Here we go, round 3 of this highly revealing, deeply depressing analysis of Tory MPs, and their letters to constituents who complained about the Johnson/Cummings scandal. Depressing because it underlines just how low quality and devoid of original thought so many of them are; (and dreadful at grammar.) And revealing because so many are so clearly lacking in even the most basic empathy.
The cutters and pasters are the ones for whom I have the deepest contempt. Take a line from Central Office, stick a name at the top, pretend you’ve read their complaint, and pretend you’ve going to tell the Prime Minister and the Chief Whip what you thought. If every constituent who was promised by their MP that their complaint would be raised with Boris Johnson was being told the truth, then the so-called Prime Minister would have no time for anything but hearing them for the rest of his life.
Having now ploughed through close to 100,000 words’ worth of complaints and replies, a part of me wishes more have been like Desmond Swayne, MP for New Forest West, who brushes people off with a curt one-liner. ‘Many thanks. I will, of course, forward your opinion to Number !0.’ Not quite as curt as the Scarborough chap promising to push it up the usual channels, but to the point.
So too Jacob Young, MP for Redcar, (Tory Redcar, makes my blood boil) says his office will be in touch as soon as possible, hopefully within 15-20 days. (Thanks, Anna Turley would have done it immediately.)
No surprises that Nadine Dorries, mental health minister God help us, is utterly dismissive: “I have taken note of the strong feelings expressed. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views.’
Others are so fond of the cut and paste that they presumably assume their constituents will be impressed to get a letter that runs to several pages, and might even thjnk the MP has continued an original thought.
Watford MP Dean Russell is definitely in the running for longest letter title, though Trudes from Copeland (see yesterday’s pile) runs him close. Please feel free to skip past the next few pages, but I thought it worth giving at least one example of a proper cut and paste, with a bit of personal to pretend it’s not.
‘Thank you for your email. I really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch, and I do understand the strength of feeling on this matter. As you might imagine I receive a very high volume of emails (I am really important) and do my best to reply to every single correspondence. My case workload is consistently high and I have to make prioritising those in need of support the first to respond to. (Round of applause for doing my job, please)
In just the past few months my team and I have worked on close to 3000 cases across Watford – (Christ, I work hard) ranging from helping people with repatriation to supporting businesses in getting funding so they can survive this crisis. This has been a fast-moving crisis with many aspects changing regularly. That is particularly the case with this situation. All responses take time and I can assure you I am replying to you at the first opportunity I can and have now been able to give time to reflect on the situation – and to ensure I do not jump to conclusions too quickly.
Regarding your email. I can share that my first reaction, like yours, (I am just like you) was one of outrage and frustration when I believed Dominic Cummings had been on family trips and flouted the rules with no regard for others.
However, (I am going to find a way of bottling out of doing anything about it) I believe as a Member of Parliament it is important to understand the facts behind such stories and make an informed view.
I should also add that as the Watford MP (as opposed to what, MP for where?) I have stuck to the rules – as you have based on your email below (thanks) – throughout. My only time outside of my home has been to volunteer at Watford General Hospital in my weekly shift or with local community groups (did you know I volunteer at the hospital? – you do now, pass it on). On rare occasions, I have gone to the shops (I shop – normal kind of guy) or a short family walk (family man). I am incredibly grateful to everyone across Watford who has done the same, (how does he know they have all gone for a family walk, or been to the shops?) and we have seen the results of this; the numbers have been coming down thanks to this national effort. (But you only mentioned Watford)
With that context, I felt it was only right to listen to Mr. Cummings (no apostrophe) detailed explanation as I think it is only fair that he was allowed to explain his position – which he did on Bank Holiday Monday and that helped inform my response along with looking closely at the rules and listening to opinions from all sides. My conclusions may be something that we agree on, or not, but I must be honest and open with you as it is your right to know both what my conclusion is – but also why.
I should add, that (in common with virtually every other Tory MP, it would seem) I have never met Mr. Cummings so my first opportunity to hear his side of the story was on Monday along with the rest of the nation. (It was like the Queen’s address – a national moment). The press conference highlighted that several of the allegations made against Mr. Cummings were false (but I couldn’t tell you which.)He acknowledged “the intense hardship and sacrifice that the entire country has had to go through” and laid out his unique situation to safeguard his child in what was a particularly intense set of circumstances, (which were not very special at all)including media outside his home (which nobody in the history of the world has ever had to deal with, ever, which is why it was so “unique”). This was a parent concerned about their child. (uniquely, everyone else hates their kids.)
Whilst I can’t say I would have necessarily made the same decision Mr. Cummings made at the time (because I am like you, not him), I believe he gave a fair and frank account of why he did what he did, and I accept that (because that is what the line to take says). I also appreciate that throughout this crisis every individual has been making difficult choices – and I understand that people who feel they would have acted differently feel frustrated.
So, to the questions, (errant comma) I have been asked both on email and via social media. Firstly, do I think that Mr. Cummings could have clarified his position sooner? Yes; I feel that it would have been better to share the details of the self-isolation when this was first in the press.
Do I agree with him that those “who helped to make the rules should be accountable for their actions.”? Yes; I felt that in the press conference he gave a full account and it’s the first time in my lifetime (I am two weeks old) I’ve seen anyone in the public eye be subjected to such a personal and public interrogation. (My God, he really is going freestyle now) In fact, I have had many people contact me to say they felt disgusted in modern society to have such a show trial. (It was like something out of Stalin’s Russia!)
Do I believe this is now a case of one rule for Mr. Cummings and one for the rest of us? Mr. Cummings did say that his house had, unfortunately, “become a target” (for a few tweets about the bloke who lived in it) – which you will have seen again this week with the scenes of the media scrum outside his own home and now his elderly parents too – (this is a startling revelation; or a further sign of appalling grammar. As he expresses himself here, the MP for Watford is accusing Durham Dom’s Mama and Papa of joining the media scrum outside their son’s house.) In fact, he specifically shared (but never said anything to the police, so almost certainly is lying)he had received threats of violence to himself and his family. This is not right in any form – irrelevant (I think the cut and paste said ‘irrespective’ of the opinions individuals may have of him. As a parent, (family man) I can appreciate his priority was to ensure the safety of his family in, (what the hell is that comma doing there?) particularly unique circumstances (because nobody else has a child.) . He stated his nieces, aged 17 and 20, had offered to care for his son if needed (which never happened.). As his child had potentially been infected, I understand Cumming’s (an apostrophe use so bad I want to take this child back to school) desire to not (followed immediately by a split infinitive) put his 4-year-old son in the care of somebody who may be more at risk, such as a grandparent. (Another grammatical obscenity – he is saying Cummings did NOT want to put the child with its grandparents because they would be at more risk.)
