about his duty of care to officials of the Labour Party, to whom he guaranteed due process under his leadership. These are standards that place truth over image and perception. Our default position should be to support them. It is a brave thing to do in my profession as the whole truth and nothing but the truth can very rarely carry the day in a 24 hour news cycle. The difficult experience politicians in a democracy must manage is that a conclusion based on a balance of arguments is then betrayed by truths that support a competing interpretation. It then depends on how you balance up the arguments and factors to bring you to your own conclusion. I much regret in today’s politics it is often seen as some kind of gaffe to accept your opponent’s conclusion might have any merit at all. I would like this intolerance to reduce and for Covid-19 to help widen understanding and for us to look for the best in each other, not least whilst so many are demonstrating their good values in the actions to defeat the virus.
‘On the Cummings affair it’s also brave to stand by an unpopular figure as you start with people’s perceptions already tilted against you. I accept perceptions also play a role. It is claimed by a few of my colleagues and in effect by some of my correspondents, that in this emergency, perception trumps truth, because it is perception that will dictate public behaviour and thus how this looks, even if grossly
distorted by the lens of a media seeking to sustain a different narrative should be the decisive factor. Depressingly that is often the conventional political response. Dispose of the difficulty even if unfair. Indeed, that is the normal fate of serving politicians but Mr Cummings is not a politician and the Prime Minister has chosen to take the higher and more difficult path of discharging his duty to truth and due process to his Chief Advisor. I believe that decision deserves my support, even though that will not satisfy many of my correspondents.’
I feel I need a shower. Instead, let’s go back to the other end of the scale, and have a bit of Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East.
‘Good morning,’ he begins (unlike Truss and Brady, likes to get his correspondence done early.)
‘This has all come at a critical time for No.10 in navigating the country through an enduring crisis and has distracted both the public and Government – when we should all be focused on the next phase of emerging safely from the lockdown and supporting the economy. (I’ve always felt Ellwood is one of the few Tories with a bit of a strategic mind, and going straight to that big point – DISTRACTION– confirms that.)
[Background re Cummings’ story, positively told] Few who follow British politics will not have already formed an opinion about a person who enjoys courting controversy. (Cummings is a real attention-seeker.) It is important to not let (God, he was doing so well, then goes and splits an infinitive … NOT TO LET, Ellwood!) those views – ill or good – impact on a fair process in how this current matter is judged.
(Here we go, getting to the meat, and it is quite a substantial meal.) I expressed my firm views privately – and I am sorry they were not heeded. I did call publicly for the Prime Minister to take full responsibility to restore public confidence as well as hold an independent investigation to establish the facts. I’m sorry to say this also was not headed. The absence of an expression of regret by Mr Cummings’ for his actions, however well intended, resonated badly with many, including myself, and I am particularly aware of many constituents who have endured sacrifices during lockdown at significant personal cost. (another big point here …. TRUST.NO APOLOGY/ARROGANCE/ELITE))
‘Those working in No. 10 have to lead by example. Mr Cummings did not do this and by not apologising he damaged trust in the Government. The political capital expended by the Prime Minister to defend his Senior Advisor has been unprecedented. (for once, a bingo word justified!) It is clear that Mr Cummings plays such a pivotal role in No10 that the Prime Minister is willing to go the extra mile to defend him rather than see him resign. This of course is the Prime Minister’s choice – personally I would prefer to see the Prime Minister lean more on the elected Cabinet rather than bestow so much senior influence on any one, un-elected individual. (Big point – major failure of LEADERSHIP.)
‘Swift resignations draw a line before damage occurs. In this case we must now accept it is too late for that. The Government’s authority has already been dented. But the Prime Minister clearly believes this is best redeemed by focusing on tackling COVID-19 and getting our country back to work – with Mr Cummings playing his important role. Durham Police have now reviewed the events and will not be taking any further action. This judgement is important but does not take away the perception that Mr Cummings should have acted with greater awareness, particularly in the context of his job, or from the fact that the handling of the entire incident was extremely poor. I am sorry Mr Cummings could not say sorry. It is essential we all remain focused on the challenging task ahead of us in defeating the spread of the Coronavirus. I know the events of the last few days may have discouraged you, but we must all continue to follow Government guidelines and keep on focussing on the greater issue of saving lives and safely getting the country back on track. (Final big point – the rest of us will have to make up for their INCOMPETENCE.)
Ellwood takes the lead for the most damning and intelligent analysis award.
Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald, accepts the distraction point, saying ‘this has diverted attentions’ and acknowledging ‘upset and confusion’. However, she tells her complainants that Cummings’ position is ‘a matter for the PM’ and she ‘hopes things can now move on.’ There is a lot of ‘move on’ in the cut and paste jobs. ‘So much for an MP’s duty to hold the executive to account,’ harrumphs one of Mrs Grant’s former voters, in her email to me.
What about Workington man, who played such a key role in the media coverage of the last election, and whose capture by the Tories from Labour was such a big brick in the so-called red wall. Well, it looks to me like they might have elected a brick, or certainly someone with not that much going on north of the neck muscles. ‘Clear and reasoned explanation’ was how Mark Jenkinson described Mr Cummings’ performance in the garden of Number 10. ‘Clear and reasoned.’ This is almost Crispian Bluntian. The attacks on Cummings, he says, are ‘purely political … Time to move on.’ (I suspect that is exactly what you will be doing at the next election.)
Michael Ellis, who is apparently Solicitor General, and MP for Northampton, and of whom I had never heard until someone sent me his defence of Cummings with the single word ‘wanker’ as the email title, is another who has deployed the ‘move on’ part of the cut and paste kit from Cummings HQ in Number 10, where far greater energy has been expended this week fighting for him than fighting against the virus. I did enjoy the tweet of former Tory MP Nicholas Soames, who loves a good hashtag, about Ellis’ position – #terrificcreep So the constituent with the W-word was right.
For a very long piece of fence-sitting, trying to share anger but do bugger all about it, James Sunderland of Bracknell does well.
[Lots of complaints, taken my time to investigate, nasty media.]
(Then a somewhat illiterate effort to name lots of places in his constituency) ‘I would therefore like to thank everyone in Bracknell, Crowthorne, Finchampstead, Sandhurst and Wokingham Without for your community spirit, selflessness, resilience and dogged determination in fighting the virus. We are not out of the woods yet but the Government remains determined to do whatever it takes to support our country with bold and unprecedented measures that will be instrumental in getting us through.’
[All made sacrifices; Cummings has explained; devoted father] ‘Whilst I would be unlikely to make the same call myself and appreciate that many do see this as a serious error of judgement, it is not for me to castigate a fellow human being for seeking to do the right thing. (Have cake and eat, another swipe at hostile media, overlooking the fact half of the papers splash with whatever Cummings tells them to.)
‘To attempt to draw a line under this, I understand that Dominic Cummings acted in reasonable faith in the face of great anxiety and I condemn the abuse he has received – I am a parent too and feel my own responsibilities keenly. But I am also hugely sympathetic to the anger of constituents (have cake, eat) who have followed the rules, made great personal sacrifices and not been able to meet their wider families. In many cases, people have been gravely affected and my heart goes out (fake empathy alert) to those who have not been able to see loved ones before paying the ultimate price. For this, I cannot even begin to feel the anguish.(No, you can’t.)
‘To answer the question that many have posed, I do not believe that it is right for me as new backbencher to sanctimoniously demand (another infinitive splitter destroying the language) that Dominic Cummings loses his job. Not only has he played his full part in serving his country (by helping to reduce its relevance in the world) but he also deserves our respect as a loyal family man – we all make mistakes and there but for the grace of God go I. (First one to play the God card.)
‘I have articulated my concerns through appropriate channels to senior figures in Government and I have every faith that common sense will prevail. (Cake/eat) Whilst I believe that a wider investigation would help to ease tension and reassure constituents, this is absolutely a matter for No.10 to resolve. . (Cake/eat) The Prime Minister has also made his position clear and I wholeheartedly accept his personal judgement. (I really am that stupid.)
Maggie Throup, MP for Erewash, starts her response to constituents by saying she has had an ‘unprecedented amount of correspondence’ about Cummings.
‘I have read each and every one with care, (she lies) and whilst I am unable to respond to individual points, I trust that the following statement clarifies my informed thinking.
‘In my previous life as a biomedical scientist, (hasn’t she heard? They’re not following the science any more, it’s all about politics to get Cummings off the agenda) I was trained to come to an evidence-based conclusion based on the available information or data at the time…
‘What is eminently clear is that there cannot be one rule for some and not for another. When the British Public has given up so much to combat Coronavirus, I fully understand the strength of feeling and, in some cases anger, shown when someone has acted in a way in which they do not agree is right.
‘In the specific case of Mr Cummings, I share some of the concerns that have been raised regarding his conduct, but I do not believe it either mine or the media’s place to pronounce on his guilt, especially given that the Police have now concluded their inquiry into his actions with no further action being taken.
‘I was particularly shocked to learn through his personal statement on Monday), that he and his family have been “subject to threats of violence”, including activists targeting his London home and encouraging personal attacks on social media. (Come and talk to me and my kids about what a real protest outside your house looks like – Iraq – and what it is like telling a five-year-old daughter, a nine-year-old and an eleven-year-old boys why the house is being turned upside down, made blast-proof and packed with panic alarms because post the Good Friday Agreement, they feared dissident Republicans who couldn’t get the Prime Minister might try for me. Cummings’ bleat about security – a bit of grief on twitter from time to time – really, really got my goat.)
‘As someone who has also been subject to violent threats and who is in the public eye, I can empathise to a certain degree with just how unnerving this is,’ Throup, another one of whom I had literally never heard, goes on. ‘Having a young child in the house must have only served to exacerbate the situation and I am sure this will have inevitably been a factor in Mr Cummings’ decision.
‘As a Government Minister, (what?????!!!!) I am in the privileged position of being able to ensure my views, but more importantly the strength of feeling of the residents of Erewash, are conveyed directly to the Prime Minister. I have always taken my role of representing Erewash extremely seriously and, in my experience, well defined but private representations are far more effective than public proclamations. (Cake/eat, but do nothing.)
‘Rest assured I have communicated the many views I have received to the Prime Minister and I am sure he will take these into consideration going forward’.(Do you think she believes that?)
Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell ,on the other hand, tells his constituents: ’I believe the decision Mr Cummings made to travel to Barnard Castle was wrong and outside of the regulations. For that reason, I think his position is untenable’. Spot on. He is also concerned that we are heading for a second peak, and Cummings’ actions have not helped.
Although Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, is in the ‘move on’ squad, his letter is reasonably devoid of the cut and paste stuff, angry and dismissive about Cummings, and more personal than most.
‘I, like many of you, have found the lockdown personally very hard, my mother was diagnosed at the very start of the lockdown with a very serious illness that needed immediate surgery. She’s at home in Suffolk now undergoing extensive ongoing post-op treatment, but I, like so many of you, have not been able to be at her side when she most needed me.(I am so sorry to be such a grammar pedant when we are talking about a sick woman, but as written, it means that lots of his constituents have wanted to be at her bedside. I’m sure she is a lovely lady, but I don’t think that is what he means.) So, like you, (he loves this phrase) I was surprised and angry that the Prime Minister’s key adviser took the actions that he did having presumably played a major role in the decision-making process that instructed the rest of us on the rules of lockdown. There cannot be one rule for the few and another for the rest of us.
‘I felt Mr Cumming’s (oops, another apostrophe mangler) press conference – which should not have taken place in the No.10 Rose Garden in my opinion (mine too) – did at least explain his logic behind his actions. I am sure we all sympathise that he wanted to protect his family and escape the media harassment outside his home. I would not have made the same decision, but I appreciate that he did what he thought was right at the time but, as Mr Cummings said, many will disagree with his actions and I’m one of them.
‘I know many of you are calling for Mr Cummings to be dismissed, however, ultimately it is a matter for the Prime Minister. Following the announcement by the police that no action is to be taken against Mr Cummings, we must move on and not let this distract from the fight against Covid-19. There are probably many questions remaining, and I have no doubt that whilst Mr Cummings had the best of intentions I and, more importantly, the public feel it was wrong.
‘Finally, my office has been working with less (fewer, I think, though it can be argued both ways) than half my staff available during this crisis. We have been dealing with all the understandable concerns about personal issues caused by the Covid-19 lockdown as well as all the usual enquiries. Whilst I thank you for letting me know your views on this, my office now needs to prioritise all the other issues that arise as we come out of lockdown. I cannot condone using up valuable office time on Mr Cummings who I have no contact with and, as my Nan would have said, is “not my cup of tea”.(Nan – nice touch!)
‘We need to move on and beat this Covid-19 disease.’
Staying in Hertfordshire, Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden. He goes straight to the feelings of his constituents. ‘It is clear from the emails I have received that this has caused immense anger; I have communicated the full weight of feeling to the Prime Minister.’ (So, yes, and …?)
Er well, nothing … ‘ Mr Cummings expressed why he thought he did the right thing and why it was permissibly within the parameters of the regulations. I understand why this has struck a nerve with many people. It is critical that public confidence in the guidelines is not threatened by this episode, nor by the transgressions of others. We have all sacrificed seeing our families and friends over these past months, and it is vital that we remain steadfast to prevent new transmissions so far into this battle.’ Er, that’s it … Yours, Brevity Bim (by most standards.)
From Bim to Mims – Mims Davies, MP for mid Sussex.
[Thanks for telling me you are pissed off with Cummings and the PM, and thanks for obeying the rules yourselves. Loads of letters and emails, including people who lost loved ones who will get a personal reply. Several paragraphs cut and paste waffle re recent weeks, sacrifice, social distancing, frontline, volunteers, halt the virus.]
‘I have received many wide-ranging thoughts from Mid Sussex constituents over the last week on the Dominic Cummings’ personal situation, with a range of questions and opinions, as well as a mix of views: from strong support to huge condemnation, anger and pain – which is completely understandable. … I have taken time to expand my thoughts on this matter, due to the sheer volume of correspondence and the need to look through these views, in order to avoid jumping prematurely to a further response.
‘I am also a Government Minister and I have been continuously working on the next stage of the recovery plan focused on jobs and livelihoods. I have needed to make sure that I balance constituent’s (apostrophe howler) thoughts and concerns with the work I am doing to help us move into the next phase.
‘For me, the Dominic Cummings’ press statement on Sunday was very difficult viewing. As a single parent, who isolated early on due to both myself and my daughters having symptoms, I do understand the emotional challenge this pandemic has brought to all those worried about family, particularly those shielding with children or without family help close by.’
[More background, Dr Jenny Harries, exceptional circumstances, government websites, blah blah blah, paragraphs of it, can I pick repatriated relatives from Gatwick or Heathrow, children from University student accommodation, blah.]
‘I cannot say if I would have given the very same travel advice to Mr Cummings … these matters are rarely black and white and I don’t know the full details beyond what has been shared at the press conference. I don’t know Mr Cummings. I have never met him personally … Given his prominent position however, this detailed explanation from him, SHOULD have come much quicker and many are disappointed it only emerged through the media, which included several false reports on the reasons for his movements. The challenge of being at the heart of government, at any level during this public health, and now economic, emergency cannot be quantified. This is both in terms of the huge pressures and challenges people are under through having to be both available and ready to work or act at any time. Therefore, questionable decisions will be made at different times and we will all be rightly critical of those and their outcomes. But I am always concerned to see any family home become a target. We want real people in politics and part of the deal is we all make human decisions and mistakes, as well as constantly being under massive strain. (Veering on the Crispin Bluntian again.)
