As the prime minister’s right-hand man, Dominic Cummings has played a pivotal role in drawing up the lockdown rules and his decision to break them raises very awkward questions for him and Number 10.
It emerged on Friday night – via the Daily Mirror and Guardian – that Mr Cummings’ family in Durham were spoken to by the police after their son broke lockdown rules by driving 260 miles to stay with them on their farm despite having coronavirus symptoms.
Others in senior positions who have broken the rules have resigned their posts.
Professor Neil Ferguson quit as a government adviser after admitting an “error in judgement” after he broke the rules by allowing his lover to visit his home in lockdown.
Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood was also forced to quit her job after making two trips to her second home during the lockdown.
But the prime minister’s chief adviser has no intention of following suit. Instead, Number 10 moved into defence mode on Friday night as it was made clear Mr Cummings would not be standing down from his post.
Instead his colleagues began to mount his defence: Mr Cummings and his wife, Mary Wakefield, were too ill to care for their five-year-old son so travelled to Mr Cummings’ parents home in Durham for help with their son.
And allies sought to justify that decision by referencing remarks made by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries on 10 April when she described being too ill to look after a small child was an “exceptional circumstance” and she pointed to accessing family support (among other options).
But will that defence wash with a public that has been told for weeks not to visit elderly relatives under any circumstances, and especially if you have the virus? You are not supposed to leave your home if you have symptoms, let alone jump in your car and drive for 250 miles.
As the neighbour who spotted Mr Cummings in his parents’ garden put it: “I was really annoyed. It’s one rule for Dominic Cummings and one rule for the rest of us.”
Mr Cummings helped Mr Johnson win an election framed around a message of the “elite versus the people”. But his actions will be read by many as a sign that he is part of an elite for whom the rules don’t apply.
Number 10 will face this down. I’m told there is “literally zero chance” Mr Cummings will resign. But brace for the backlash, from the opposition, restive Tories and the people who elected Mr Johnson as prime minister.
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