On the question of whether he should lose his job for doing what he felt was best to protect his family? On deep reflection, (i.e the length of time it took to run the cursor over this bit of the line to take from the whips) I am not comfortable saying he should – even if I might have done things differently (i.e I have not reflected at all.) At this point, Mr. Cummings has not been convicted in a court of law (comma missing – he could have used the one hanging around doing nothing above) nor has the police fined him for his actions. As explicitly stated by Jenny Harries, the Deputy CMO: (Oh God, not her again, Tory MPs love her) ‘Clearly, if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance’.
Additionally, the legislation from March 26th around ‘the reasonable excuses’ for leaving your home which include:
‘to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care […], to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;’
‘If you have children, keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.’
Mr. Cummings made clear that he left his London home because he believed he would be unable to safely look (split infinitive) after his small child if he too became ill, and that he returned to London because he falls into the category of a ‘critical worker’ who cannot work from home (because his parents are outside protesting.)
In this way, I am not satisfied that Mr. Cummings broke the guidelines in his self-isolation, but I do understand the strength of feeling you and others have about the actions he took. As I state – I would likely have taken different action but my opinion does not change the fact the guidelines were not broken.
When high-profile cases concerning opposition figures have hit the press in the past, I have never jumped to call for any resignations without there being a legal reason to do so, irrespective of pressure applied to toe the “Party line“. (I would never do that, toe the party line, not me.) Those have always been my principles and they are as valid for the interests of my own party as they are for those of my political opponents.
My position is no different in this instance. I would have had the same opinion for any constituent too if they had also raised the same facts with me about the reason for safeguarding their child and within the context of the published rules. (But I don’t have many constituents with country estates with a house for every member of the family.)
I have not come to this view lightly and my conclusion is based on the fact I believe we live in a country based on the rule of law (which is why I am defending someone who broke it) ; not just instincts or a father’s love and concern for their (his, you mean, your use of an apostrophe in father’s indicates this is a singular) child (singular confirmed), but the rules that have been in place through the lockdown. As such, I would also like to be clear that if any further police investigation identifies Mr. Cummings had broken the law I will revisit my view on this matter. (But it won’t, because the cops have been leaned on.)
However, at the point of sending this email to you, there has been no police action, fines, or crime committed – even if Mr. Cummings’s actions are contentious.
I appreciate you may have wanted me to call for Mr. Cummings to be fired based on your initial email and you can be assured that with regards to representing you and other constituents. (That sentence actually doesn’t seem to end.) You can be 100% reassured that I have been speaking to Party leaders, (not just Johnson then? Starmer? Sturgeon?) Ministers, and very strongly raising concerns with No.10 Downing Street all weekend and earlier this week to share your views directly. (This is 24 Carat bullshit.)
I should add that along with many emails from those that (who) want Mr. Cummings to be fired, I also have received correspondence just as passionately wanting Mr. Cummings to stay as they feel he has been unfairly -and consistently – hounded by the media for protecting his family. (That sentence needed at least two more commas, maybe three.) So, this has been an incredibly contentious issue all around, and I have been actively relaying concerns such as yours to colleagues strongly, as is my duty and your right. (no you haven’t, Johnson and his boys’ club have never heard of you.)
From my perspective, this entire episode has been entirely regrettable. My focus has been firmly on Watford and doing all I can to focus on fighting COVID and supporting our community. This has been as a Member of Parliament, volunteer, (did I mention I was a volunteer?) fundraiser, and as a member of the Health & Social Care Select Committee and the Joint Committee for Human Rights. (Has nobody told you? Johnson doesn’t believe in those, expect for his little cabal.)However, as this situation plays out I intend to keep my focus clearly and firmly upon Watford and supporting constituents.
Whatever our opinions of Mr. Cummings and his actions, I must concur with others in stating that we must continue to stay alert (get the slogan in there, Deano) and prevent the spread of the virus. We will get through this crisis, and I appreciate everyone is making incredibly difficult decisions through these unusual times, myself included. (Because I am just like you.)
In my role as your MP, I have a responsibility to ensure that everyone’s opinion is heard but also that they are supported.(who, the people or the opinions?) I will continue to fight hard for Watford in Parliament and across the community as I have been doing since the election.
I apologise for such a lengthy email. (but I am really verbose and had a lot of lines to take from HQ to squeeze in) I just wanted to lay out my full thinking on this matter.
As a final personal note, even if you disagree with my conclusions above, please know that I am here to support you should you have any issues in the coming months or years, irrespective of whether you voted for me, or the position you have expressed on this issue. My focus will always be on helping those that are in need across Watford – so if you ever find yourself in that position, I am here to help.’
Phew, that’s it, and I promise, it is the only one I will analyse textually in full.
Some of you have been sending me not just the original letter from your MP, but subsequent exchanges, like the one in which Clare Scott, a constituent of Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, who is also the Solicitor General, concludes: ‘If you would give even the slightest indication that you have read the emails in your responses that would be marginally less infuriating and might lead your constituents to feel less like they are being fobbed off. I am disgusted both with the prime minister‘s handling of this matter and with your responses to me.
She felt Ellis, a lawyer and proud of it, had been very selective with regard to which parts of her original detailed complaint he addressed. Again, I apologise for the length, though the feedback to the previous two parts of this exercise suggest some of you enjoyed the spectacle of wriggling by Tory MPs.
‘I have been a barrister in criminal law for nearly 27 years; for seventeen years I prosecuted and defended criminal cases in the Crown Court (mostly in Northampton Crown Court (get in a local angle wherever you can) ranging from murder to low-value theft.
The crucial principle of English justice is that a person is innocent until proven guilty– (italics in case you didn’t know) and I am sure we would all want that standard of English justice to be maintained in every single case, as if it were being applied to ourselves or a loved one. The British people rightly hate the idea of unfairness. I also know the people of this country have undergone terrible hardships and loss during this pandemic and I assure you that I will feed back your strong views to government.
In the case of Mr Cummings there are of course political as well as legal dimensions, and having also been a politician for over a decade I fully understand that people in public life must expect to be held to a high standard. Even unelected members of staff like Mr Cummings, not just elected MPs, are nowadays also clearly expected to conduct their lives in an unreproachable and exemplary fashion.
The Law and Mr Cummings: (words coloured in light blue are direct quotes, italics are my emphasis)
The Government’s ‘Stay at Home’ guidelines say people who live with someone who develops symptoms “must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.” (See this passage in the official document here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection#if-you-are-living-with-children.)
The same guidelines also say: “If you are living with children: Keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all of these measures will be possible.”
On 24th March, at the very start of the lockdown, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries (there she goes again, lovely Jenny …) was asked by a journalist: “Imagine you’ve got a two-year-old who is healthy and both parents or an only parent gets ill- what is meant to happen to that child?”