‘I don’t believe our politics really benefits much from social media or traditional media-driven resignation hunting or as some term ‘scalp hunting’, but I do strongly realise and believe clear answers and accountability are crucial in our democracy.
[Loads of blah re test, track trace, access to websites] then: ‘I would like to again thank everyone in Mid Sussex for their due diligence during these incredibly challenging times for us all.’
(Decoded – I am really, really pissed off; think he is a total jerk and you are all quite right. But I am a minister so if I said it I would have to quit.)
It is clear she did at least agonise a bit over the whole thing. More than can be said for Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire.
Basically as follows: ‘Thanks, had loads of messages, local cops tell me you’ve all been very good, lots of you pissed off with Cummings, here is a link to his statement, and I have written to the PM to tell him what you think. Over and out.’
Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bedfordhsire kicks off with words used by his constituents in their letters -“disgust”, “incensed”, “disgraceful, “shameful”, “anger”; then tells how he has not been able to visit his 90-year-old father, and how his uncle, who he also could not visit, had died.
Yet … ‘Ultimately the decision regarding Mr Cummings’ role is one for the Prime Minister and he has made clear his point of view. I understand and accept the decision of the Prime Minister. … I see this as an individual making what he considered to be the best decisions for his family at a difficult time. With the benefit of hindsight, and now being well, perhaps he might have made different decisions, but I am not prepared to condemn him for the actions he took. Nobody in public life deserves a “free pass” but if we want humanity in our politics, we need to understand our leaders are human. (Confirmation he sees Cummings not Johnson as his leader …. Weird.)
(Then a strange sentence which I first read as saying that Cummings had apologised.) ‘ The explanation of this human dilemma has not been communicated in such a manner as to heal the hurt that has been felt. An apology is not always needed as a concession that you did something wrong but sometimes to show that you understand the pain to others that may have been caused.’ (Ah, he thinks he should have apologised, but ….) ‘I am aware that my view on this matter will not rest easily with some who wrote to me. However, I feel that a sense of humanity has been lacking in our political discourse for years now. Having a discourse and accepting different conclusions is not weak, it is the foundation for progress.’ (Brexit debate anyone?)
(And how’s this for a bit of nerve?) … ‘To draw inspiration from a literary character, Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” and “the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
As my Irish near neighbour said as I walked the dog this morning: ‘Jesus God Almighty, they’ve got some fucking neck these people.’
Next up Robert Courts, MP for David Cameron’s old seat (remember him? He is part responsible for this clown Johnson being in Number 10 with his little Vote Leave crew.)
Courts kicks off with a rather Cameroonian touch. ‘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.
‘Firstly, I do not think that the matter ought to be politicised.’ (No, course not, because Tories never politicise anything.)
‘Secondly, I think this matter should be looked at with compassion: Heaven forbid that we should ever be parted from that (though Johnson and Cummings lost it a long time ago.)
‘Mr Cummings has a young son at about the same age as my own (personal touch) and I fully understand the demands of looking after a toddler(sic) even when you yourself are fit and well. In addition, however, Mr Cummings’ wife was ill, he was becoming (the getting ill thing again) very seriously ill, (very seriously? But could drive?) he has a job that is pressured to an extent unbelievable unless you have seen it, at a time of national crisis. ‘
[Lots of blather re Regulation 6 of the Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations for England]
‘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 (my God, he has added the Youtube link … they really think it helps.)
‘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 rebuilding our country’s economy and society 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.’
And I love his sign off …
STAY ALERT. CONTROL THE VIRUS. SAVE LIVES. GOV.UK/CORONAVIRUS
Claire Coutinho, MP for East Surrey
‘I haven’t seen my own family, some of whom are seriously ill. With many of them working on the frontline in the NHS, it has been a very anxious time indeed. So I do understand the upset that many feel.
‘However, [Jenny Harries blah]
‘Moreover, I have felt strongly from the beginning that the trial by media we have seen is wrong. I’ve also been very concerned about the scenes outside of Mr Cummings’ house (er, the scenes followed rather than preceded the breach, and they were almost all media, who for all their faults tend not to attack their targets physically.)
‘I see someone who was motivated by a very human desire to provide safety for his four-year-old ….[blah blah, cut and paste …. , ]My focus will remain on working hard for local residents. I will continue to liaise with our public services, hold surgeries, and engage with businesses.
‘Thank you once again for taking the time to share your views with me, as ever I assure you I have fed them in at the highest levels.’
Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham, is a ‘Good morning’ man, who says some of the emails received have been ‘absolutely heart breaking.’ He writes at length about his own experience self-isolating at home since 19th March, after showing some symptoms.
‘I accept we were lucky. At no point did my wife or I feel unable to look after our children. I also confess that we did not make a plan for a scenario whereby we both became too ill to look after our sons. (good dig)
[Blah re media harassment/security concerns]
‘Nevertheless,’ (here we go again) Mr Cummings said himself in his press conference that he accepts reasonable people may not agree with all his decisions. I personally cannot reconcile in my mind how driving to a property other than their primary residence to self-isolate was within the spirit of the guidelines and would like to see those guidelines formally clarified. I am certain I would not have chosen this path myself. [Bit of Jenny Harries blah]
‘I take particular issue with the concept of driving a car in order to test eyesight.’ (Indeed, sir.)
Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden, says she is busy helping her constituents but according to one such she has actually been very busy deleting the many angry comments on her Facebook page, after she said she trusts the PM’s judgement and has faith in Cummings. ‘While I disagree with some of Mr Cummings actions (apostrophe malfunction) I do not believe put others at risk.’
Andy Carter, MP for Warrington South: ‘Based on my interpretation of the rules I would not have made the journeys he undertook. Indeed, I have given specific guidance to constituents who have asked about similar journeys over the last ten weeks not to travel. In seeking to represent the views of my constituents I have written to the Prime Minister to make him aware of your strength of feeling on the matter.’
Nickie Aiken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, reckons it is all about the media’s obsession with Cummings (which he did nothing to fuel, of course) more security and harassment bullshit, all about Brexit, time to move on.
Michael Fabricant, MP for mid-Staffs,he gets how galling it must seem to someone who could not attend the funeral of a loved one to see Cummings act as he did, and then basically does the cut and paste defence.
James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, is another mover-onner, and another illiterate. He says the questions arising from the episode willl be ‘poured over.’ Milk? Water? Horse piss?
I really don’t like having a Tory MP in Burnley so I was pleased o learn Antony Higginbotham is telling his constituents: ‘I’ve received many emails on this over the last few days, and I fully understand the anger. It is anger that I also felt when I first heard the reports, knowing the enormous sacrifices made by families across our borough. I also watched the full press conference yesterday and considered what I would say to a constituent who came to me with similar circumstances. I know I would say to that person they acted reasonably.’
Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, writes a strong, angry letter, makes clear she wouldn’t have done the same thing, Cummings is an unhelpful distraction, and he should have resigned, but it’s up to Johnson.
Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herts, tells his constituents we should not allow the controversy to deflect ourselves from obeying the guidelines.
Like Mims Davis, Victoria Atkins is a minister as well as MP for Louth and Horncastle, and I sense only that is keeping her from saying Cummings should go. ‘I have grappled with childcare while working during lockdown and I have endeavoured to act to the letter and in the spirt of the regulations.
Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, his short letter was described variously by the people who sent it to me as ‘patronising, arrogant, impersonal, unvbelievable, typical.’
Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford: ‘As a father, I fully understand the desire to do the right thing for your children and how strong that emotion is, however, I think that Dominic Cummings made mistakes when dealing with his situation. His actions have created a perception that it is acceptable for some to break the rules but not for others. This has created understandable anger…
‘It is essential we continue fighting the virus and get back to some form of normality as soon as it’s safe to do so. The actions of Dominic Cummings, however wrong, should not change our collective desire to do the right thing and see this country through this crisis.’
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham. Someone wrote to him having lost someone to Covid, and was a bit taken aback to be told in the MP’s first paragraph that the virus started in Wuhan, then that Mr Opperman had helped many hundreds of people, followed by cut and paste Dom must stay.
David Davies, MP for Monmouth: ‘My wife works part time as an interpreter and this has required her to be in NHS hospitals at times during this crisis. I have had personal cause to see hospice and care workers in action so it has been extremely important to me to adhere to the guidance and support the NHS at this difficult time.’
[Followed by cut and paste]
Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings and Rye: ‘I believe he displayed a gross error of judgment, but understand the circumstances surrounding why he took the action he did. The facts of Mr Cummings situation are disputed and there are ongoing investigations. In my view, it is important not to engage in a trial by media.’
Anthony Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire, said he had had more than 1,500 emails. ‘I completely understand the public anger. It is unacceptable for those who make the rules to break them. That is a particularly passionately held feeling in the UK, a consequence of our deeply held belief in fair play, democracy, and everyone being equal under the law. I cherish this trait in our national character and legal system and would fight to defend it.
(I can feel a big BUT coming on)
‘Reasonable people are now debating whether he broke the lockdown rules. (No they are not. He did. Reasonable people say so.) There are perfectly valid arguments either way, (nope) however a point I have made repeatedly in public and in private is that in applying the rules we must not lose sight of common sense, nor indeed our humanity.’
[Government should have made it clearer than people should be able to do whatever they want by way of exceptional circumstances, like having so few friends where you lived you have to go to the other end of the country for childcare.]
‘I have been advising constituents on a daily basis about the lockdown rules, and if a parent came to me in the same circumstances as Mr Cummings and asked if they could do what Mr Cummings did to protect their child, I would have said yes…
‘My overriding feeling now is that we need to draw a line under this issue and move on to more important matters. As your MP, I want to continue to focus on helping people, businesses and the country get through this crisis.
‘I am sure mistakes have been made by the Government as well as others, but I am confident that with a collective effort and compassion for everyone who is making difficult choices at this time, better times lie ahead.’
Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet
[I was a magistrate; all about Brexit; Remainers and Leavers both hate him]
‘His attitude to Leavers like myself is similarly baffling, now treating most fellow travellers on that referendum campaign with derision. He has uniquely attracted fleas from across the spectrum with many wishing to see him brought down for any reason and it would be easy to join Mr Cummings’ political foes on all sides calling for his resignation. After very careful thought, I believe such a move would be disproportionate, however, you can be assured that I have fed in my displeasure, and your annoyance to Government Ministers and the Chief Whip.
The key task now is to make sure that the damage to our sense of national solidarity does not make the easing of the lockdown chaotic, as it will be if people decide that the rules do not apply at allhis has been a bad period for the Government, and it is in the interests of all of us, whatever our political views, that the recovery from the virus is put back on track.’
Lets’ leave the penultimate word for now to James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, an ardent Brexiteer and leading light in Leave Means Leave.
‘Over the weekend I was one of the Conservative MPs who called for Mr Cummings’s (?? See next apostrophe) resignation or sacking. Of the 1000 or so emails I received, nearly all spoke of their outrage at what Mr Cummings had done; at the contrast with ‘ordinary people’ who were religiously observing Lockdown; of the tragedies and misery that many of them had had to endure as a result. I could feel the very real frustration and anger that Mr Cummings might be about to ‘get away with it.’ I had – and have to this day – every sympathy with those views; and as a representative MP made sure that the Chief Whip, Chairman of the Party and Prime Minister were well aware of them.
‘I then watched Mr Cummings’ (??, inconsistent apostrophe application) extraordinary press conference in the Rose Garden of No 10 – why was he granted that rare privilege?- , and I did, to a degree, develop some sympathy for him in his plight.
[Wife, child, parents; media circus; witch hunt; trial by the mob.Then his role in Brexit, and so…] ‘ His departure would be a sad loss for the PM, for the Government and, in reality, for the Nation as a whole at this very difficult time in our history.
‘Nonetheless, I do still have significant reservations about Mr Cummings’ (??, make your mind up) conclusion that driving to his parents’ house near Durham was the best solution to his personal crisis, knowing as he must have done that this was, at very least, close to breaching the Lockdown regulations which he himself had helped draft. A great many people who have written to me describe far more harrowing circumstances, despite which they kept strictly to the Lockdown rules. There are a number of other elements of his statement which make me feel uneasy. I am less than convinced, for example, about his reasoning for his drive to Castle Barnard, and the stop in the woods on the way back.
‘I am therefore reluctant to modify the view which I expressed in emails and on my website over the weekend calling for his resignation. I remain unhappy with his actions, which I do believe breached the spirit if not the letter of the lockdown rules. And I do still believe that if everyone acted as he did, those rules would become entirely unenforceable.
‘It may well have been poor judgement rather than anything worse. I think he was rather foolish in his decisions, perhaps partly explained by the huge strain he was under in his job and his private life at the time.
‘But over the next few difficult weeks and months we need the full confidence of the people if they are to agree to the steps which will be necessary to safeguard both their lives and for their livelihoods. And for that to happen they have to have full confidence in the Government which is asking them to do it. Mr Cummings’ questionable behaviour has undermined that trust. It can only be rebuilt if he now departs the scene. (Yep.)
I really do feel that our focus now must be to deal with the Coronavirus crisis and get the United Kingdom back up and running. (Yep. Can’t quite believe I am agreeing with James Gray.)
Finally, for now, an absolute belter from Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire. ‘Thank you for your email. We are currently receiving thousands of emails each and every day. We are not able to give priority to those who send emails, as this would be unfair to those who do not have access to the internet. (Maybe send by pigeon and he would put that first.)
Anyway, enough already. I have left out loads of the cut and paste jobs. I hope you enjoyed reading the different ways MPs are responding. Above all, keep pressing the ones who haven’t replied.
All the best. Over and out ….
Please see below Tom Tugenhat’s reply to my mail. I’ve never voted Tory but feel Tom is a good guy with an independent mind. Clearly he’s focused on China / HK right now, but I wish he’d be a but more vocal. As am sure you know, he’s no fan of the current leadership.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me about Dominic Cummings. I have been waiting to hear from Mr Cummings himself before taking a view on the matter as I believe everyone should have the right to defend themselves. We have now heard his account and I will allow that to speak for itself.
It won’t surprise you to know I have been receiving hundreds of emails an hour for the past few days about this. I am going to lay out my thoughts but appreciate this can’t cover everything – responding to each email or letter in a timely manner is impossible if I’m to help others too, due to the volume I’ve received over the weekend. Please do let me know if there is anything further you feel needs to be said.
We have all had to make difficult decisions over the past few months. Many of us have elderly relatives we haven’t hugged, friends who have had to shield, and young children who have care needs that are much harder to cope with in lockdown. For some of us the pains of separation have been even greater, when a death or serious illness has caused deep anguish. I can understand those pressures on a family as much as anyone. We all can.
But we have all known that this pandemic affects our whole community, whoever you are. Anyone can carry the virus, anyone can succumb to it, and though some are more vulnerable than others, we’re all responsible for each other at a time like this. 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 and shared many of those I have received.
