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 ….