Dr Harries said in her response that if there was no access to formal care support or to family “they will be able to work through their local authority hubs.” Dr Harries did not explain exactly what that would mean but I think it is clear the child could be put into local authority care as a last resort if there were no healthy adult family member available to care for it. (No, numpty, she meant that the local authority was co-ordinating help for people.)
Mr Cummings has defended making the journey from London to Durham with his wife, who was ill with suspected coronavirus. They have a four-year-old child. He has said that he drove to family in Durham so their child would be looked after by family and presumably therefore not risk being taken into care (bullshit) if both parents remained in London and became ill and incapable. Mr Cummings says he had “behaved reasonably and legally” (as opposed to irresponsibly and illegally which is what most people think.)
The Law covering this in England says “no person may leave the place they are living without reasonable excuse.” See the law here:http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/made.
The key question therefore is what amounts to a “reasonable excuse”? (He is going full Rumpole now.)
The law says a reasonable excuse “includes the need” and then gives several reasons, including at Section 6, subsection 2 paragraph (d): to provide care or assistance……to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;
See that list of ‘reasonable excuses’ in the law here:http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/made.
A 4-year-old child is a vulnerable person. The law therefore stipulates that providing care for a vulnerable person is a reasonable excuse for travelling out of the family home.
On the basis of this law and in these circumstances I therefore agree with Mr Cummings that he behaved reasonably and lawfully. (Course you do. There will be a reshuffle soon at this rate.)
In the eyes of most people the case of an infant child being taken to his relatives when the parents were ill with Covid-19, (they weren’t) or believed they were (Oh, I see), would amount to a “reasonable excuse” to travel. Let us remember that what Mr Cummings is being criticised for here is an act of attempting to support his family, not because he was going to a party or some other frivolous reason, of which we have seen examples from other people in the public eye. Later his child was actually taken to hospital by emergency ambulance on medical advice so I think his concerns were proven justified.
There is another issue in my view which separates Mr Cummings’ situation from the average scenario. Most people do not have to contend in their personal affairs with a baying mob of hostility outside their home – he told the press conference on Monday that he had received threats and that his house was a target, and indeed that has been witnessed on the news for all to see for themselves in the past couple of days. The location of his London home is in the public domain and he is a public figure. I think that adds to the ‘reasonableness’ of his wanting to leave London in his personal emergency situation. His wife had said that she was understandably frightened by what was happening outside and that in my view would have made leaving London in their circumstances even more reasonable. (As I have said in the previous posts, this really, really, really gets my goat. There was nobody at his house until he made himself a story, and the security services have not viewed him as being at particular risk – (sources))
Mr Cummings has disclosed that his mother’s brother, his uncle, died of the virus and he could not attend the funeral. Now we know both sides of the story I think there is no reason to say that ‘there is one rule for him and one for everyone else’ – he did what the rules allowed him to do and what most people would have done in his situation. (Bullshit.)
I realise that the above does not answer every point raised by this incident (certainly doesn’t) and I also completely understand that it will not satisfy everyone. There are many whose minds are already made up and no amount of evidence or counter-balance will change their mind. There are many too whose politics will play a part in how this incident is perceived, and indeed the political opposition parties have been meeting to coordinate their joint tactics in this. There is after all no doubt that this controversy has been exploited by political opponents for political point-scoring. (Do one.)
What I have tried to do above is give a response based on the Law and backed-up by links to the law and evidence. On that basis I do not support calls for Mr Cummings to resign.’
I was pleased to see Clare Scott echo my point about the security bullshit in her reply to his reply.
‘While I do not agree with members of the press and public being stationed outside Mr. Cummings’ house at present, I have not seen any evidence that there were media personnel or members of the public camped outside Mr. Cummings’ house before the details of this controversy broke in national newspapers. Mary Wakefield is not a reliable witness in this whole affair given how economical she has been with the details of the family’s lock down story in the Spectator. At the time, London was a ghost town and such gatherings would have been reported to the police and the media as they would break the rules.’ Shame the media, which has apparently been uniquely horrible to poor Dom, has yet to make much of this obvious point.
Clare, who would clearly make a better MP than the waffly lawyer, goes on: ‘This is about a single man’s career being more important to the prime minister than the health of this nation – so much so, that when the country needs to be united in support of test, tract and isolate, Mr. Johnson is willing to shatter the public’s trust and risk the efficacy of the next stage in the strategy to control the virus.
I’m sure that you will want the country to ‘move on’ from this, and that you will say that Durham police have said that it is a ‘minor transgression’ of the rules but I am deeply disappointed with the stance that the government has taken and I stand with millions of other Britons, from all political persuasions.
I still believe that Mr. Cummings should resign, particularly as it has now been confirmed that he broke the rules. How can there be one rule for him and another for the rest of us? Please, once again express my displeasure to the prime minister. (Clare, they don’t actually do that, you know. They tell their whip the plebs are revolting, and go for a glass of port.)
‘I’m sure that you are very busy replying to an overwhelming number of emails on this matter, but if you are going to cut and paste a dismissive response to this email containing agreed party lines, I’d rather you didn’t respond.’ (It was worse. He sent her a link to the Durham police statement, as if that closed the matter.)
Some of the best stuff I have read has been the responses to the responses, like this from Helene Matthews, of Bridgend, writing to her MP, Jamie Wallis.
‘My issue is not however with Cummings, his actions, or whether he breached the spirit or the letter of the lockdown rules. My issue is with the manner in which the government has approached this issue.
When Mr Johnson stood up yesterday, and defended Cummings actions as being what any father would do, and followed his instincts to do what was best for his child, he did a number of things –
He inferred that the rules were open to individual interpretation.
He inferred that breaking them as a caring father following instincts meant that those of us who didn’t somehow were a) not as caring or b) not sensible enough to individually interpret them.
He failed to answer when questioned about Cummings visit to another area.
He failed to see the consequences of his actions.
What Mr Johnson actually did, was completely insult every law-abiding citizen of this country for adhering to the rules.
What Mr Johnson actually did, was insult every grieving relative in this country.
What Mr Johnson actually did, was insult every NHS worker, key worker, carer.
What Mr Johnson actually did, was to undo all the behavioural strategy behind the lockdown.
What Mr Johnson actually did, was endanger adherence to the lockdown, thus endangering public health.
What Mr Johnson actually did, was throw the police in this country to the wolves – how on earth are they meant to police this?
What Mr Johnson did, was to shred every ounce of trust and credibility of his government.
(I would love to see a few Labour MPs speak with this kind of eloquence and passion on the matter.)
‘But he didn’t stop there,’ she goes on, ‘he proceeded to tell us that our children could begin to return to school from next week, even though teachers have voiced concerns over the ability to follow government guidance on distancing within such short notice.
Mr Wallis, this country has been locked down for a long time. People are restless. People are grieving. People are struggling. Now your government literally add insult to injury. Now people are furious.