In many ways, this crisis has only just begun. We must still do our best to get children back to school, to reopen offices and places of work, and, most importantly, to help friends and families reconnect without fear of infection. This is going to be a very difficult time for everyone and we need to work together.
I emailed Dr Caroline Johnson displaying my utter disgust at Cummings behaviour. I asked her if I was allowed to have my parents over to provide childcare for my deceased sons first birthday (he was still born)… this is her reply:
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 am terribly sorry for the loss of your son. As a parent myself, I know that this will be incredibly painful for you and your family. 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
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
020 7219 5381
On 24/05/2020, 09:59, “Charlotte Roe” wrote:
I am emailing today in disgust with how Dominic Cummings has behaved during the lockdown. I don’t need to go into detail as I am sure you’re aware of how he has broken lockdown rules, despite families unable to hug their grieving families at funerals, he takes it upon himself to transmit coronavirus across the country to his parents house despite nothing in the rules saying we were allowed to do this.
My sons first birthday is next week – we found out he had no heartbeat at our 20 weeks scan and he was born on the 29th May 2019. We want to keep his memory alive and we were planning on throwing him a birthday party in his memory. Now, I will be too busy crying and mourning over the loss of my son, so I am unable to provide suitable childcare for my other children, one of whom is a newborn (which by the way my husband had to miss out on the first 2 days of her life due to the lockdown rules that Dominic Cummings helped to devise). Therefore as the rules have now changed so that we can rely on parents to provide childcare, I assume that we can invite them round so they can look after my children.
If this is not allowed, please explain why it is okay for Dominic Cummings to rely on his parents for childcare, but not the rest of us?
Dominic Cummings needs to either resign or get fired for this disgustingly hypocritical behaviour. I hope you’re in agreement with your people that he has behaved incorrectly and should suffer some consequence of his actions. Therefore on behalf of the people (us) that you represent I hope you put pressure on the government for this to happen. I hope to hear from you soon.
Sent from my iPhone
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My reply to Suzanne Webb, MP for Stourbridge, after I received her reply, today. (Below).
She thanks me for my ‘grit, determination and spirit’, even though my mum died in a care home, in early April, which I couldn’t travel to visit or attend her funeral, due to Lock Down. She goes on soothingly, ‘I will not be corresponding on this matter further’.
Apparently, and with over 60,000 dead, she tells me, ‘We are however beating this virus with each passing day. The launch of the new “Test and Trace” system on May 28th puts us firmly in the driving seat to do this.’
Presumably the government are, ‘ramping things up and rolling things out again, despite the number of people tested being ‘unavailable’ on the gov.uk website for the seventh day running!
She tells me that we are now approaching a, ‘A long awaited and joyful moment…’
and then shifts the responsibility onto the public by saying, ‘To defeat this virus, it will take a massive community effort’.
Presumably that doesn’t include Dominic Cummings.
Here is her answer and my reply.
PS, I have sent it to the local press in Stourbridge.
So you refuse to develop a spine on calling for Mr Cummings to be sacked, even when so many of us have suffered, though he was instrumental in writing the policy the rest of us lived by.
It turns out you were also an utter hypocrite on Brexit, voting ‘Remain’ when it suited you and then promoting Brexit, also when it suited you.
So you don’t give a damn about all the car manufacturing jobs and supply chains, in this area, after Brexit, so long as you can take a taxpayer funded salary and expenses.
And now you are an unprincipled ‘yes woman’ to a corrupt government. Mr Cummings not only had his ‘Statement’ written very carefully by a lawyer, to cover all the bases, he faked his entries in his blog to pretend prescience about coronaviruses. Do you know how ridiculous you all look to the wider public, who have suffered so much? Comedy shows are focussing on little else.
Your party is now beyond help, with lie after lie after lie.
Having excess deaths in the UK, from this pandemic, running at 62,000, which is just under 1000 deaths per million, the highest in the world, god help us if there is now another spike due to your government’s incompetence. All the science community are warning against a loosening of lock down and you are further adding insult to injury about testing (the gov.uk website says the figures are ‘unavailable’ for the last seven days). The test, track, trace and isolate system, that is being touted by your government is in chaos. The quarantine of incoming flights is in chaos, the opening of the HoC is in chaos and will be very unsafe for many of the members, including your own Robert Halfon, who has said as much. Tony Lloyd, from Labour is still very ill with it. Again it seems to the entire country you are only doing this to protect your totally inadequate PM, who holds the British people in absolute contempt.
If this goes badly wrong, it is your Party that will shoulder the entire blame. You have an 80 seat majority, so you won’t be able to escape this obvious fact nor hide from it.
And then a No Deal Brexit that you have signed up for, will finish off the country. You know that very well.
Faustian pacts never end well,
> On 30 May 2020, at 10:17, WEBB, Suzanne wrote:
> Dear James,
> Thank you for writing to me. Now that Mr Cummings has made a public statement and Durham Constabulary have concluded their investigation, I am now in a position to respond.
> The last few months have been exceptionally difficult, a country faced with an invisible killer having such a devastating impact on all our lives.
> I would like to thank you personally for your grit, determination and spirit – characteristics typical of this constituency and the Black Country way.
> I appreciate why many people may feel angry with the actions of Mr Cummings, actions made at a time when we have all had to make personal sacrifices. Any reasonable person would acknowledge that some of the decisions he and his wife made for their family at the time of this incident could be questioned. Mr Cummings very clearly acknowledged this during his press conference.
> I am sure you are aware that following the incident a police investigation was requested and Durham Constabulary have concluded that:
> “It does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation six 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”.)
> 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 May 25, 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.”
> As the matter has been closed by the Durham Constabulary I will not be corresponding on this matter further.
> Now that investigations into the matter have concluded, I feel it is important to look ahead at the challenges before us. The certainty is that, until we have a vaccine, we will be living with some form of social distancing and it will remain the new norm for some time.
> We are however beating this virus with each passing day. The launch of the new “Test and Trace” system on May 28th puts us firmly in the driving seat to do this.
> Soon our schools will be open and next month, so will our shops. At the time of writing to you the Prime Minister has announced an additional easing of lockdown. You can now meet up to six people in public spaces or meet in your private gardens where social distancing must still be observed. A long awaited and joyful moment for many who can now meet more of their family members.
> To defeat this virus, it will take a massive community effort and I am proud to be the MP of a constituency who have shown such spontaneous acts of warmth, kindness and generosity. A community who have come together to protect the NHS and save lives.
> Thank you for taking the time to contact me and thank you once again for the personal sacrifices you have made during this crisis.
> Best wishes,
> Suzanne Webb MP
> Member of Parliament for Stourbridge
> @Q66Suzi | fb.com/SuzanneWebb66 | suzannewebb.org.uk
> Join my mailing list for regular updates here
> Constituency Office: 01384 370 574
> Working hard for Stourbridge all year round!
Hello Alastair – here is Justin Tomlinson’s reply to my email asking that he push for Cummings’ dismissal (Mr Tomlinson is the Conservative MP for North Swindon).
I have received a great number of emails on this subject, many with very strong feelings – therefore please accept my apologies that this is a non-personalised response – though I am personally reading every email that has come in. I have been replying as quickly as possible, in addition to supporting residents through normal local and national casework. Please be assured, I am feeding in a summary of all the emails and comments, including yours.
I understand why this has attracted so much interest. We all have a sense of fair play and pulling together, especially at a time of great sacrifices for many. Rightly those in positions of responsibility must lead by example.
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 on Monday – you can still see it in full on: https://youtu.be/-mSyZGy8LX8. This detailed account of the events should have come sooner.
Many people feel he broke the rules travelling to Durham. Dominic Cummings feels that he acted within these guidelines: Reg 6(2)(b), to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance. His 4 year old son is disabled, therefore presumably would require specialist care which (rightly or wrongly) he felt wasn’t available in London. Most people seem to accept this, especially as it is clear that he did what he thought was appropriate at the time as a parent. I also understand this has been investigated by Durham Police following a formal complaint. The Police have concluded that Dominic Cummings had not breached the regulations when self-isolating at his father’s farm in Durham, but the trip to Barnard Castle might have been a minor breach, but would not deem it necessary to take further action.
With regards to Dominic Cummings position, the Prime Minister has taken the view that what he did was reasonable and legal given the circumstances and he considers the matter closed. Mr Cummings works for the Prime Minister and therefore that is a matter wholly for the Prime Minister – though as I have said, I am feeding in a summary of all the emails I have had. I note Labour have not called for him to be sacked – though if anything further came to light that differed from his explanation I am sure that would change.
I did tweet after the press conference:
That was painful viewing. In unprecedented times everyone has to make difficult judgements. As a parent I understand he put his 4 year child first in exceptional circumstances, as per the guidelines. That said the detailed explanation could & should have come sooner. 1/2
I absolutely understand the strength of feeling on this, however there is no excuse for the media & protesters targeting a family home – at the centre of all this is a 4 year old child. 2/2
I didn’t enjoy tweeting about this, and I have not commented previously on other cases where MPs have broken the rules (though whilst you may not have contacted me to complain about those MPs, others did), as I personally was neither a witness, nor would I know their explanations / justifications. As you can see I am also critical of the poor handling of this since it was raised in the media. A full explanation at the beginning, or an apology for the delay would have made a significant difference.
I will continue to feed in and keep a close eye on any further developments on this, or any other cases. I will also not lose sight that we are talking about a 4 year old child and what his father believed was the best way to care for him. We must also not allow this to become a distraction from the very urgent issues facing us locally and nationally, for which I and my team continue to focus – including navigating the challenges of Covid-19.
Please be assured at the very least your comments have been fed in and I do appreciate that you took the time to raise them.
Kind regards, Justin
No reply from Angela Richardson, Guildford. Emailed the local Conservative Party to ask if she was indisposed. They forwarded my original email to make sure she got it. Still no reply. Same goes for many locals.
Many thanks for contacting me about the actions of Dominic Cummings.
I have received an enormous amount of emails about this. It is clear that many people are understandably extremely upset and angry at information that has come to light over the weekend. Although, the correspondence I have received has not been entirely one-sided.
In setting out my position I should start by saying that I don’t know Dominic Cummings personally, so I have digested the information surrounding this story in the same way as everyone else.
His statement on TV on Monday described actions motivated by anxiety about the wellbeing of his wife and small child.
On one hand, like many parents over the last couple of months, I have worried about what would happen if I became unwell during lockdown. I can understand that anxiety.
On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind the spirit in which we were all asked to make sacrifices during this pandemic.
My small team and I have responded to thousands of pieces of correspondence. We have made sure that information and guidance is provided as swiftly as possible, sometimes this advice has been both distressing for my constituents to hear and upsetting to deliver.
Always in the front of our minds have been the heart-breaking stories. Loved ones dying alone in hospital, families unable to say goodbye. Funerals with no mourners present. Grandparents alone and isolated.
Each and every one of our lives have been impacted by this virus and the national effort to combat it. In our constituency I have seen remarkable acts of dedication and self-sacrifice, every single day, which make me burst with pride at being the local MP. I totally understand anger felt towards those who appear to be bending the rules.
However, I’m also deeply uncomfortable with trial by media and I feel that whether Mr Cummings should stay or go is ultimately a decision between himself and his employer, the Prime Minister.
My very real concern, is that this episode (and the furore around it) does not detract from what we all know we need to do. We cannot take our eye off the ball. The battle against COVID-19 is bigger than this.
AND MY REPLY TO HER-
Thank you for your reply.
I read that you are unhappy with Cummings behaviour.
Hiding your feelings behind ‘trial by media‘ is disingenuous when your feelings, my feelings, those of ‘enormous’ numbers of your constituents are what have been reported by the press.
You seek to not queer your pitch with your party and leader rather than stand up against the blatant and potentially dangerous rule flouting of an adviser.
I would have enormous reservations about the kind of leader who in the face of an anguished nation chooses to save his mate. Why does Cummings appear to be indispensable?
As to focusing on the real disaster yes indeed, get rid of Cummings and get some cabinet members with backbone and gravitas!
As a political neutral I thought your recent comments regarding medals for Boris Johnson was in extremely bad taste, especially given your past record.
Sorry it was Caroline Dinenage MP Gosport
I gather you would like us to forward letters as submitted to our MPs regarding the Cummings affair.
Is there a dedicated email address for that purpose?
I submitted a letter on behalf of my wife and I to our local MP (Derek Thomas, St Ives). At this stage the only response has been the generic automated response that his email address provides for any and all communications.
Thank you, and please maintain your efforts.
p.s. Having attended Cobr occasionally and many Cygnus type crisis exercises in my working live, this shambles both astonishes and appalls me…
via my website
Jane Hunt only sent out an auto response and nothing else heard. Not surprising as she seems to be the Grey Person in MP terms anyway. Is it possible to get a front page of a paper giving the human costs of this like they did in the U.S. and show this lots incompetence at handling a crisis?? Keep up the good work
I wish to forward my response received from Trudy Harrison MP in relation to Cummings’ behaviour. To what email address should I send it?
via my website speaker address
This is my partner’s email to Natalie Elphicke, her reply, and his second email requesting clarification of what she actually means.
From: Ross Martin
Sent: 27 May 2020 12:57
To: ELPHICKE, Natalie
Subject: Dominic Cummings: the new coronavirus threat
Dear Mrs Natalie Elphicke
I write to you to protest about the actions of Dominic Cummings. He has pronounced lie after lie, and has unjustifiably thoroughly undermined this country’s fight against coronavirus. He said he felt threatened, yet if anyone was protesting outside his house a call to the police about said lockdown breach would have dealt with that; he said he drove to check his eyesight was okay – but if it wasn’t, that would recklessly place his wife and child in grave danger, the very ones he purported to be trying to protect; he also made a change to his blog in April and then pretended that he had originally written it over a year ago; lie after blatant lie. He even went back to work when he thought he was potentially infected. He did everything he told everyone else not to do.
Just look at the packed beaches on the Bank Holiday Monday, people just thought if he can do it, so can we. If you agree that he did the right thing, and a new spike of infections occurs, resulting in even just one death (but probably thousands), then you will have to live with that irresponsibility for ever.
Even Robert Jenrick did not have to make the trip he did, he could easily have had those meds safely and professionally delivered to his parents, he must clearly have known what that trip would look like, what with his three ultra expensive (much of that expense paid by the taxpayer) homes, and has likewise undermined the fight against coronavirus. The fight, the British public’s fight, for which many, many very hard and heartbreaking sacrifices have been made, is just swept under the carpet. The British public will not forget that.
Very few will follow these rules now, but some in positions of power and influence have done the right thing, from Professor Ferguson, to Catherine Calderwood, even Don Harwin in Australia. Dr Dominic Pimenta has threatened to resign in protest, a vitally needed ICU frontline doctor: his services are far more important than that of this arrogant government aide. If Dominic Cummings remains in position, the message will certainly be clear to all, lockdown breaches will explode and a resultant infection spread will overwhelm this country. Please do not let this happen. Please voice your support to the many millions who see this aide’s actions as downright wrong and irresponsible, and then please call for him to go.
37-39 Beach Street
Deal CT14 6HY
From: Office of Natalie Elphicke MP
Sent: 29 May 2020 16:57
To: Ross Martin
Subject: Re: Dominic Cummings: the new coronavirus threat
Dear Mr Martin
Thank you for your email. The pandemic and the lockdown this has required has been a very difficult and frightening time for everyone. Each and every one of us has had to made very difficult decisions and sacrifices. Many have seen loved ones fall ill – and tragically many lives have been lost to the virus.
Now as we move forward to recovery, we worry there could be a second bounce and about how we are going to repair our economy – indeed what life itself is going to be like in the post pandemic era, where we may need to take measures like social distancing for a long time to come.
So I completely understand that anyone flouting the rules will make people very angry. Especially when each and every one of us have been making such great sacrifices and many of us have suffered such great losses. Lockdown only works when we all do it – so we are in a very real sense all in it together. I have spent many, many hours checking the guidelines, considering the rules and trying to advise constituents on some very difficult and unusual situations.
It is therefore not surprising that people would be angry if Dominic Cummings had flouted the rules and got away with it.
I have received a very large number of emails, including your own. People have written to me with very strong views of support as well as opposition to the actions of Mr Cummings. In view of this, I am writing in the same terms to those who have written to me in support of Mr Cummings as well as those who have written in opposition to him.
I have very carefully considered what everyone has to say – and what Mr Cummings himself has had to say about the matter. In case you have not seen Mr Cummings’ full statement, I set it out here:
“Around midnight on Thursday, the 26th of March, I spoke to the prime minister. He told me that he tested positive for Covid. We discussed the national emergency arrangements for No.10, given his isolation and what I would do in No. 10 the next day. The next morning, I went to work as usual. I was in a succession of meetings about this emergency.
I suddenly got a call from my wife who was at home looking after our four year old child. She told me she suddenly felt badly ill. She’d vomited and felt like she might pass out. And there’ll be nobody to look after our child. None of our usual childcare options were available. They were alone in the house. After very briefly telling some officials in No.10 what had happened, I immediately left the building, ran to a car and drove home.
This was reported by the media at the time who saw me run out of No. 10. After a couple of hours, my wife felt a bit better. There were many critical things at work and she urged me to return in the afternoon and I did. That evening, I returned home and discussed the situation with my wife.
She was ill. She might have Covid, though she did not have a cough or a fever. At this point, most of those who I work with most closely, including the prime minister himself and others who sit within 15 feet of me every day, either had had symptoms and had returned to work or were absent with symptoms. I thought there was a distinct probability that I had already caught the disease. I had a few conflicting thoughts in my mind.
First, I was worried that if my wife and I were both seriously ill, possibly hospitalised, there was nobody in London that we could reasonably ask to look after our child and exposed themselves to Covid. My wife had felt on the edge of not being able to look after him safely a few hours earlier. I was thinking, what if the same or worse happens to me? There’s nobody here that I can reasonably ask to help. The regulations make clear, I believe the risks to the health of a small child were an exceptional situation, and I had a way of dealing with this that minimised risk to others.
Second, I thought that if I did not develop symptoms, then I might be able to return to work to help deal with the crisis. There were ongoing discussions about testing government staff in order to keep people like me working rather than isolating. At this point, on the Friday, advisers such as myself had not been included in the list of who were tested. But it was possible that this might change the following week. Therefore, I thought that after testing negative, I could continue working.
In fact, this did not change and special advisers were not tested and I have never been tested. Third, there had been numerous false stories in the media about my actions and statements regarding Covid. In particular, there were stories suggesting that I had opposed lockdown and even then I did not care about many deaths.
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. The truth is, that I had argued for lockdown. I did not oppose it. But these stories had created a very bad atmosphere around my home. I was subject to threats of violence. People came to my house shouting threats. There were posts on social media, encouraging attacks. There were many media reports on TV showing pictures of my house.
I was also worried that given the severity of this emergency, this situation would get worse. And I was worried about the possibility of leaving my wife and child at home all day and off into the night while I worked in No.10. I thought the best thing to do in all the circumstances was to drive to an isolated cottage on my father’s farm. At this farm, my parents live in one house. My sister and her two children live in another house, and there was a separate cottage roughly 50 metres away from either of them.
My tentative conclusion on the Friday evening was this: if we are both unable to look after our child, then my sister or nieces can look after him. My nieces are 17 and 20. They are old enough to look after him, but also young enough to be in the safest category. And they had extremely kindly volunteered to do so if needed.
But, I thought, if I do not develop symptoms and there is a testing regime in place at work, I could return to work if I tested negative. In that situation, I could leave my wife and child behind in a safe place, safe in the form of support from family for shopping in emergencies, safe in the sense of being away from home which had become a target and also safe for everybody else because they were completely isolated on a farm and could not infect anybody.
Contrary to some media reports, there are no neighbours in the normal sense of the word. The nearest other homes are roughly half a mile away. So in this scenario, I thought that they could stay there for a few weeks. I could go back to work, help colleagues and everybody, including the general public, would be safe.
I did not ask the prime minister about this decision. He was ill himself and he had huge problems to deal with. Everyday, I have to exercise my judgment about things like this and decide what to discuss with him. I thought I would speak to him when the situation clarified over coming days, including whether I had symptoms and whether there were tests available. Arguably, this was a mistake, and I understand that some will say that I should’ve spoken to the prime minister before deciding what to do.
So I drove the three of us up to Durham last night, arriving roughly at midnight. I did not stop on the way. When I worked the next morning, Saturday the twenty eighth of March, I was in pain and clearly had Covid symptoms, including a bad headache and a serious fever.
Clearly, I could not return to work any time soon. For a day or two, we were both ill. I was in bed. My wife was ill, but not ill enough that she needed emergency help. I got worse. She got better. During the night of Thursday, the 2nd of April, my child woke up. He threw up and had a bad fever. He was very distressed. We took medical advice which was to call 999. An ambulance was sent, they assessed my child and said he must go to hospital. I could barely stand up. My wife went with him in the ambulance. I stayed at home. He stayed the night in the hospital. In the morning, my wife called to say that he had recovered, seemed back to normal. Doctors had tested him for Covid and said that they should return home. There were no taxis. I drove to the hospital, picked them up, then returned home. I did not leave the car or have any contact with anybody at any point on this short trip.
The hospital’s, I don’t know what, roughly five miles or something away two miles, three miles four miles, something like that. A few days later, the hospital said that he tested negative. After I started to recover, one day in the second week, I tried to walk outside the house. At one point the three of us walked into woods owned by my father, next to the cottage that I was staying in. Some people saw us in these woods from a distance, but we had no interaction with them. We had not left the property. We were on private land. By Saturday, the 11th of April, I was still feeling weak and exhausted. But other than that, I had no Covid symptoms. I thought that I’d be able to return to work the following week, possibly part time.
It was obvious that the situation was extremely serious. The Prime Minister had been gravely ill. Colleagues were dealing with huge problems and many were ill or isolating. I felt like I ought to return to work if possible, given I was now recovering in order to relieve the intense strain at No. 10. That Saturday, I sought expert medical advice. I explained our family’s symptoms and all the timings, and I asked if it was safe to return to work on Monday, Tuesday, seek child care and so on. I was told that it was safe and I could return to work and seek childcare.
On Sunday 12 April, 15 days after I had first displayed symptoms, I decided to return to work. My wife was very worried, particularly given my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease. She didn’t want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child, given how ill I had been. We agreed that we should go for a short drive to see if I could drive safely. We drove for roughly half an hour and ended up on the outskirts of Barnard Castle town. We did not visit the castle. We did not walk around the town. We parked by a river. My wife and I discussed the situation. We agreed that I could drive safely, we should turn around, go home. I felt a bit sick. We walked about 10 to 15 metres from the car to the river bank nearby. We sat there for about 15 minutes. We had no interactions with anybody. I felt better. We returned the car. An elderly gentleman walking nearby appeared to recognise me. My wife wished him Happy Easter from a distance, but we had no other interaction.
We headed home. On the way home, our child needed the toilet. He was in the back seat of the car. We pulled over to the side of the road, my wife and child jumped out into the woods by the side of the road. They were briefly outside. I briefly joined them. They played for a little bit and then I got out of the car, went outside. We were briefly in the woods. We saw some people at a distance. But at no point did we break any social distancing rules. We then got back in the car and went home.
We agreed that if I continued to improve then the next day, we should return to London and I would go back to work. We returned to London on the evening of Monday 13 April, Easter Monday. I went back to work in No. 10 the next morning. At no point between arriving and leaving Durham did any of the three of us enter my parents’ house or my sister’s house. Our only exchanges were shouted conversations at a distance. My sister shopped for us and left everything outside.
In the last few days, there have been many media reports that I returned to Durham after 13 April. All these stories are false. There is a particular report that I returned there on 19 April. Photos and data on my phone prove this to be false. And local CCTV, if it exists, would also prove that I’m telling the truth that I was in London on that day. I was not in Durham.
During this two-week period, my mother’s brother died with Covid. There are media reports that this had some influence on my behaviour. These reports false. This private matter did not affect my movements. None of us saw him. None of us attended his funeral. In this very complex situation, I tried to exercise my judgment the best I could.
I believe that in all circumstances I behaved reasonably and legally, balancing the safety of my family and the extreme situation in No.10 and the public interest in effective government to which I could contribute.
I was involved in decisions affecting millions of people, and I thought that I should try to help as much as I could do. I can understand that some people will argue that I should have stayed at my home in London throughout.
I understand these views. I know the intense hardship and sacrifice that the entire country has had to go through. However, I respectfully disagree. The legal rules inevitably do not cover all circumstances, including those that I found myself in. I thought and I think today that the rules, including those regarding small children in extreme circumstances, allowed me to exercise my judgment about the situation I found myself in, including the way that my London home had become a target — and all the complexity of the situation.
I accept, of course, that there is room for reasonable disagreement about this. I could also understand some people think I should not have driven at all anywhere.
But I had taken medical expert medical advice. It was 15 days after symptoms. I’d been told that I could return to work and employ childcare. I think it was reasonable and sensible to make a short journey before embarking on a five-hour drive to see whether I was in a fit state to do this. The alternative was to stay in Durham rather than going back to work and contributing to the government’s efforts. I believe I made the right judgment, though I can understand that others may disagree with that.
I’ve explained all of the above to the Prime Minister. At some point during the first week where we were both sick and in bed, I mentioned to him what I had done. Unsurprisingly, given the condition we were in, neither of us remember the conversation in any detail. I did not make my movements public at the time because my London home was already a target. I did not believe that I was obliged to make my parents’ and my sister’s home a target for harassment as well. I understand that millions of people have seen media coverage of this issue. I know that millions have endured awful hardship, including personal tragedies, over the past few months, and people are suffering every day. And I know the British people hate the idea of unfairness. I wanted to explain what I thought, what I did and why, over this period, because I think that people like me who helped to make the rules should be accountable for their actions.”
You may know that the matter was this week also considered by Durham Police and that they have decided to take no police action. In case you have not seen it, the Durham Police had this to say on 28th May 2020:
“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.
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.
In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, 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. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.
By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.
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.”
Having considered the evidence carefully, it seems to me that Mr Cummings has made a very full statement. That he was doing his very best to deal with serious family challenges in the most difficult of circumstances. It also weighs heavily with me that the Durham Police say Mr Cummings did not commit an offence by locating himself at his father’s house. They say there might have been a minor breach of the regulations, but in these matters might is not the same as was. Moreover they say there is no case for taking further action and – crucially – that he did not breach social distancing so did not put anyone at risk.
Specifically, Durham Police have said:
“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.”
Accordingly I do not feel the case for Mr Cummings’ dismissal is made out on the evidence that has been presented to date.
Moving beyond Mr Cummings, it is important for us now to focus on the road to recovery. How we end lockdown, how we avoid a second wave and how we recover and rebuild our economy. This is what I believe matters most and what I will continue to focus on in the days and weeks ahead.
Thank you again for writing to me.
Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 0207 219 7052
From: Ross Martin
Sent: 30 May 2020 00:34
To: Office of Natalie Elphicke MP ; ELPHICKE, Natalie
Subject: Re: Dominic Cummings: the new coronavirus threat
Dear Mrs Natalie Elphicke
Thanks for your prompt reply. To quote your response to me: “It also weighs heavily with me that the Durham Police say Mr Cummings did not commit an offence by locating himself at his father’s house.” By this do you mean that, in your opinion, Mr Cummings made a disastrously wrong decision? Or does “weighs heavily with me” mean something that no other reasonable great British citizen means it to mean? Insulting, rude and unforgiveable unless you clarify, so please do.
You seem unable to give a conclusive answer to me, just effectively towing the party line to the detriment of the well being of our nation. Thanks for attaching Mr Cummings statement, it is still what it is: a pack of lies to obviate the herd community principle. If the result is the death of just one more person, but probably tens of thousands more, then I trust you can live with that?
An answer to all three of my questions would be much appreciated.
With thanks, have a good weekend.
37-39 Beach Street
Deal CT14 6HY
Received identical e-Mail from Natalie Elphicke, like yours most of it was transcript of Cummings’ press release. Will compose follow up tomorrow and see what happens
I’m with you on the grammar – especially the apostrophe in simple plurals (CDs always seem to get one) – and I read about a fifth of your analyses. Theh I thought Lockdown is really driving some people to extreme lengths!
I have what I think is a very interesting letter from my MP,Peter Bone, attacking Mr Cummings. It’s certainly not a cut and paste job. If you have not been swamped and are still collecting replies what is the best way to send it over ?
email via my public speaking function
(no evidence for this statement at all, they just said they thought Cummings was wrong to act as he did)
Sorry, Alastair, you must have missed it. A series of tweets included one which specifically said that, without any sign of repentance from Cummings, they should consider whether they could continue to work with government on the pandemic. (I can’t remember whether it’s included in the Guardian report.)
Lets’ leave the penultimate word for now to James Gray
Alastair, as someone who has corrected errors of apostrophe use over many years, I’d like to thank you for affording me a chuckle amidst the gloom. As for Mr Gray, I wonder whether he’s aware that, in most instances, the use of ‘do’ before verbs such as ‘believe’ is redundant, and that its overuse merely diminishes his argument by over-emphasis. I’m struck by how few MPs apply this bullshit test to Cummings’ statement: its very length shows an attempt to exonerate guilt. And he kept us waiting! No apology, no regret; not even basic courtesy. So much for a ‘good’ education!
Let’s just leave it there, shall we?
Response from Gagan Mohindra, MP for South West Hertfordshire
“ Thank you for your email regarding Dominic Cummings.
As you may already know, I released a statement on Tuesday 26th May to tell residents about my views on this situation. This statement said:
I would like to thank each of you who raised your concerns about Mr Cummings and his trip to Durham with me over the last several days. My role is to represent you and to give you a voice to question those leading our nation.
I have received over 700 emails on this topic – most of which raised concerns about how the Government has responded to the allegations against Mr Cummings. Whilst I want to take the time to respond to each email individually, I feel as though it is important to address this issue publicly via this letter.
Like any allegation, it is important to wait until we have received as much information as possible before making a judgement call, especially as I have never met or spoken to Mr Cummings. It is clear that some allegations made against Mr Cummings were false and he acted in the best interest of his family, in line with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer’s guidance: “if you have adults unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance”. I understand that when people are faced with tough decisions, we may not always reason and act rationally, particularly when a child’s well-being is involved.