I would like you to know just how angry your government have made people. I’m sure I am not alone.’
Realising she had not included her address, which would give him an excuse not to reply on the ‘not my constituent’ basis, she then sent another one, with address. By now, Cummings had spoken.
‘I would also like to add that following Mr Cummings “revelations”, my opinion has not changed. In no way were his circumstances exceptional. Your government continue to deny the reality of the situation, and the consequences of both their actions and those of Mr Cummings.
All credibility has been lost. They have shown no leadership. Decisive action has been required throughout this pandemic and time and time again they have failed.
If your government think this matter will blow over and become yesterday’s news then they are severely underestimating the feelings of the country.
I fear that it may be too late to restore any credibility. The government will forever be tarnished due to their inaction.’ (Applause, applause, applause.)
[Cut and paste/sacrifice/ lots of people angry/will convey feelings/never met ummings/acted for family/faced press ….]
(get this) … ‘and crucially,[Cummings] read out the bit of advice he felt he was following in looking after his child.’ (which actually didn’t help him in his justification at all.)
[Cut and paste/fake news/house a target …]
(and then, wait for it ….) I can therefore understand if he did not feel criminally safe there, notwithstanding the medical and childcare risks he discussed. (Not criminally safe … does this not mean he is saying Cummings was committing crimes there?)
[More fake news/should have spoken earlier/he’s a Dad]
He concludes: ‘As I said earlier, I know that you may not agree with me, and that’s okay. (Gee, thanks.) I will pass on the issues and concerns you’ve raised regardless, (no, you won’t) and I hope we can continue to work together as a community to beat this virus and deliver a better future for Bridgend & Porthcawl.
Kind regards – Stay safe.’
Fair to say, Helene was not happy, and sent back another brilliant reply. I hope her local paper gets hold of it. He fobbed her off. She went back, again, and again, and again, and eventually …
‘In response to your questions..’ and he went through them, one by one. Unsatisfactorily, for sure, but they were answers of sorts. She replied, rather effectively demolishing them. And then …
.‘I want you to know that this will be my final email to you on this subject, as I feel I have answered a huge number of your queries now. But he did give one or two answers that were not cut and paste. An award here – most relentless constituent pressure. An example to us all, Helene. Sorry I have had to edit your wonderful tirades but do take them to your local media.
Now, another good exchange with another Welsh MP, David Davies, MP for Monmouth. You can see his standard reply in Part 1, and here I want to share part of an exchange with a constituent, David Binding. Again, I urge Mr Binding to ensure his local media have the whole, fascinating exchange.
‘Unfortunately the shine of receiving a response from one’s MP is somewhat tarnished by the realisation that that it is a catch all stock response. I understand that the Cummings debacle may have added work pressure on MP’s but I suggest that a cursory reading of my email would make the reader realise you have not answered my query. (I expect you to have words with your staff – lack of attention to detail might be regarded as one of the PM’s likeable peccadillos, but it is not a habit to encourage). My query concerned the role of the Executive when dealing with legal matters.
Nonetheless, having read your response, I will take the opportunity to comment upon it (both its process and its substance). I will also embellish and add to my original query. In order that your staff are not confused, I will distinguish the two.’
(And boy, does he take him apart?)
Davies’ reply: ‘Thank you for your further email, although I suspect you are simply playing to the gallery. (Rude bastard, it is a serious point.)
While I appreciate that we are politically apart, the gist of your emails is to insult the Conservative Party and government, and that you can do if it gives you pleasure on a Saturday afternoon. But there is really no need to insult my staff in the process and will put it down to you getting too much Saturday sun. (Patronising, rude bastard.)
As the gist of your original email was of the Cummings story or aimed at that, you got the same response as others. This is called consistency, as I wouldn’t want to treat constituents differently, telling each what they want to hear. That would be wrong! (Patronising, rude, sarcastic, bastard)
I recognise that many people have strong feelings on this issue, particularly given the hardship that many families are going through and the sacrifices that people have made over recent months. I have sought to understand Mr Cummings’ views and gave a response to the whole situation. (Patronising, rude, sarcastic, tribal-Tory bastard)
It is now time for the country to move on and focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic together. (Patronising, rude, sarcastic, tribal-Tory, line to take using bastard).
Jack Brereton, MP for Stoke South, is a major mover-onner, with a personal touch: ‘When my wife and I were suffering from Coronavirus, we followed the self-isolation rules to the letter, remaining in our house with our young son for 14 days, even though we have family only a few miles away. Having experienced this, it is difficult to hear of others travelling long distances to access support, and I therefore both understand and have empathy for the frustration expressed by many of my constituents.
I have to state also that the symptoms of this virus can be incredibly frightening, especially so for those looking after a young child. While I would not have done the same thing as Mr. Cummings, I find it difficult to condemn any person for acting in what the thought was genuinely the best way to ensure the safety of his wife and child, in what must have been a very stressful situation. To be clear about the rules at the time of Mr. Cummings’ journey, on 24th March the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenny Harries OBE (there she goes again, complete with OBE, which will be DBE before long) advised that, “clearly if you have adults that are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance”. (full context removed)
‘Mr. Cummings’ actions may have been within the letter of the law, but were almost certainly not in the spirit of it. For this, I believe he should show contrition and apologise to the public, who have shown great restraint and fortitude in following the rules. However, I could not in good conscience call for the resignation of anyone for doing what they believed was in the best interests of their family’s safety and health. (You will see exact same words elsewhere)
Then, a bit of Trumpism. ‘Finally, I must place on the record my criticism of some national media outlets in their handling of this story and the entire coronavirus outbreak. Their actions in peddling misleading rumours throughout this crisis have done just as much harm to the public’s confidence in the lockdown measures. Far too often, there has been a focus on getting the next headline and attempting to predict what might be the next advice, rather than on publishing a clear message about which advice to follow. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.’
When his constituent, Dean Nixon, then got an identical reply to a follow up email, he sent this.
‘Subject Heading: Disappointed
Dear Mr Brereton,
I have just received an email from you which is a duplicate of the one I received yesterday. Is it your policy to not individualise emails but simply to send out the original pre-written one, that is sent to constituents when dealing with the same subject?’
Another persistent challenger is Mike Rabbitte, who has been angry at Nick Fletcher, MP for Don Valley. He suggests Blyth services, half way between London and Durham, would have been a convenient point for a break in the Cummings’ family journey. He also auditions for a place at one of the wretched Number 10 briefings.
- Did the PM have advance knowledge of Cummings’ journey(s) to Durham? Did he approve them in advance?
- Did he know if Cummings broke his journey and if so where?
- Did he know of Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle? Was it permitted within the guidelines?
- Were the Durham police lying when they claimed that they had interviewed (by phone) a member of Cummings’ family, in contradiction of the statement put out by No 10 on Saturday?