However, I believe it is important for my constituent’s concerns to be heard and for appropriate action to be taken if it is believed that a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister has not followed the Government guidance. This guidance is central to the Government’s messaging to stay at home and save lives. 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?
This is why I will be making a summary of all concerns in my inbox to pass over to No.10. Whether Mr Cummings should remain in his position is not a decision to be made by me, but by our Prime Minister. I believe that the Prime Minister should hear directly what you have to say to ensure that he is happy with the decision he makes. I would also like to see 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. We cannot be selective in our investigations and only then can we draw a line under this matter and re-focus on the global issue at hand.
Whatever comes of this situation, we cannot be distracted from the health crisis which we are facing. We must continue to stay alert and prevent the spread of the virus to protect ourselves, our families and the NHS. We have all played a huge part in overcoming this virus so far, but I want to stress that this challenge is not over.
We know that Covid-19 does not discriminate. All of us, no matter who we are or what role we play in society, are navigating through these difficult times. Having to stay away from loved ones is not easy, but it is what will get us through this as safely and quickly as possible.
Once again, thank you for raising your concerns with me. My team and I will continue to prioritise any emergency casework to ensure that as we slowly phase back to normality, no vulnerable person is left without the support they need.
Keep safe and best wishes.”
Following my previous statement, things have continued to evolve with more information being made public. Durham Police have investigated the matter and came to the conclusion they will not be investigating the matter further. Whilst you personally may not be happy with their response, my view is that I now regard the matter closed and will be focusing on the urgent casework my office are still receiving and getting our country and our communities through this global pandemic safely.
As I mentioned in my statement, I will be passing on a summary of constituent’s views on this issue to No.10. I always pass on residents’ concerns to the relevant Ministers, government departments or organisations. As usual, this this will be done privately to ensure that constituents continue to feel as though they can contact me about issues in a private capacity.
Thank you again for your email. Please do continue to keep safe.
Gagan Mohindra MP
Member of Parliament for South West Hertfordshire”
The reply from my Tory MP Alun Cairns Vale of Glamorgan. S.Wales
Thank you very much for your recent email relating to the actions of Dominic Cummings and I apologise for the delay in responding.
This is a very serious issue and I understand your concerns. You can be assured that I have conveyed your views and strength of feeling to the Government and Whips directly – through a number of calls and emails. If you want to add to this by communicating personally, the link to the Prime Minister’s Office is here:
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. I am contacted many times a day asking if a specific action or journey is permissible under the rules.
The guidance states that a journey is allowed ‘for any medical need’ or ‘to provide help to a vulnerable person’. It appears that these are the exemptions Mr Cummings is relying on.
If I had received a call from a constituent seeking a view on similar circumstances described by Mr Cummings, I would have advised against travel. That said this is a judgement. I do not know if there are further facts that should be considered such as the specific needs of his 4 year old, whom I understand is disabled; or the scale of threats reported against himself or property. Having received threats personally (not uncommon amongst MPs), I am sympathetic to this issue.
I presume that the Police have investigated all aspects and came to their own judgement, reported yesterday.
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.
My focus as your MP is to ensure that people receive the support, advice and attention they need so that we can combat this terrible disease. There have been many challenges – PPE shortages, access to supermarkets, domestic violence, jobs at risk, financial and economic issues for individuals and businesses, amongst others. These will continue to be my priorities and I don’t want anything to distract further from these.
Only by focussing on these essential issues will we be able to come through this as a nation. I am hugely grateful to everyone who has played their part helping resolve these challenges and in supporting our community through this difficult period. Everyone’s efforts have made a significant difference and have saved many lives. As a result of people following the guidelines, the restrictions are being lifted further.
The recent Track and Trace plan will make a major difference but again will have challenges. I want to prioritise getting this right. The development and role out of the App will require big decisions to be taken and I am determined to ensure that the Welsh Government plays its full part in these for all our benefit.
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.
Thank you once again for emailing and as I mentioned, I am very sorry for the delay in responding but hope that you will understand my reasoning. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.
Here’s my reply from Damian Hinds – East Hants –
Keep up the brilliant work you’re doing
Dear Ms Rawlings
Thank you very much for your email. I have received several hundred emails on this subject, and I take very seriously the strength of feeling constituents have expressed to me.
Given the very large volume, I hope you won’t mind that on this occasion I am replying to constituents in similar terms.
Mr Cummings has put his case that he believes he acted legally and reasonably.
But it is clear to me that his actions broke at least the spirit of the regulations, and the interpretation of the regulations made by the vast majority of people in East Hampshire and across Britain.
Many people have suffered terribly in this time, including many who have lost loved ones to the disease, unable even to see them and comfort them at the end. Many, many more have had to make awful personal sacrifices to help bear down on the virus. Crucial to this has been the sense that everyone is in it together and working together. There cannot be one rule for some and another rule for others.
The key tasks at hand are fighting this terrible virus, dealing with all its knock-on effects, and starting to move gradually and cautiously towards reopening more of the economy and society more broadly. It is essential that attention is not further deflected from these priorities. I am not convinced that changing personnel at this stage would actually help that, and there is a real possibility it could have the opposite effect. But I think people need to hear it clearly acknowledged that the spirit, at least, of the rules was broken, whatever the motivation; and to hear regret for that, especially in the context of the huge restrictions and sacrifices that the country as a whole has withstood.
My overriding concern is that we must be fully focused on defeating this disease.
I have put my assessment, and the clear message I have heard from constituents, to the government.
Member of Parliament for East Hampshire
0207 219 7057 damianhinds.com
CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION SEE HERE:
From: Maggie Rawlings
Sent: 25 May 2020 19:49
To: HINDS, Damian
Subject: Dominic Cummings
This the third time I am writing to you Can you please explain 1. Why Dom got to do his explaining from the no 10 rose garden 2. Did he explore whether anyone could look after his child in London 3. Why did he go to Barnard castle to test his eyesight and not simply drive up and down the A1 4. Why this govt and Boris Johnson continue to support him
( You have my address from my first email )
Sent from my iPhone
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2 nd email to Damian Hinds -24/5/2020:
“I wrote to you last night and am yet to receive a reply
The Prime Minister’s comments today at the Daily Briefing are nothing short of an insult to the millions of people who have observed the letter and spirit of the lockdown rules
This Govt is looking increasingly shambolic – the story is now entirely about DC and his position is completely untenable . Why is the PM defending him ?
Maggie Rawlings “
1 st email sent to Damian Hinds -23/5/2020:
“I wrote to you last night and am yet to receive a reply
The Prime Minister’s comments today at the Daily Briefing are nothing short of an insult to the millions of people who have observed the letter and spirit of the lockdown rules
This Govt is looking increasingly shambolic – the story is now entirely about DC and his position is completely untenable . Why is the PM defending him ?
Sent from my iPhone
Sorry , here’s my first email to Damian Hinds – Written on 23/5/2020 :
I cannot believe that this Government is defending Dominic Cummings ‘ behaviour in not following lockdown rules . When most of the country has adhered to these , people have not seen babies born or family Members buried, this is nothing short of scandalous . That the Cabinet thinks fit to defend this / literally parroting the same lines/ is ridiculous. There is no hint of empathy or understanding of why people are feeling so outraged and Mr Cummings own comments today show breathtaking arrogance .
I am completely baffled as why this Govt and this PM continue to defend him .
I would like you to please respond to me explaining exactly why this man has not been sacked immediately.
Sent from my iPhone
I can’t yet see anything here relating to Sir Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley, so attach the statement I have received in response to two emails I’ve sent him this week. I’m currently composing a reply to this:
Thank you for having taken the time to email and write to me on this issue. I can assure you that I very much understand the strong feelings this incident has created and have conveyed those feelings up through the appropriate channels. I hope you will agree it is very important to hear both sides of the story before passing judgement. Too often in politics people have been hounded and pressed into resigning on pretences that later turned out to be either trumped up or outright false. We have now heard from Mr Cummings directly.
When Mr Cummings says that he did what he did with a view towards protecting his four-year-old son, I believe him. He was clearly deeply concerned that, should he be struck down with COVID-19, there would be no one on hand to care for his child – his wife already having fallen sick. His actions are consistent with a parent who had those worries and I do not doubt his sincerity on that point.
With that said, there are other realities here which I cannot ignore. I know from the many conversations and from emails I have had with constituents over the last couple of months how much of a toll the lockdown has taken on all of us. Families have been split up for months on end, relatives and friends have died alone and been buried unmourned, businesses have gone under after being forced to close – and yes – parents have agonised over how to protect their children when the virus has already entered the household. As a parent and grandparent myself I am particularly aware of these dilemmas. Crucially though, despite the uniquely challenging nature of these situations, most of us, including my dispersed family and my team members, stuck strictly to the lockdown rules put in place by the Government, even when doing so came at great personal cost. With this collective sacrifice we have purchased a sharp decline in the number of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths. It is an effort of which we can all be justifiably proud.
Mr Cummings, however well-intentioned his motives may have been, declined to follow the commendable lead shown by so many of my constituents. He made clear mistakes both in terms of breaking the lockdown rules themselves, which I believe were perfectly clear, but also in the sense that he committed actions which he, as a senior member of the Downing Street apparatus, knew had the potential to undermine the Government’s public health message. Indeed, the unprecedented effort Ministers, civil servants and advisors have put in to dealing with this crisis is at this very moment being overshadowed and badly undermined by the mere fact that we are discussing this story.
Clearly Mr Cummings has made serious errors of judgement. However, it is also very much the case that he is not the only senior political figure to have demonstrably broken the lockdown rules – several Labour politicians and at least one SNP MP have been shown to have committed breaches of their own. I did not call for their sackings when this information came to light and I am not doing so in the case of Mr Cummings. I believe this is an even handed and fair stance. We are all ultimately capable of making mistakes, perhaps even more so when the wellbeing of our children is in question.
The Prime Minister has indicated that he values Mr Cumming’s services and so he will remain in post. I accept this position and will continue to support the Government as we work towards pushing the R factor down even further so that the nation can carefully move out of lockdown and our collective political efforts can move on to implementing the transformative manifesto commitments which the country backed so enthusiastically on 13th December 2019.
Sir Paul Beresford
Member of Parliament for Mole Valley
Here’s my response from James (Useless) Cleverly
Thank you for getting in contact with me about Dominic Cummings.
I understand that his actions have created a lot of anger and frustration, particularly as so many people have done so much to respect the guidelines that the government has issued.
These guidelines have imposed limitations and restrictions upon us all that have made life harder. They have, unfortunately, disrupted businesses, prevented us from seeing loved ones, and in some cases meant people could not see family members who had then passed away.
There have been a few high profile occasions (across all parts of the UK, and right across the political spectrum) where the guidelines have been misunderstood, forgotten, or where there have been understandable infractions. In none of those cases have I called for the individual to stand down from their position, and I will not be doing so in this instance either. That is not to say that I feel the rules are unimportant, far from it, they have contributed to saving lives, but that I recognise that we are all human and we all make mistakes.
Mr Cummings has explained himself to the Prime Minister and given a public explanation of his actions. This will not satisfy everyone, but I agree that the focus of government should remain on beating this virus, finding a vaccine, and limiting the detrimental impact on our economy.
Thank you for your forbearance and perseverance during these difficult times.
Rt Hon James Cleverly MP
Member of Parliament for Braintree
Minister of State Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development
I was proud to see our Tory MP , Julian Sturdy, being one of the very first to speak out strongly against Cummings. I think he was 8th or 9th. In his letter to me he begins
“Thank you for writing to me regarding Dominic Cummings. Please be reassured that I share your deep concern and agree that Mr Cummings must resign. I first stated this view in an interview with the York Press on Sunday morning, followed by statements on my social media accounts, and have since then only grown more certain that Mr Cummings’ position as a Government adviser is untenable.”
And he was not taken in by the Rose Garden pantomime because towards the end of his letter he writes
“My stated position has not changed since Monday’s press conference therefore I continue to believe Dominic Cumming’s needs to reconsider his position as a Government adviser and tender his resignation as soon as possible. ”
The entire letter was well thought out and although I am a Labour Party member and had expected my MP to toe the Downing Street line I was immensely pleased to discover Julian Sturdy has a mind of his own!
One from Pauline Latham, normally a staunch loyalist:
Dear Mr Brown,
Thank you for your email about the issue of Dominic Cummings’ recent trip to County Durham. Literally hundreds of constituents have contacted me on this issue. I wanted to reserve judgment until I heard Mr Cummings’ statement. Having now heard it, and considering the clearly expressed views of my constituents, who have made repeated sacrifices during lockdown, I have decided to make my view known to the Prime Minister that I believe Mr Cummings should resign. Whilst I am sympathetic to the stress of the situation he was in, as a husband and a parent, I do not believe his actions were appropriate. I believe it is vitally important that the Government presents clear guidance about the lockdown and what we should all be doing to help defeat the virus. We should all follow that guidance no matter who they are. That is more important than the role of any one Government adviser and I cannot defend the indefensible.
For the avoidance of doubt, I do not support press or public harassment of Mr Cummings, his wife and child at their home.
My MP is Andrew Griffith, Conservative for Arundel and South Downs. I, and a number of other people, have written to him and as far as I can tell there have been no replies. I personally wrote to him on Tuesday 26/05/2020. He does publish his email details on Twitter and on his website.
He also tweeted a rather nasty tweet in support of Cummings and insisting media crawl back under rocks, which a lucky few of us, myself included, managed to get a screenshot of. The Tweet said ‘Calm, fulsome and reasonable explanation given by DC just now. Sunlight shone on the situation. Media to now crawl back under rocks…#whatawasteofabankholidayweekend’
I have asked Mr Griffith why he removed his tweet and if his position has changed on the topic. He seems to be completely avoiding all correspondence on social media and by email. I may have been trolling him a little on Twitter and giving him directions on how to get to Arundel when I enquire about how the email relies are going.
I would appreciated it if Andrew Griffith could also be named and shamed on your website. I am happy to supply the screenshot of his tweet and a copy of the letter I sent if it is of any use.
Keep up the good work
Reply from Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay
Dear Mr C,
Thank you for your email.
Throughout this period I have observed exactly the same rules and guidance as everyone else does. Ultimately I do not want to potentially pass on a deadly virus to those I care about in the same way as I am sure you would not wish to either. No-one is immune just because they hold a position, as the Prime Minister’s own serious illness showed, or because they were able to leave home under the rules because, for example, they could not work from home.
Those in the bay who did not “care for their own” by visiting vulnerable relatives made the vital difference not just for our NHS, but for their families as well. Our bay was sadly one of the first places in the UK to see cases of this disease, for a brief moment having more cases than London, given our population demographics this could have meant a massive impact, with many losing their loved ones. Not visiting friends and family on days like Mother’s Day means many more families will enjoy seeing their relatives next year than would otherwise be the case. As I mentioned in my weekly update at the time I sadly could not enjoy a telephone call with my Mother on Mother’s day, she died in 2014, yet the many others doing so this year meant more of them can enjoy a visit next year than would have been the case otherwise.
There was though always a specific exemption where anyone did need to leave home to provide care for someone, although many in the most vulnerable groups have sought to alter their care programmes to minimise contact risk, with testing and PPE also put in place more quickly for these carers than the wider population.
There is only one law and our Police determine impartially if people have broken it or if action needs to be taken. Durham Police have concluded their investigation and indicated how they viewed the evidence presented. I respect their conclusions.
Today the Government launched the new Test and Trace service, whilst our bay is going to be a beacon area for developing plans to tackle localised outbreaks given the experience here over the last three months. Whatever anyone’s thoughts on Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister or Brexit we should all want this to work for the sake of those we most care about.
Kevin Foster MP
House of Commons,
0207 219 4711 \ 01803 214 989
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Jonathan Djanogly MP replies…..
“ Dear Mr McCabe
Thank you for contacting me about Dominic Cummings.
Coronavirus is the biggest challenge the UK has faced in decades – and we are not alone. All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this disease.
That’s why the Government has put in place strict social distancing – to slow the spread of the virus so the NHS would not be overwhelmed, and lives could be saved. And thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the British people, and despite a tragic loss of life, the UK has slowed the spread of Coronavirus.
The latest Government guidance sets out that everyone must continue to stay at home unless necessary for specific reasons, namely, for work where you cannot work from home, to go to the shops that are open, to exercise or spend time outdoors for recreation, and for any medical need, including to provide care for another. At this stage, as per the guidance, you cannot go to another person’s home to visit, unless there is a specific medical need.
From Monday up to six people will be able to meet outside, including gardens and other private outdoor spaces – provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.
My personal view has always been, and remains, that we should all keep to the rules to slow the spread of the virus. To that end, I have been particularly careful to maintain social distancing and not to make unnecessary trips.
On the specifics of Dominic Cummings, I am aware of the allegations against him and I saw his account of events that he gave via interview on Monday, but before now I did not feel able to comment on all the circumstances of what happened and its implications before the conclusion of the investigation by Durham Police.
To that extent, I have waited for the outcome of that investigation before making comment on this matter on the basis that it serves no interest to publicly decry an individual based upon media reports alone.
I understand that Durham Police have now concluded that Mr Cummings did not commit any offences and did not breach social distancing rules; although his trip to Barnard Castle from his address in Durham may have constituted a ‘minor breach of the regulations’. Durham Police further state, ‘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’.
It is clear already that many earlier statements made by politicians and others have been found to be incorrect once further information has come to light. I have therefore taken the time to wait for all the information before reaching a considered view. Instant reactions based upon unfounded media reports are rarely helpful in issues pertaining to public life.
However, having now had the opportunity to consider all aspects of this situation I agree that Mr Cummings made a mistake in taking the course of action that he did and that should be acknowledged. Mistakes are often made worse by what happens next and in this case I believe that Mr Cummings should have recognised the strength of feeling and offered an apology.
I know from reading the hundreds of emails like yours that many people are incredibly angry and upset about this issue. I too am disappointed at what is an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction at a time that we should, as a country, be united in our fight against Coronavirus. At the present time, I should be working with you, with local councils, businesses and schools planning for the easing of lockdown – to ensure we get it right and remain protected. Instead, my team and I have spent many days dealing with the reaction to the conduct of Mr Cummings.
It is important that you can raise your concerns with me as your Member of Parliament. However, I believe I have now offered a factual and reasonable response on this matter and do not intend to divert time from the other important issues being raised by constituents to debate this matter in further detail. Prior to this I was already receiving hundreds of emails and letters from constituents every day and moving forward I wish to focus on this important casework.
Mr Cummings is not employed by the Conservative Party or by Conservative MPs, and the future of his employment is therefore a matter for the Prime Minister. Please be assured that I have passed on to the Prime Minister both my own views and the sentiments of the correspondence I have received from constituents.
Thank you again for contacting me on this issue.
Jonathan Djanogly MP
Member of Parliament for the Huntingdon Constituency
My second email and the lame response!
Sent: 31 May 2020 09:42
To: GRIFFITHS, Kate
Subject: Re: Cummings issue request
Dear Mrs. Griffiths,
I am a constituent in Burton, my address is in the email trail below.
Thank you for your response. I have reviewed this response and your website statement and whilst I am encouraged by your comment intimating that your decision over whether to travel in a similar way to Mr. Cummings would have been different, I think it understates the problems and the importance of the issues.
This Government is clearly set on going in one direction despite any views but it’s own and I could understand if you are in a dilemma as to how to support your own party and how to do what is right. I hope this is the case. Personally, I have formed a belief that Mr. Cummings was wrong to do what he did and that his actions are most likely to have been illegal. That he has not ‘owned up’ and taken responsibility for this is bad enough, but for Mr. Johnson to compound the felony casts the whole Government in very poor light.
I am of the belief that this will cost lives……witness the beach and beauty spot scenes we are seeing on media platforms from this weekend (30th and 31st May).
The Government has, no doubt, done many good things in their attempts to tackle COVID, but that needs to be accompanied by integrity, honesty and full responsibility without childish and dangerous ‘twist’, ‘spin’, ‘obfuscation’ and downright lies.
This is a time for putting aside schoolboy behaviour.
I am over 60 years of age and have been a lifetime Tory voter, but this issue has undermined my political allegiances and I am not prepared to vote Tory again without a significant change of direction.
Please would you share some information as to how you are going to respond to the Cummings affair moving forward. I cannot accept the, ‘I am going to move one as requested by the PM’ concept, it is too serious for that and some action needs to be taken urgently, not least being an apology by both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Cummings.
I would appreciate a response to this and it would help if it was not just a copy and paste email, even though you are busy.
On Thu, 28 May 2020 at 11:20, GRIFFITHS, Kate wrote:
Dear Mr Lees,
Thank you for your email in relation to Dominic Cummings.
Please be assured that I have read your email and will continue to raise constituents concerns with the Prime Minister. There is a statement on my website setting out my views on the matter: https://www.kategriffiths.org.uk/news/statement-regarding-dominic-cummings
I am sorry I cannot provide a personal response to the many hundreds of people who have written to me regarding the matter. I do understand your anger and hope that my statement has explained my own view on the situation.
Kate Griffiths MP
Kate Griffiths MP
Member of Parliament for Burton and Uttoxeter
My reply from Anne Marie Morris, Newton Abott: “Dear Lesley,
Thank you for your message regarding the movements of Dominic Cummings and his family. I apologise for such a delayed response, but I wanted to listen to all the evidence in order to better understand the issue before I replied. To speed up my response now, I am sending a reply which addresses the main points that have been raised.
We have all been living very different lives; in some cases alone, and in some cases with family members suffering from COVID 19. Everybody has done their bit to support the Government’s call to limit their freedoms to help reduce the infection rate. Many have suffered family loss, bereavement and the support network that is their family. It has been a tough time.
The Government trusted the British people to do the right thing – and they did. Powers of enforcement were limited, and police forces endeavoured to persuade rather than fine. However, in the efforts to get the message across that people should stay at home to help reduce the spread of the virus, I believe a better job could have been done in communicating where there was flexibility in the lockdown guidance.
The Government recognised that there would be some exceptional circumstances, and no guidance can be the perfect fit for every decision we need to take. Each person must do their best to do what is right. In Dominic Cummings’ case, I believe he thought he was doing the right thing, both in respect of the guidance and his family. Squaring that circle can be very difficult.
On Thursday, Durham Police concluded that the trip to Durham from London was not in breach of the law. They did however conclude that the trip to Barnard Castle might have been a minor breach of the regulations, but this was viewed as minor because there had been no breach of the social distancing rules and nobody had been put at risk. Therefore, no further action will be taken.
I know that views on the decisions and actions that Dominic Cummings took are divided, and strongly held. I have had letters which condemn him and letters that support what he did. For me two things matter. First, did he do his best to comply with the guidance and was his decision to travel to Durham reasonable? I believe it was. Second, did his action put anyone else at risk? I don’t believe it did as no social distancing rules were broken.
This incident has been allowed to drag on for over a week and quite clearly could have been handled better by all parties. A clear explanation of events and a level of contrition should have been forthcoming sooner. Dominic Cumming’s employment is a matter for the Prime Minister, who has made it clear his position on the matter. This is clearly not going to change, and therefore it’s time to get on with reducing the risk to society of Covid-19 and the much-needed reopening of our economy.
Thank you for getting in touch.
Email sent 24th May to Gareth Bacon MP, Orpington.
Dear Mr Bacon,
This is only the second time I have written to you and only the third time to my Orpington MP. I’ve live in the constituency since 2005.
I have written ten questions here.
Clearly you’ll not be able to answer them all, but may wish to ask the Cabinet Office, the Health Department, Number 10 or raise them as concerns with the 1922 Committee.
I have starred questions I’d be grateful if you could answer. As you may well be very busy, a Yes/No can suffice where possible.
1*. Many have not attended funerals of loved ones. John Tomsett, a headteacher at Huntington School in York has been on SKY News, holding back tears talking of how he couldn’t visit his dying mum at other end of country because he obeyed lock-down rules.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of cases I have read about like this. Heart-breaking moments where to be together was against the rules, to touch, hold and hug was against the rules. And people of our great country followed these rules as they cried and broke down in their grief and loneliness.
Should these grieving family members have met up and been together*?
2. Did the Cummings family stop at a service station or any other place for food, drink or toilet break on any of the four 250-mile journeys up to or back to London?
3. If so, where & is there CCTV footage showing how many people are possibly infected from his actions?
4*. If we all did the right thing for ourselves, then the rules-based system won’t work.
If one person breaks the rules.png
Should we all do right for ourselves or should we obey the rules*?
5. No 10 made a statement that Cummings wasn’t ill when he made the decision to travel.
They are now saying he was. Which is true?
6. On Friday, sources from No. 10 were briefing the Mr Cummings went to stay with parents (who are vulnerable).
On Saturday this changed to say he did not stay with parents. Which is true?
7. Will the Health Sec, Matt Hancock now update the official NHS guidelines on what to do if you have Covid 19? (Currently: “Do not leave your home for any reason”)
Can I leave Home Covid Self Isolate.png
8. If Mr Cummings did nothing wrong why did No 10 conceal his location while he was ill? Why might Mrs Cummings have written an article about his illness that gave the clear impression they’d been in London?
9. When Government scientist, Neil Ferguson broke the lockdown Matt Hancock said he was “speechless”.
Iain Duncan Smith was quite angry saying his behaviour “risks undermining the government’s lockdown message”.
Have they changed their minds or is this very different?
(Ferguson had no symptoms of Covid. Mr Cummings and/or his wife did.)
10*. Matt Hancock described Ferguson’s decision resign as “the right decision”. He was willing to refer it to the Police.
James Brokenshire said “Ferguson’s resignation had been “an appropriate course” because other people had tried so hard to stick to the lock-down, even though it had been hard not to see loved ones.”
Do you feel that this sort of behaviour is a resignation issue*?
I am sure that you are a decent man Mr Bacon and privately may well be furious at the reckless actions of Mr Cummings in putting others at risk. You may well be furious at the damage he is bringing to your party of government and the manner in which cabinet ministers seem to be under pressure to defend him.
I have only just looked and I note that you’ve said nothing on this matter. I understand the pressure of a party system and of toeing the line.
Reply, sent eight days later, which answers none of my questions.
Dear Paul Clark,
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
My follow up:
Dear Mr Bacon,
Thank you for replying to my letter of the An initial reading of your response seems most reasonable.
In addition, it also seems that you wrote this yourself, which while expected, there are many of your colleagues who have cut and paste social media content and letters.
I thank you for taking the time to write your own words. 🙂
When analysed at the sub-sentence level, the conclusions you have reached seem based on a rather tepid and unbalanced analysis which contrasts Mr Cummings (truthful and honest) against a media that is not.
GB: “I do not know Dominic Cummings personally. I have never met him or had contact with him. I have reserved judgement on his decision until this point because there have been numerous false stories in mainstream and social media
1. How have you determined which are false?
You have not indicated this.
GB: “Dominic Cummings is an undeniably divisive figure and, over a considerable period of time, has been a target for sections of the media and people with particular political agendas.”
Yes, he is divisive. And has been a target.
2. Are you judging the veracity of Mr Cumming’s testimony upon the fact he has enemies?
GB: “I did not wish to base my opinion on reports that may have been factually inaccurate.”
I would hope you wouldn’t.
3. But here you say ‘may’ and do not indicate which reports you believe and which you do not. Could you give examples of which you do not believe?
GB: “Having listened carefully to the press conference on Sunday evening, I now feel I should set out my views.”
It’s uncomfortably curious that this the previous sentence contrasts with the first in the paragraph.
ie “Reports that may have been factually inaccurate” and “Having listened carefully to the Press Conference”
It sounds perhaps, that the latter has cleared up the former; the reports are to be doubted perhaps, and Mr Cummings statement to be believed. What follows here will be critical in supporting or rejecting this possibility
4 To what extent do you question the veracity of Mr Cummings words? Or do you, like the PM says, believe all he has said in the Rose Garden?
GB: “I believe that Dominic Cummings should have disclosed the level of detail he did on Monday evening considerably earlier. This is clearly a matter of national interest and the delay allowed numerous false stories to be circulated by the media…”
5. Were, in your view, any true stories “circulated by the media”?
GB: “This is clearly a matter of national interest and the delay allowed numerous false stories to be circulated by the media which have caused widespread anger and upset across the country.”
Me: You make a clear linkage hear between ‘false stories’ and ‘widespread anger’.
6. Do you stand by this linkage?
7. To test this, do you believe any of your constituents are angered or upset by the numerous *true* accounts in the media?
I note you rely rather heavily on the final press statement of Durham Police and not earlier ones. They suggest a ‘minor breach’ may have taken place (your emphasis)
8. To what extent do you agree with Professor Van Tam?
“In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear.
In my opinion they are for the benefit of all.
In my opinion they apply to all.”
Here is the reply I received following my letter of complaint to my local MP, Dr Sailesh Vara.
VARA, Shailesh (email@example.com)
Dear Ms Gibson,
Thank you for contacting me regarding Dominic Cummings. I have received several hundred emails on this matter and while all of them have been carefully read, please accept my apologies that I am unable to reply to each one individually. Some of the emails support Mr Cummings while others do not. Irrespective of the view taken by people, your views and concerns have been made known to the relevant Ministers.
The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on each and every one of us and our lives and way of life has changed beyond anything we could have imagined a few months ago. There has been much suffering and sadly many loved ones have lost their lives. I have been deeply moved by the many personal sacrifices, experiences and difficulties that many of you have spoken of. I also fully understand the public anger and frustration on an issue that has divided opinion.
In coming to my own conclusions, I have looked at this from the point of view of a couple being unwell and trying to ensure proper care for their four-year-old son.
Dominic Cummings has given a full account of his personal circumstances and the reasons for his visit to Durham. As far as I am aware, his own situation is not specifically covered in the rules and guidance. In such exceptional circumstances, what is provided for is for individuals to act reasonably and use their personal judgement.
I am mindful of the comments made at the beginning of the lockdown by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, as to who could look after a child if both parents or carers were incapacitated.
She said: “Clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance. And if the individuals do not have access to care support – formal care support – or to family, they will be able to work through their local authority hubs.“ In Mr Cummings case, he had access to family support.
It is also important to remember that Mr Cummings and his family were subjected to death threats and considerable hostility at their London home.