- Did the PM know of and approve Cummings’ second trip to Durham on 19thApril? His attempt to deny this element of Sunday’s Guardian report was particularly unconvincing.
‘So, in summary, we have a highly paid advisor breaking his own rules and giving unconvincing, specious reasons for doing so. We have on Saturday a succession of Cabinet Ministers tweeting Jesuitical, and equally unconvincing, justifications for supporting his actions – yet after Sunday’s further revelations they have gone embarrassingly quiet. And finally we have a PM giving unqualified support to his man without giving any solid reasons why he does so and at the same time evading a raft of legitimate questions.
The reply (after being nudged): [Share frustration/I have been following the lockdown rules stringently but …
‘As the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser, it is my view (another grammar idiot; he has just made himself Johnson’s chief adviser) that it is the Prime Minister decision whether Mr Cummings should continue in his current role. As an employer myself faced with this situation, I would have had to conduct my own investigation and then follow disciplinary proceedings as contractually set out.
I have concluded that individuals will have differing views on the press conference held by Mr Cummings. That said, I do not know Mr Cummings and I certainly do not want this issue to distract me from my priorities as the MP for Don Valley.’
Mr Rabbitte MUST send his subsequent emails to his local press. Masterpieces in the art of picking apart spineless dissembling. He concludes by writing to tell his MP what he would write if he was being honest.
‘I’m really sorry you feel that way but, apart from throwing a few platitudes your way, I don’t really care enough to do anything about it. I don’t know Cummings but I believe him implicitly. I’m going to follow the PM all the way, even as he crashes in the polls.
Sucking up to the Party leadership to advance my career is more important to me than integrity and probity in public life. I really think the British public are stupid enough to swallow any old crud if it’s said often enough and in a posh voice.’
I’m sure you’ll tell me if I’ve got anything wrong, concludes Mr Rabbitte, yet to receive a reply to that one.
Yesterday Matt Hancock won the award for the least empathetic letter, as per this blog. Today it goes to Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk & Malton. He received an email with the subject header: Did not visit my dying mum, from Cassandra Garbutt. Her email set out that story. She got back a cut and paste job.
I hope Mr Hollinrake has a better reply for this one: ‘With all due respect, how dare you send a pasted standard response that bears no relation to my complaint? I was told that I could not visit my dying mother 125 miles away in hospital, or before that, who caught Covid from her care home that had no PPE let alone a protective ring wrapped around it. And let’s not forget the funeral. But most of your government supports this charade of an advisor and you continue to lie and bluster your way out of it.
Or maybe this one is even worse. Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, received this letter from constituent Paul Thompson: “my Grandfather passed away just as lockdown was put in place. Under normal circumstances I would have jumped in the car and been on Tyneside for the funeral, to grieve and to comfort my family.
Instead I and many others from my family stayed put, following the letter and spirit of the Covid19 guidance. We fought some extremely powerful instincts to stay apart from each other during what was an appalling few weeks for our family. My grandfather was cremated without any family present. As unbearable as that thought was and still is, we have consoled ourselves that we were doing the right thing by following the rules for the greater good.”
And as he opened the letter from his MP and read the words ‘as a proud father of four children myself,’ thinking maybe a rare sliver of Tory empathy was coming.
But no: ‘As a father, I understand sympathise with Mr Cummings’s instinctive motivations … ‘ and then cut and paste bullshit-buying bullshit, which ‘made my blood boil,’ said Mr Thompson.
This one is from Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, who I think is Mr Lopresti’s wife: ‘My family and I have found it difficult too, like many others. My three-year-old son hasn’t seen his father for two months, and he doesn’t understand why. My son’s third birthday was also spent just him and me without his family.
[Cut and paste/sacrifice/I believe Cummings/blame media][
I know how the media can distort and exaggerate situations to make headlines, as I have had the same happen to me since becoming a Member of Parliament. (news to most people, I suspect.)
I also know how political agendas have been played out during this time and how Mr Cummings is a definite target for many opponents. We all should instead be working together for the sake of national unity during this unprecedented global crisis. (Rekindling the Brexit spirit.)
Pauline Latham, MP for Mid-Derbyshire, can’t be arsed: ‘During this extremely stressful and difficult time, I am sure you will appreciate that I am receiving a huge number of emails that require attention, therefore only casework and other genuinely important matters will be dealt with during this period.’
‘Shame on you and the government. I will be letting my neighbours and friends know about your utter lack of humility in your response.’
Danny Kruger, MP for is one of the few who has admitted to being a friend of Cummings, so no surprise that he backs him, and asked for sympathy and understanding for his pal. A little more surprising was the tweet he posted of his ‘final word,’ a field of bluebells. Ho-ho.
‘Dominic can appear graceless when he is doorstepped by the media, but he does not hold the media in very high regard. His sole focus is on delivering the agenda that he believes people want, and that they voted for in the 2019 election: getting Brexit done; rebalancing the economy in favour of the people and places left behind in recent decades; and fixing the Whitehall machine. (All going so well.)
A couple of unworthy successors to former Prime Ministers now.
Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield: (aaaaaargh, how did that happen?)
He attacks the media for not obeying social distancing but defends Cummings for everything he did. ‘The environment in which he works is high pressured at the best of times but with the Covid 19 pandemic the intensity would be immense, to then have (split infinitive) a sick child it must make the pressure levels off the scale.
With Durham Police concluding their investigation and taking no further action, they have laid this matter to rest. (Along with 60,000 plus people these cowboys have helped to kill.)
Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon, formerly John Major’s seat:
‘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.
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.
But, as I said yesterday, not all Tories are line-toeing empathy bypass patients. Here, the first of several doing the right thing, is one I agreed with. Julian Sturdy,MP for York Outer
‘Good evening, (the Brady model…
(in fact, even better …. Apologies for the lateness of the hour, and I sincerely hope that my email does not disturb you, but I am trying to read each of the vast number of messages I have received this week in order to respond as promptly as I can on this important matter.
‘Mr Cummings’ position as a Government adviser is untenable. For me, this ultimately comes down to a fundamental issue of trust. To ensure lockdown was effective, the Government trusted the British people to uphold the restrictive rules and sacrifice some freedoms in exchange for protecting our family and friends from this deadly virus. It is an insult to the many who have made personal sacrifices during lockdown, if a person who had influence over enacting lockdown did not follow these rules as assiduously as the wider public.’ (Spot on)
No room for Dr Harries in Peter Bone’s letter. The MP for Wellingborough is clear …. He broke the rules, in an arrogant shit, is damaging the government and should go.
Fellow Brexiteer Mark Francois not quite so blunt… Cummings should apologise.
Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, likewise pissed off: ‘I am angry that so many have sacrificed so much for public safety and yet this man has decided his interpretation of “doing the right thing“ overrode the clear instruction of Stay at Home. It is clear to me that Mr Cummings has broken some of the guidelines which we all were instructed to follow.
I am concerned that his actions have undermined our, and my, efforts to keep Wimbledon safe. My concern moving forward is the distraction this is causing at a time of national crisis and the way it is undermining confidence in the public health message.
George Freeman MP for Mid-Norfolk: ‘It’s clear to me that Mr Cummings’ actions have seriously undermined the authority of the Government, the Prime Minister and the public health message. We owe it – to the public officials, NHS and Care workers and all those who have made such massive sacrifices – to show that the people leading the government have nothing but respect for their sacrifice, and are prepared to abide by the same rules themselves.
I’m afraid it is now clear that national confidence in, and consent to abide by, our government public health messaging has been profoundly damaged. By his continuing in office, Mr Cummings is now regrettably undermining the Government, Party and Prime Minister he is employed to serve.
For all these reasons, I believe Mr Cummings must now apologise and resign his post, so that we can rebuild public trust and consent, and focus on the vital task of defeating this virus and navigating our economy and society through a phased end of lockdown as effectively as possible. (Hear, hear)
Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, with the best non-grandstanding condemnation: [Jenny Harries OBE, young son, medical condition, at the very limit of what the guidelines permitted, unanswered questions…
‘We cannot have one rule for some, and another for the rest of us…I am concerned that confidence in the guidelines may have been threatened, and I urge everyone to remain steadfast in their commitment to them.
This weekend has been an unhelpful distraction from the genuine needs of constituents during this pandemic, who write to me daily asking for assistance with deeply difficult personal circumstances. I have not spoken publicly on this as yet, as my constituents deserved to be the first to hear my views, and I apologise if this does not answer all your questions but I must prioritise supporting those in need of help. We must ascertain whether any rules have been broken, but I will continue my work, undistracted by this, of supporting our NHS and our communities here.
Jackson Carlaw, (Tory Leader in Scotland), the first to call for Scotland medical officer Catherine Calderwood’s resignation.
‘The continuing furore over the matter has been an unwelcome distraction from the Prime Minister’s vital work to get the country through this crisis and to tackle the coronavirus. I have now confirmed that if I were Mr Cummings, I would be considering my position.’
Andrew Selous, MP for SW Bedfordshire: ‘I believe that his behaviour has damaged the Prime Minister, the Government and, most critically of all, the integrity of our vital public health messages. I therefore think he should no longer have a role in Government as his continued presence makes the vital work of the Government in tackling COVID-19 more difficult. I have told the Government this.’ (Good.)
Now back to the lobby fodder ….
Gareth Davies, MP for Grantham and Stamford, literally says nothing about Cummings, other than the fact he has had hundreds of emails about it. ‘As a relatively new MP, I hope that constituents can see that I have sought be a very active constituency representative. It is in this vein, that I commit to ensuring that your views are heard at the highest levels of government. This is ultimately one of my main roles in our community, to represent the views that exist and to make sure first and foremost that you are heard by the people who should be hearing it.
[Lots of local blah]
I am sure this media story could roll on for some time yet, but my team and I will be dedicating our energy to the many urgent cases which people have brought to my attention that have been delayed owing to us having to deal with the deluge of emails relating to someone I do not know and have never met.
I really do hope you are keeping well and safe.
Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset
[Don’t know Cummings/enormous sacrifices.]
‘Should Dominic Cummings have driven with his family to County Durham? In my opinion, no. However, his action has not broken any law (the statement from Dr Jenny Harries,(AAAAARGH!), on 24th March sets out the reasons why this is the case). Equally, I do not think that he should have driven to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, and I believe his decision to do so is much more questionable.
But then, a unique turn …. ‘Following on from the ‘Kindness Matters’ message I was promoting last week during Mental Health Awareness week, I want to also share with you my thoughts on bullying and intimidation.
Whatever our individual opinion of Dominic Cummings, is it right that he – or indeed anybody, public figure or not – should be targeted with threats of violence, even death, and be subjected to an orchestrated campaign of harassment towards their young family at their home? I don’t especially warm to Mr Cummings but I have been asking myself how I would react if I was faced with a similar situation. It is, in my view, completely unacceptable to be on the receiving end of violent threats, which I do believe has played a part in this sorry state of affairs.’ (I bought the security bullshit.)
Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, has just come in and I think she has overtaken Deano from Watford for length. Don’t worry, I’m slashing out the cut and paste
Key point …. Jenny bleedin’ Harries.
She quotes legislation, lines to take, buys the security bullshit, buys the both very ill bullshit, buys all of Cummings’ bullshit in fact. ‘Mr Cummings sought to minimise the chances of transmitting the virus, for example by not stopping during the drive from London to Durham, by having no physical interaction with those outside his household, by not leaving his family’s property whilst symptomatic and by making sure that, if emergency childcare was required for his four year old son, this would be provided by his 17 year old niece, someone who would be at extremely low risk from the virus given her age.’
She then recounts what she said in her maiden speech in the House of Commons, which I am sure was a highlight for all MPs.
And I love her PS: ‘I reserve the right to hide or delete any comments that are unpleasant, abusive, misleading or untrue.’ (In other words anything ever said by Johnson or Cummings).
Nusrat Ghani, Wealden: ‘I have made your concerns, your anger and condemnation and my views clear to the Government. I know from experience (????) that it is the Prime Minister’s decision who supports and advises him in Government. And the Prime Minister has made the judgement, that balancing all the priorities of the country at this vital moment, to keep Mr Cummings.’
Caroline Dineage, Gosport, a minister: ‘In setting out my position I should start by saying that I don’t know Dominic Cummings personally … cut and paste …
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.
Ruth Edwards, MP for Rushcliffe (Ken Clarke where are you now?)
Dear Constituent, (Nice)
Total cut and paste, then …. ‘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.’ (Right, thanks.)
Simon Baynes, MP for Clwyd South: ‘… his trip to Barnard Castle (which in my view was badly misjudged) and then his return to work afterwards … he showed poor judgement and I would have not made the same journey if I had been faced with this situation myself.
I accept, however, the Prime Minister’s decision to keep Mr Cummings in his post but trust that the public reaction has emphasised the importance of accountability and integrity in these matters.’
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and the Border: ‘Dominic Cummings has now given an account of what happened over the previous weeks. I acknowledge that he acted as a caring parent and husband trying to do the best for his family. I would have preferred that his statement could have included an acknowledgement of the confusion and upset that the perception of his actions caused and that an apology for that could have been forthcoming. But that said, I think we need to now move on, draw a line under the issues and move forward together in our efforts to beat the Coronavirus.’
Kelly Tolhurst MP for Rochester and Stroud.