Having considered all the circumstances, and especially the need to take account of the care and welfare of a vulnerable four-year-old child, I take the view that Mr Cummings acted within the rules.
With reference to the trip to Barnard Castle, this has been the subject of an investigation by the police. Following their investigation, the police have said that they will not take any further action, in the same way that they would not have taken action had it been anyone else in similar circumstances. Given this finding by the police, I am content to leave the matter at that.
I appreciate that my response may come as a disappointment to some people but I have tried to set out my reasons for coming to these conclusions.
At the start of this email I mentioned that I have received a large number of emails on this subject, some supporting Mr Cummings and others not. I should add that I have also received a large number of emails from people who wish to draw a line on the matter and believe that we should now move on and focus our energies on the many other important matters ahead of us as we ease lockdown. I agree with them.
For my part, as your MP, I will continue to do all I can to help and assist the many individuals, businesses, charities and other organisations that continue to contact me in these difficult times.
I very much hope that you, your family and loved ones, along with your friends, will be able to stay safe and well as we all strive to get through this crisis.
Very best wishes,
Shailesh Vara MP.
I live in Buxton and emailed Robert Largan, new Tory MP for High Peak, on Sunday 24 May asking him direct questions about the Cummings affair.
I chased him on 27 May after hearing nothing. I emailed him again on 29 May to remind him that I expected a reply to my initial email and I also expressed my disgust at the behaviour of Boris Johnson in the Thursday press briefing. I implored him to do what he promised in his inaugural speech in the Commons – to be independent-minded, to criticise the government, to fight for democracy. I chased him again today, 1 June, after hearing nothing.
He has made no comment about the affair on Twitter but has had time to film a video, post a photograph of books and talk about his birthday meal.
Just a small factual correction (!) Bill Wiggins is MP do North HEREFORDSHIRE not North Herts. You are not the first to confuse the two counties!
Thank you for your email about the chief of the Prime Minister’s political staff, Mr. Cummings. I am sorry that this reply has been delayed, however, I am experiencing very high volumes of correspondence, much of which raises often urgent individual problems of an acute personal nature arising from the current emergency. I am sure you will understand the need for me and my staff to give priority to helping with those problems wherever possible.
You ask me for my thoughts about Mr. Cummings’ actions in removing himself and his family to a place of isolation near his sister and young adult nieces in County Durham so that his four year old child could be looked after if he and his wife, both of whom seemed likely to become ill with the Coronavirus, became unfit to do so.
I have reflected carefully on this and have awaited both Mr. Cummings’ explanation and the Durham Police’s conclusions that were announced on Thursday before making public comment. Inevitably, his conduct divides opinion and admits of a wide range of views. I can only give you candidly my own.
I think that advice ought to have been clearer in explaining that if there was no other reasonable choice to protect a young child who otherwise could not be looked after, it was permissible under the applicable regulations to leave home to go to a place where he or she might be cared for. The government’s guidance specified acceptable reasons for leaving home but those were examples. The legally binding regulations always permitted someone, albeit at the risk that, if detected, the police and a court might later disagree with them, to leave home if they had a pressing necessity to do so to sustain the essential physical welfare of themselves or someone else, and the provision of care to a very young child, where there was no other reasonably available option at home, might well be such a ground. I note that the Durham Police have concluded the same and do not regard him as having transgressed the law.
I do think it is regrettable that Mr. Cummings did not place these facts in the public domain much earlier and I think he might have expressed regret that, however innocently, his conduct could have caused confusion.
Nevertheless, on the assumption that there was indeed no other viable choice without putting others at risk, and since I cannot see any other plausible motivation than his desire to ensure the protection of a vulnerable child while he and his wife were very unwell, I do not feel able to call for his resignation. His decisions were taken on the spur of the moment in the immediate apprehension of a family crisis and on the brink of becoming very ill, and he and his wife returned home as soon as the crisis was over.
Had Mr. Cummings travelled to Durham to visit his parents, or merely for convenience of childcare, I would have taken a very different view. The sole justifying feature of his case is the necessity of protecting a vulnerable child.
The journey to Barnard Castle after he and his wife had recovered to see if he was up to driving to London the following day, while it might well have been within the law, is hard to argue as following the Government’s advice at that time not to drive long distances to beauty spots and, as he has acknowledged, reasonable people might well disagree with his actions and conclude that he should have acted differently.
He could, of course, legitimately have set out for London and then returned to the place he had been staying if it had proved too much for him. There might be said to be little practical difference in terms of the risk of spread of the disease between doing that and the course of action he chose, but in my view, it would probably have been better to admit that he did not follow the strict letter of the government’s guidance in this respect and apologise.
Even if his visit to Barnard Castle for this reason was inappropriate, it was an error of judgment committed in the immediate aftermath of suffering a serious illness without any desire to frustrate the rules, or their purpose, which is to contain the potential spread of the disease. I do not believe that it warrants dismissal.
While I do not think that Mr. Cummings’ conduct justifies his dismissal, I am acutely aware of the need for self-discipline in implementing the government’s public health measures and my position might change in the event that I were to become convinced that his actions, and not the often inaccurate reporting of them, were harming the national effort to defeat the disease. I am confident the good sense of the British people will not let this incident affect their conduct.
Finally, the fundamentally important and urgent purpose of the government and the country is now to ensure there is no recrudescence of the virus as we begin increasingly to resume aspects of normal social and economic life. That can only be achieved by careful planning and by focusing intense effort and resources on testing, tracing, and containment of those who have it. I am in constant discussion with the Devon County Council, the Health Authorities and with local business organisations and others to ensure that those plans and the resources to carry them out are in place.
Thank you very much indeed for taking the trouble to write to me.
The Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox QC MP
Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon
House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 0207 219 4719
UK Parliament Disclaimer: this e-mail is confidential to the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender and delete it from your system. Any unauthorised use, disclosure, or copying is not permitted. This e-mail has been checked for viruses, but no liability is accepted for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail. This e-mail address is not secure, is not encrypted and should not be used for sensitive data.
Here is a reply from my MP Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield):
Dear Ms Bowers,
Over the last week a number of constituents have contacted me about reports concerning Dominic Cummings. In the light of their own sacrifices and hardships, a lot of people have been asking serious, understandable and justified questions about Mr Cummings’ trip to Durham.
However, since these reports were first published, Mr Cummings has given a full and frank account of what happened, including answering numerous questions from the press.
In addition, Durham Constabulary have confirmed that having reviewed all the evidence, they will not be taking any further action.
Much of the media reporting of this story has proved to be factually inaccurate, with even the BBC having to apologise for the coverage by Newsnight, their flagship news analysis programme. With facts in short supply and opposition groups seeking to make as much political capital out of the uncertainty as possible, it is no surprise that this story has gained so much attention.
Nevertheless, I share the Prime Minister’s view that the time has come to move on and focus all our efforts on the job at hand. That means continuing to ensure that the lockdown is lifted in a careful, considered and safe manner, so that we can get our economy moving again and reunite with our loved ones.
Joy Morrissey MP
Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
House of Commons | London | SW1A 0AA | 020 7219 6453
Disraeli House | 12 Aylesbury End | Beaconsfield | Buckinghamshire | HP9 1LW | 01494 977505
http://www.joymorrissey.uk | @JoyMorrissey | fb.com/joy4beaconsfield
here is the reply I’ve had from Craig Tracey MP (Conservative, North Warwickshire)-
Dear Mr Cadwallader,
Thank you for contacting me regarding Dominic Cummings.
I would firstly say that I am acutely aware of the significant sacrifices my constituents and their families have made during this time and I also recognise that the lockdown has been a particularly harrowing time for some individuals, especially for those who have lost loved ones and have not been able to hold and attend funerals in the way they would have wanted. I do understand the frustrations, upset and disappointment that some of my constituents feel who have diligently followed the lockdown guidance throughout this crisis.
In assessing the situation, I have endeavoured to ‘take the politics out of the matter’ and consider my response as if I was his MP, advising Mr Cummings if, as a constituent, presented me with those same circumstances as we currently understand them to be. With this viewpoint in mind, and given Mr Cummings has repeatedly stated there were absolutely no other childcare options available more locally, as a complete last resort, I do believe his journey to an empty property was within the guidelines, in this very unique situation. My utmost concern would be for the welfare of the child.
These lockdown guidelines did permit for an exemption to the stay at home order for parents and guardians who became ill and may become incapacitated, should it be felt that the child’s welfare may be put at risk. As the Prime Minister has noted, I would also highlight that on the 24th March, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, clarified this point on the daily briefing when she said “Clearly, if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance. And if the individuals do not have access to care support – formal care support – or to family, then they will be able to work through their local authority hubs.”
The rationale for the trip to Barnard Castle is more concerning, however, but I do understand he has given his full version of events and as no evidence has been supplied to counteract this, I have to accept it at face value, as I would with any constituent. If further evidence is forthcoming, I will obviously review my position to reflect the new circumstances. Rest assured, I strongly believe that there should not be one rule for those in power, and their advisors, and another for the general population.
I do fully understand the weight of feeling on this matter and will continue to communicate this back to the Government. I do, however, believe that it is hugely important that this particular matter does not become all-consuming. In many ways, we still have a long way to go in our fight against Covid-19. There will be many challenges ahead and debates to be had, as we move into our ‘new normal’ – reopening schools, restarting the economy more widely and helping family and friends to reconnect without fear of infection.
I do also appreciate that some may now have concerns about public health messaging in the aftermath of this furore. However, I can assure you I will continue to support my constituents to enable them to follow the social distancing guidelines as closely and easily as possible, to both protect themselves and those around them, and to prevent a second wave of infections.
With regard to test, track and trace, I am pleased to hear of the vast efforts of the NHS and the Department for Health and Social Care to roll out a tracing system, similar to that which you mention in other countries, which was launched this week. With vastly increased testing capacity, with tests available for anyone displaying symptoms, and the trial of the NHSX contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight and the recruitment of over 20,000 contact tracers, we are well on the way to a fully formed test, track and trace system. This tracing system will be the cornerstone of the move to relax the lockdown and return to a more ‘normal’ way of life.
I will also continue to monitor the situation, should any further information and detail come to light. In the meantime, I trust you and your family will stay safe and well.
Craig Tracey MP
North Warwickshire and Bedworth
Hi AC, First, thank you for doing this. It’s hugely appreciated.
response from Laura Trott (Sevenoaks) below. I posted my original letter on your twitter, but have put it below hers also (although I have lost the formatting and citations here), and she seems to avoid everything I asked:
Thank you for contacting me to express your views in relation to the recent headlines on Dominic Cummings.
I have received many emails from constituents on this same topic and I read all of them carefully. Many of you have written to me for the first time, shared personal stories, and represent all sides of the political spectrum. I take all your views very seriously and now that we have all the facts to hand, I wanted to take this opportunity to set out my reflections. While I know many will not share these, it is only right that I set out my thinking given the fact that there are such strong and heartfelt opinions at play.
The last few months have been tough for the whole country. Everyone has experienced difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and some of us have tragically lost friends and family to the virus. My team and I have assisted thousands of people in need of urgent help, be it clarification of the guidelines, or to access support for their families or businesses. You have all made sacrifices. Many have been unable to work; children have been unable to attend school and families and friends have been unable to see each other for months. I know how hard this has been. Following the stories over the past week regarding Mr Cummings’ actions, I thought very long and hard about my response and waited to hear a full explanation from him before reaching a conclusion.
Mr Cummings has rightly given a detailed explanation of his movements and I believe his answers showed him as someone trying to make decisions to safeguard his child amidst ill health and harassment. The police have been clear that his trip to and from Durham did not break the rules. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer advised that looking after children was an exceptional circumstance. The allegations of him repeatedly visiting Durham are not true and nor did he risk the health of others.
I understand people are angry, particularly those who have made huge sacrifices to protect their families from this disease. Having received an extremely high level of correspondence on this issue, I have made sure that Ministers are aware of the strength of feeling. However, I have had to base my own judgement on the facts and the exceptions allowed. I also condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the physical harassment of him and his young family outside his house.
Once again, thank you for having taken the time to contact me and if I can be of any further assistance in future, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
With best wishes,
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR SEVENOAKS AND SWANLEY
Telephone: 020 7219 4964
29th May 2020
Dear Ms Trott
I am writing to you as one of your constituents, with regard to the current situation regarding Dominic Cummings. I feel compelled to write to you with my deep lying concerns about your, and your party’s response.
Since your public post regarding the situation (Facebook Page: Laura Trott MP; Monday 25th May, 2020), an investigation into the events by the Durham Constabulary, has found Mr Cummings to have broken the rules regarding Government guidance on the rules for lockdown (I am sure you are aware that in legal terms, the word “might” actually means that the Police believes he *has* , since the Police do not determine breaches, merely offer opinion on it).
I am therefore asking if you would reconsider your thoughts on the situation, particularly since these current findings appear to undermine either the reliability, integrity and/or the competence of significant members of our Government’s cabinet, including: the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, who has politicised an independent inquiry, and interjected before conclusion with a pre-supposed opinion on the outcome (Sunella Braverman, personal Twitter account, 13:40, 23rd May 2020) ; the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, who not only defended the actions of Mr Cummings, but went so far as to endorse the act of driving in order to test one’s eyesight (Nick Ferrari LBC, 26th May 2020), and refused to answer a question from a Bishop of the Church of England, an institution Governed by HM Queen Elizabeth II, by whom and to whom he is appointed to serve, as per the very specific task of his very own role, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Kay Burley, Sky News, 26th May 2020); the Downing Street Communications team, who stated that Mr Cummings was “…currently self-isolating in London….” (Financial Times, 30th March 2020); the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has openly doubling back on advice he previously gave to the nation1, whilst refusing to answer certain questions from certain parts of the media that don’t suit his agenda2, and is even avoiding questions from the House of Commons Select Committee3. In addition he appears to be deciding when the country’s medical and scientific advisors can speak despite relating to actions that directly affect the interests of public health4. In turn: 1“Stay Home, do not return to work, leave the house only for exercise. Do not visit second homes” Said the Prime Minister.
Mr Cummings, in his own words, returned to work after suspecting his family had contracted the virus, travelled c.270 miles to reside in his 2nd home [his is registered on the deeds of the property as an owner on Land Registry, title number DU50307] and left the house to test his eyesight on a 60 mile round trip. He also left his isolation point, (at a point when he was at his sickest, according to him and his wife, Mary Wakefield) to collect his wife and child from a hospital. Despite travelling to Durham to receive assistance with Childcare, he received none, even for these two ‘essential’ excursions. 2Laura Kuensberg, BBC news, Press Briefing, 26th May 2020 3 “I am not going to tell you what our target is, as I have been ‘forbidden from giving out any more deadlines” (Boris Johnson briefing with the Liaison Select Committee 27th May, 2020) 4On the 30th April, at the Daily National Press Briefing, the Prime Minister not only allowed the Chief Scientific Advisor and the Chief Medical Advisors to offer their advice, but asked them to contribute to the discussion of the Public Health advice. On the 27th May, 2020, the Prime Minister said that the Chief Medical Advisor and the Chief Medical Advisors would no longer be permitted from commenting on public health advice, as it would “politicise their advice”
With these factual points laid out, there can be no question that parts of the rules were broken, and the overwhelming public opinion is that the spirit of the lockdown was abused by the very people that set out the rules.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, that in the setting out of his definition of the duties of a Member of Parliament, the RT Hon. Sir Winston Churchill stated:
The first duty of a Member of Parliament is to do what he thinks in his faithful and disinterested judgement is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain. His second duty is to his constituents, of whom he is the representative but not the delegate. Burke’s famous declaration on this subject is well known. It is only in the third place that his duty to party organization or programme takes rank. All these three loyalties should be observed, but there is no doubt of the order in which they stand under any healthy manifestation of democracy. Since Mr Cummings has been found to have breached at least some of the rules he helped to create, I would like to know if you could publically review your post regarding the matter, on your Facebook page (Laura Trott MP) on Monday 25th May, 2020.