I want to point out that I don’t know Dominic Cummings, I have never met, spoken or indeed even seen him. (but here is a cut and paste explanation for why he should not resign.)
Dominic Cummings is appointed by the Prime Minister, and whether he remains is for his conscience or the Prime Minister to decide (which means, as he doesn’t have one, that he will.)
Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, a whip: (Cut and paste. Like I said, a whip. )’As a Government Minister, I am in the privileged position of being able to ensure your views, the strength of your views, alongside my own views, are conveyed directly to the Prime Minister. I take my role in representing the constituency very seriously and in my experience, firm but private representations are more effective than public denunciations.’
Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North: ‘He is not everyone’s cup of tea, and it is clear that some of the emails I have received are a part of an orchestrated campaign by a number of groups who do not like him or what he represents following the Brexit campaign. Whilst I do not know him personally, I cannot help but be deeply concerned about the harassment of him, but particularly his young child and wife in their London home, and of his parents and family in Durham. At a time when we need to be united as a country, I think it is also important to be kind. It is a sad state of affairs when baying mobs (what the hell are you on about?) feel it is appropriate to harass and terrorise a family. … For me, this matter is now closed .’
Bob Seely, MP for the Isle of Wight: [Others broke rules, sympathy understanding, forgiveness.] There are some Islanders who are rightly concerned about Mr Cumming’s behaviour because they see it as an example of double standards. I agree that much greater thought should have been given to the perception of this. I also agree that some form of contrition would have been helpful. The perception of arrogance is not attractive in any human being.’ (Perception?)
Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset. Amid the cut and paste, this: ‘There’s a legal question, too. Did Mr Cummings break the law? In my view, he did not. And I refer you to a statement made by Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, on 24 March, upon which my opinion is based.’ (Could be a peerage for her at this rate.)
Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire: ‘. ‘I thought Dominic Cummings was wrong to arrogantly brush away (split infinitive) the allegations when they first appeared. He just made matters worse. People have got every right to ask what on earth he was doing in Durham and Barnard Castle during lockdown.
I would have preferred to see the Cabinet Secretary do a proper inquiry into the allegations and for Cummings to step aside to allow that to happen. But that hasn’t happened. The PM has accepted Cummings’s explanation of events. Even so, I will be sharing with him the feedback I have been getting so that he is fully aware of the strength of feeling that exists in Pembrokeshire.’ (cake/eat.)
I quite like the style of Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland.
‘The points made by constituents, for and against, can be summarised as follows:
He deliberately broke the government’s guidelines and has lied about it to cover this up;
- Boris Johnson and other ministers were wrong to “defend the indefensible”;
- There is one rule for the rich/elite and another one for the rest of us;
- He has set a bad example and given licence to anyone to ignore government guidelines;
- He has made a mockery of the lockdown rules and thereby insulted the sacrifice of all those who have respected them;
- There is sympathy for the decision he took as a parent, but it was the wrong decision;
- Did he break the rules? No, the rules allow you to exercise judgement regarding a child and childcare;
- He has been hounded by the press and activists, and his home and family targeted;
- He was in a difficult position and he did what he thought was right for his family;
- I would have done the same thing: when you’ve got a serious problem you have to rely on your family;
- Mr Cummings did not do anything to warrant this treatment. Let’s stop this stupidity and get on with the important issues.
‘I hate the idea that there is one rule for the powerful and another for the rest of us,’ he says
He goes over at length what Johnson said, quotes Jenny Harries, makes clear he has a lot if doubts about Cummings’ version of events,
‘Should he lose his job over this? If we apply the same rules to him as to the rest of us, I don’t think so. But a recognition that he made a mistake would go a long way. We all make mistakes, I have made many and will, no doubt, make many more. But, as my wife points out to me, accepting that you have made a mistake and then saying sorry is a key part of a relationship, one that many politicians struggle with.’ (nice touch.)
Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset, refers people to a statement on his website, that I could not find when I clicked on it.
Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield Eastfield, has a rather alarming start to his letter, suggesting Durham Dom is not the only one getting death threats, (as if we didn’t know.)
‘I understand this is a highly contentious issue and emotions are fraught, but I will not accept any rude language or behaviour to my staff, or constituents demanding an instant response from me. We are living in difficult times and whilst most of the British public have pulled together through great acts of kindness there are some that have behaved completely inappropriately following the latest news, with two of my female colleagues receiving death threats. This must stop and whether or not we agree consistently with each other, we should be able to debate and argue in a civilised manner. (Agreed)
‘Just to be clear this email is strictly my own opinion and I am not bound by any party whip on this issue – what you see is what you get…. (which is mainly cut and paste, a version I have seen in dozens of others, complete with AAAARGH! Jenny Harries…) MOVE ON.
Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow: ‘ My main concern is that by behaving in this way, the Prime Minister’s principal adviser in Downing Street has undermined the authority of the Government in persuading the people of this country to continue to abide by the movement restrictions, as these are gradually and cautiously phased out. This is vital to avoid a resurgence in infection before an effective treatment or vaccine is available.
It is up to the Prime Minister to decide who should advise him. He has decided to maintain Dominic Cummings in post, which is his prerogative.
I can assure you that I have passed on your and my own concerns to the centre of Government. ‘
Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham: ‘There has been palpable and understandable anger from people, contacting me, who believe that double standards have been applied. ..
I am not going to defend Dominic Cummings’ actions, however – for many of us – it appears that this was certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the Government’s message and that his actions should result in his dismissal or resignation.
Andrew Murrison, MP for Westbury: ‘I completely empathise with the fury expressed by my constituents. The public has been incredibly disciplined throughout this crisis, many suffering grievously as a result of compliance in good faith with the rules.
From what has been reported, it looks to me like Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules on a number of counts. I have particular difficulty understanding his account of the Barnard Castle outing.
Because we are human we all make mistakes under pressure and our judgement when ill can be impaired. The difference is that those in the public eye have their errors displayed for all to see. It is also the case that Mr Cummings has over the years made many enemies. They and his political opponents are among those who have been calling for his scalp, including locally. Equally, people contacting me with no obvious axe to grind are angry that one of the main authors of the rules has apparently not observed them. It’s hardly surprising if they view that as wrong and unfair.
Mr Cummings has chosen not to step down. Whatever the truth or otherwise of his version of events, there remains the very real risk that his continued presence degrades credibility in the government and thus the fight against COVID19. That must surely be apparent to him and I hope he will be reflecting further on it. However, whatever you or I think about an individual, and I should say I know Mr Cummings only by reputation, we should be prepared to extend the same fairness that we would want for ourselves. We must avoid trial by media. Therefore, for as long as Mr Cummings protests that he acted lawfully and reasonably and insists on remaining in post, and subject to any inquiries by Durham Constabulary, I would say there is a good case for an independent analysis of the facts.
Many of those who have written to me have demanded a public statement calling for Mr Cummings’ dismissal. I have reflected carefully and my position is finely balanced. However, I have concluded that only the Prime Minister can weigh his adviser’s behaviour and the impact his conduct is having on managing the pandemic with the value of Mr Cummings’ anticipated future service to a government whose objectives I wholeheartedly support. I am not in a position to assess the need for Mr Cummings and would be uncomfortable calling for him to be dismissed without a dispassionate analysis of the evidence, facts that I am almost certainly not in full possession of.
I will continue to communicate with government at the very highest level the clearly expressed views of my constituents for which I am, as always, grateful.
Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor and MP for South Swindon. ‘You will appreciate that owing to the operational independence of the police and my constitutional duty as Lord Chancellor to uphold the rule of law, it would not be appropriate for me to give a view on the merits of an individual case.’ (But Suella Braverman, as Attorney General, of course can.)
The letter from Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, Braverman’s predecessor, is best read in his rolling baritone tones. I reckon he has written this one.
Dear Constituent (spolit by lack personal touch)
‘Thank you for your email about the chief of the Prime Minister’s political staff, (nice dig, basically a hack) Mr. Cummings…
‘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.’ (Rumpole, over and out.)
Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester: ‘I find it difficult to put myself’ in the situation of Mr Cummings. (don’t we all?) But, ‘as the facts of Mr Cummings’ situation are disputed and there are ongoing investigations, I have made the range of views from constituents known to my Government colleagues.’ (That’s leadership, right there.)
Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, and Welsh Secretary: ‘I understand that many people are concerned by this issue, especially when so many of us have been following Government guidance so diligently for so long…
[Flannel] then …
‘One of my own close family members has been in Withybush Hospital (and more recently South Pembs) since February, including nearly three weeks of intensive care, with none of us able to see him.’
[Cut and paste]
‘I am sure that everyone will by now have reached a view, as has the Prime Minister as his employer.’ (Nothing to do with me, Guv.)
As a Cabinet minister, Hart has to toe the line. Not so sure why former Scottish Secretary David Mundell feels he has to be so reticent. ‘ I do understand the anger and frustration people feel about the current furore.
Mr Cummings set out his side of the story in the news conference on Monday last week. Everyone is entitled to form their own judgement on his explanation. And whether favourable or otherwise, I have relayed all the views I have received on Mr Cummings, including yours, to the Prime Minister and will continue to do so.
Dr Kieran Mullen, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, sensibly plays the doctor card: ‘I want to begin by talking about a group of people I have spoken to many times over the last 6 weeks. These are people whose loved ones I have been looking after as a doctor. I have heard first hand how difficult it is for them to only get to hear from me and other healthcare staff about how their relative is getting on. … It is heart breaking for them and I cannot imagine how it must feel and I would be devastated to be in the same situation. It is people like this I have had in mind over the last few days.
‘I have heard your voices, your anger about what has happened loud and clear and I have made it very clear to the government the hurt there is out there. It was right that the Prime Minister apologised for the hurt that was caused and that Mr. Cummings accepts that people have every right to think he did the wrong thing. (Oh, we have the right to think, great, for how long, Mr Orwell?)
You might have seen photos of dozens and dozens (or maybe a dozen anyway) of photographers crowded outside his house when he tries to leave with his four year old son, you might have seen the video of dozens of people (oh fuck off, three or four max, try being a footballer) leaning out of their windows to shout at him as he walked down the street. They might be justified in how they feel, but I personally would never want to add to a situation like that.
It does not add something for me to publicly join in a situation which the entire national press are covering non stop and dozens and dozens of commentators and politicians are piling into to. (No, because that would require leadership, and taking a stand. Maybe I am a better doctor than MP.)
Julie Marson, MP for Herford and Stortford, wrote to someone who could not attend a family funeral: ‘I can understand why you are angry, given your and your family’s loss and trauma from being unable to all be at your aunt’s funeral. I am so sorry and hope you will accept my sincere condolences.] Followed by sincere cut and paste bullshit recirculation.
Cummings, she says, ‘explained his actions in a very human way.’ Then a bit of press and Beeb-bashing: ‘The number of falsehoods in the press allegations against Dominic Cummings, and the BBC’s apology for their recent lack of objectivity on Newsnight, typified some of the agenda-led coverage which has been creeping into our news again and is very damaging to society.’ (Whereas having a compulsive liar as PM is great for society.)
Alberto Costa, MP for South Leicestershire, is a Mover Onner: The story regarding Mr Cummings has been a most unwelcome distraction for many at a time when guidance over the continued importance of public safety and wellbeing should be of the utmost importance.
‘Given the great degree of public debate and press coverage over this matter, I believe it is now time to draw a line under this matter(non sequitur). As you will know, Mr Cummings has the full support of the Prime Minister.
However, I want to reassure you that I have passed the collective views of my constituents to the Government in order to ensure that the strength of feeling on this subject has been clearly heard. But I firmly believe it is now time to absolutely refocus (another infinitive-splitter, be gone!) our efforts on addressing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Gareth Bacon, MP for Orpington, is literally a cut and paste man, and several of his voters told me that though they had no time for Boris Johnson, his brother Jo, when MP there, had always been a polite and respectful MP.
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull: Lots of people angry, told the whips, hey ho, let’s crack on.
Chloe Smith, Norwich North, understands the anger, but thinks the Prime Minister will have taken everything into account (so that’s all right then.)
Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch, new leader in the ‘most words to say bugger all’ contest. Move on.
Shailesh Vara, North West Cambridgeshire: Total cut and paste.
Marcus Jones, Nuneaton: Ditto.
Leo Docherty, MP for Aldershot: Ditto.
Dr Caroline Johnson MBBS MRCPCH, (Redwood complex) MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham: Ditto.
Jeremy Quin, MP for Horsham: Ditto, though more briefly.
Ian Levy, MP for Blyth Valley, ditto, with Jenny Harries in pride of place.
Tom Randall, MP for Gedling: Never met him, two sides to every story, move on.
Lia Nici, MP for Grimsby: Never met him, unwise decisions, move on.
Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood: Major cut and paste, back Johnson, move on.
Sarah Atherton, MP for Wrexham, Cut and paste, even though the email header was ‘concerns of a frontline worker.’
Rehamn Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham: Should have apologised, matter for PM, move on.
Mark Spencer, MP for Sherwood, total cut and paste.
David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, move on.
James Morris, MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis: Family man, set out facts, media hounding, move on.
Finally, a letter for you from that pillar of reasonable views, Daniel Kawzsinski, MP for Shrewsbury: Short letter, move on, with a PS: ‘What is wrong with treating the people like shit anyway, so long as they are useful pawns in the onward march of the hard right?’
OK, I made that last bit up. Have a nice evening. I think I have had enough of Tories for a while.