By supporting the decision to keep him in his position, I do not believe you are fulfilling your roles as an MP, and if we are to take Sir Winston Churchill’s definition as our benchmark, please could you justify your stance by answering the following, in relation to your duties:
1. In the National Interest – What is the benefit to the nation of keeping an individual in his position who has been found to have broken lock down advice that he made, other than he is an integral part of our national strategy?
Certainly the current figures regarding the Death Toll in actual terms and per capita models would suggest that the advice he has given with regard to a national Covid-19 response, has not been good enough. If you believe that Mr Cummings was within the rules, then do you think that, as there is a 71% opinion within the public that think he should resign or be removed (YouGov poll, 26th May 2020), that the Conservative Party either no longer represents the views of the public, understands its electorate or that the messaging was unclear? Certainly the current figures regarding the Death Toll in actual terms and per capita models would suggest that the message and implementation of it wasn’t strong enough.
2. Representing the local electorate – Do you think, as a local representative of the Sevenoaks electorate, that you are best serving your community by supporting the decision to keep Mr Cummings?
I have been impressed with your response during this crisis in engaging through online forums, advocating town and parish community heroes and promoting local good news stories. I really worry that your current public stance undoes that hard work, that is so important in small town communities. A week ago, the lockdown was showing signs that the country, and communities like ours were at last being unified after the distinct Remain or Leave debate that everybody was driven into. By re-establishing these “battle lines” in a debate, in a ‘stay or go’ and ‘right or wrong’ the public and communities are again driven to take sides, and dilutes communities.
3. Best interests of your party – Do you think that supporting the continued presence of Mr Cummings in Downing Street is in the best interests of the Conservative Party, when you consider approval ratings have dropped so significantly both within the party’s membership, and from supporters outside?
The Conservative Party line for a few years has been, “Delivering the will of the people!”
Does this now mean that the party line should read “Delivering the will of the British people, when we agree with them”?
At fear of sounding a little sanctimonious and perhaps facetious, may I finally add, that at 11:53 on 23rd July 2019, you were interviewed alongside Harry Newman for BBC News at the unveiling of the Prime Minister. You were quoted as saying, “…I really don’t think people care that much about his private life as a Prime Minister. People care about what he says, what he does and whether he follows through… as long as he doesn’t carry hypocrisy into his role… he doesn’t need to worry…”
You were quite right.
Thank you in advance, and I look forward to seeing your continued good work in our community.
Response from Angela Richardson, Guildford, bit of cut and paste and a link to her website no less! Dismissive.
Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts and share them with me on the matter of Dominic Cummings.
Due to the number of emails I have received, I am unable to provide individual responses – but I have read through all of your comments and I have taken them on board in my decision-making.
I have made public my statement on the matter on my website. Here is the link:
While I appreciate that reasonable people may take a different view, this matter has been closed by Durham Constabulary and there are no further charges to answer.
If I can be of any help to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With best wishes,
Angela Richardson MP
Reply from Selaine Saxby North Devon
I hope you are well.
Thank you for contacting me. 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 could not imagine just a few months ago. Many of us have lost people in our lives and have not been able to see family and friends. It has been incredibly tough for everyone.
I do not personally know Mr Cummings. All I know of his behaviour in recent weeks is the frank and open statement he has given to the national media, where he explained why he took the decisions he did as a father and a husband. I prefer not to jump to a judgement unless I am aware of all the facts, particularly as there seems to be a lot of misinformation in the media these days often generated by social media assaults on individuals.
Over 800 people have contacted me regarding Mr Cummings and I wanted to ensure I knew as much as possible before responding. I have read each and every email sent to me on this topic. I have raised questions which I felt needed answering and made the strength of feeling in North Devon clear to the party leadership.
I will not rehearse the timeline of events with you in this email. I am sure you either watched the press conference or have since read about it.
Although I believe his actions were motivated by his desire to do what he felt was necessary to protect his family in exceptional circumstances, if placed in the same situation, I do not believe I would have made the same decisions. I would have also considered my own position. I am a big believer in taking responsibility for one’s self and the decisions we each take.
However, the Prime Minister knows far more of what has happened throughout the pandemic than you or I. He has taken his decision to retain the services of his advisor who is an employee and not an elected representative.
As I have already made clear to the party leadership, this has been a deeply unhelpful distraction we could do without as a nation dealing with a pandemic.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for following the guidance which has helped save lives. This has significantly reduced the prevalence of the virus across our country. It has also reduced the rate of infection (R), which has given the Government the opportunity to take steps to reduce restrictions and re-open society.
I very much hope the Government can now move on from this as there are so many other pressing matters associated with Covid-19 that need attention. As your MP, I will continue to focus my efforts on the hundreds of emails I continue to receive daily from constituents requiring my help and support.
I would be doing a disservice to you and those who need help during this difficult time if I acted in any other way.
Kind regards, Selaine
Thank you for getting in touch with me about the allegations concerning Dominic Cummings in this weekend’s press.
Over the past weeks I have tried to help many constituents as they try to apply the lockdown rules to their specific circumstances and understand what action they should best take to keep themselves, their families and others safe. Often there have been multiple factors to weigh up and the threefold increase in the number of requests for help I have received demonstrate clearly that doing so is not an easy task.
Since the media first reported on this story last Friday I have been contacted by a large number of constituents. Unfortunately, the volume of emails I have received makes it impossible to write individual replies to the specific questions some people have asked. Instead, I have set-out my own position on the subject as the story has developed and I have tried to explain my thinking as well.
When I first heard the story last Friday I was, like many of you who have written to me, angry. So many of us have put up with the restrictions of the lock-down and have made huge changes to our lives. Like you, I haven’t seen my parents for months and my grandmother had to celebrate her 91st birthday alone. It hasn’t been easy, we all miss our loved ones, but we have done it for the good of everyone. If the media reports were to be believed, Mr Cummings had flagrantly breached those rules.
I contacted my whip in Parliament and other senior members of the Conservative Party and Government. I passed on the sentiments I was receiving from constituents as well as (in very robust terms) my own thoughts on the story as it was being reported. Rather than make an immediate public comment on the situation, I decided to wait until Mr Cummings had also had his chance to explain what had happened.
As I listened to his media conference on Monday afternoon, I was struck by the level of detail and explanation offered by Mr Cummings, as well as the time he took to answer questions from the media. His performance was not polished or flowing, they were the words of a husband and father who had tried to do the best for his family in very stressful circumstances. Mr Cummings made clear that he had taken steps to remain isolated throughout his journey and once he arrived at his parent’s farm. I can understand why he thought it best to isolate himself, his wife and child where help was available to him should he need it and where accessing that help posed the least danger to other people.
This is not a derogation from the government guidance at the time, which states (if you are living with children): ‘Keep following this [stay at home] advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.’
This was reinforced by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries OBE at the daily press briefing on 24th March when she advised the public that ‘A small child clearly is a vulnerable individual… Clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance.’
As I listened to his answers to questions from journalists, I thought about whether I personally felt that Mr Cummings has acted in a reasonable way in travelling to Durham. The answer I came to was that, on balance, I felt he did. His account of his journey to Durham sets-out that he did everything possible to isolate himself and his family both on the journey and at his parent’s farm.
I know that not everyone will agree with my conclusion. Ultimately, my opinion on this is simply that, an opinion. It is not for me, my fellow MPs or the media to pass judgement on Mr Cummings or to hound him until a certain outcome is reached. If he has broken the rules, he is entitled to due process to establish that fact.
I have always believed in the principle of innocent until proven guilty. That is one of the foundations which underpins our entire legal system and applies equally to everyone. Mr Cummings has set-out, in detail and in public, his account of his journey to Durham and his time there. It is now for the police to consider whether they feel any breaches of the lock-down regulations have occurred. It is the police’s responsibility to gather evidence, speak to witnesses if necessary (and to Mr Cummings himself if they feel it appropriate) and to bring charges if they feel it is warranted.
Like any other individual, Mr Cummings is entitled to this due process and also to equality before the law. If he has stepped outside of those lockdown rules (which should be equally applied to everyone), then the process for investigating breaches of those rules must also be applied with the same equality.
If a constituent came to me and told me that they were being hounded by the media for alleged rule-breaking (which they denied) and were being pressured to resign from their job because of these allegations, I would be appalled.
Due process is not something we should lightly throw away, nor are the principles of innocent until proven guilty and equality before the law. If Mr Cummings were to be found guilty of a breach of the regulations by the police, that would be a different matter.
I do appreciate the strong feelings which surround this issue, I hope that the detailed explanation I have set-out in this response clarifies my thinking and position on this.
Ruth Edwards MP
Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 0207 219 3549
Hello Alistair, this is great work.
Here is the response from Nigel Huddleston, Mid Worcestershire:
Thank you for your email regarding Dominic Cummings.
I have received many emails from constituents relating to Mr Cummings and his recent actions. These emails have contained a very wide range of views and opinions.
On 25th May, Dominic Cummings set out his account of what happened between 27th March and 14th April. He made it clear that he believes he did not flout social distancing rules at any point and he explained that he was concerned that he and his wife would not be able to look after their young son if they were about to be badly affected by Coronavirus – and therefore they drove to Durham to be near his family.
At a Downing Street press conference on 24th March, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said parents who are ill and may not be able to look after a child created ‘exceptional circumstances’ where family members could be called upon to help.
Clearly Mr Cummings believes that his circumstances were exceptional and he does not believe he broke the Government’s guidelines.
While I and others may accept this interpretation, I recognise that many others may not. Some constituents have said that while they appreciate there is an element of personal judgement involved, they expect a higher bar for members of the government.
Many individuals and families have made huge personal sacrifices during the lockdown and I can understand the anger and frustration of people who believe others may not have also made such sacrifices.
The Government has endeavoured throughout the Coronavirus crisis to be transparent, clear and consistent about the rules. But I do understand that in some specific circumstances, decisions are sometimes subject to an element of personal judgement – especially when family are involved – and others may disagree with that judgement.
We have all made difficult decisions in this period and as we move out of lockdown it will become even more important to use good judgement and common sense to help control the virus and protect each other.
We must focus our efforts on the many challenges we still face. We must continue to fight the virus, prepare for the easing of measures at a safe pace, and restart the economy to provide families with economic security – and that is what I shall be working on.
Thank you again for contacting me on this matter.
Member of Parliament for Mid Worcestershire
Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage
My original email (and I had to chase him up )was:
I would be interested in your comments on the below.
I am equally appalled at the Prime Minister’s defending the indefensible. Boris Johnson has now shown he has flawed judgement and he must now resign himself. He is not fit to be Prime Minister.
Sent from my iPhone
On 23 May 2020, at 12:18, Martin Cowan wrote:
I have been appalled to read in the news this morning that Mr Cummings travelled from London to Durham in the early days of the lockdown and while suffering from coronavirus symptoms.
The rules at the time which were observed by the vast majority of the British public were to stay at home and, if exhibiting symptoms, to self isolate at home for 7 days.
It was very clear that there were no exceptions to this. There was nothing that said you could travel if you needed to give or receive support from other family members. The message was unequivocal- people had to stay at home.
Mr Cummings, with this behaviour, has displayed breathtaking arrogance and clearly believes that the rules being observed by the rest of the country did not apply to him.
This demonstrates flawed judgement and if he does not willingly resign he must be removed by the Prime Minister.
Mr Cummings’ behaviour is indefensible and I am equally appalled by the supportive statements issued by other Cabinet ministers this morning, demonstrating their own arrogance and flawed judgement.
Everyone has to operate by the same rules. Mr Cummings and some of his colleagues seem to think they are above the rules.
My further response, to which I have received no reply, was as follows:
Thanks for your email.
It is extremely disappointing that you have chosen to side with Mr Cummings in this matter, and not the 45 Conservative MPs who have said he must go. Over a million people have signed a petition saying the same thing. Perhaps you think that you are right and all these other people are wrong.
Dominic Cummings was damned out of his own mouth on the day his breaches of lockdown rules hit the headlines. When challenged about how it looked, he said “Who cares about good looks?” – clearly, he didn’t.
If he had, he wouldn’t have broken rules he’d helped to craft, rules being obeyed by the vast majority of the population, despite the hardship it caused. And he wouldn’t have tried to treat that population like idiots by giving a series of implausible excuses.
He broke the rules by his own admission:
He hurriedly left Downing Street when his wife thought she had covid symptoms. After spending some time with her, he then returned to work. However, lockdown rules said if someone you live with displays symptoms, you must stay at home and self isolate for 14 days.
He then decided that if he and his wife got ill, he would need child care so left his London home, travelling 260 miles to a “spare” cottage on his parents’ estate. However, lockdown rules said you must stay at home, later confirmed by the Health Secretary as an instruction.
Once at the “spare” cottage, even though he was exhibiting covid symptoms, he then decided to drive to pick up his son and wife from hospital. However, lockdown rules said if you were suffering from covid symptoms you should stay at home and self isolate.
He then decided to take a 50 mile round trip to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday. However, lockdown rules said you should only leave the house for exercise locally.
Dominic Cummings has displayed arrogant entitlement in his behaviour, and a bizarre ineptitude with his pathetic “dog-ate-my-homework” excuses.
His arrogance has continued since his antics came to light, being 30 minutes late for his own press conference, and failing to apologise or admit to any wrong doing. He has taken the public for mugs.
Clearly Cummings should either resign or be sacked. However what is more shocking is how willing the Prime Minister and his lapdog cabinet have been to not “mark him down “ for his behaviour.
Millions of people have obeyed lockdown, with many not visiting dying friends and relatives because they believed the rules prohibited them from doing so. Johnson, Cummings and the rest of the cabinet have been asleep at the wheel. The UK is now second to the US with the highest number of covid deaths in the world. Too late to lockdown, we now seem to be rushing with undue haste to unlock, whatever the risks.
And since Cummings’ press conference we have learned that he actually owns the “spare” cottage (lockdown rules prohibited travelling to second homes.) And that his boast that he foresaw the threat from coronavirus was in fact a lie – he had edited a 2019 blogpost on 14 April 2020 to make him look prescient.
Back to what isn’t a good look and that is the arrogance and self serving nature of this government. Teachers and unions are worried about the risks of opening schools too soon. The government thinks it knows best and ignores them. Doctors and scientists warn about the health risks of unlocking too quickly. The government thinks it knows best and ignores them.
One day there will be a public enquiry into all that has happened with the pandemic. It is unlikely this will reflect well on Mr Johnson, Mr Cummings, and this government.