Boris admits he 'regrets' Cummings lockdown scandal but continues to defend top aide


BORIS Johnson has admitted he "regrets" Dominic Cummings lockdown scandal but continued to defend his top aide.

The Prime Minister today backed his chief of staff and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

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Appearing at the Downing Street press conference, the PM also suggested the breaches had not undermined the Government guidance.

He said: "It's absolutely true that I did not know about any of the arrangements in advance.

"When I was ill and about to get a lot sicker we had a brief conversation where I think Dominic Cummings mentioned where he was.

"At that particular stage I had a lot on my plate.

“I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain that people feel."

The PM refused to blame his aided, and insisted "people will have to make their minds up."

He added: "To me, he came across as someone doing the best for his family."

The PM was speaking just hours after his top aide insisted he had done nothing wrong and revealed he even faced threats against his family.

Mr Johnson's right hand man claimed he thought he had the disease and did not feel safe at his home due to negative reports.

He explained: "I was subject to threats of violence, people came to my house shouting threats.

"I was worried about leaving my child at home in the night.

"I thought best thing was to drive to an isolated cottage on my father’s farm."

He added that he "did not consider" resigning at any point.

Speaking in the Downing Street rose garden, Mr Cummings also said allegations he returned to Durham for a second visit after April 14 are “false”.

The top aide told reporters he believed he was acting "reasonably" and within the law.

Mr Cummings revealed that his four-year-old son had been taken to hospital while he was self-isolating at his family's farm in Durham.

He explained he decided to take his family to Durham when his wife became ill because there were no child care options in London.

The Vote Leaver organiser also claimed they did not stop once during the massive 260 mile journey to Durham.

Mr Cummings insisted he had no contact with his parents during his time in Durham, and had only driven to Barnard castle as a "test drive".

This afternoon Durham police revealed they were looking into his actions but had given no specific advice on coronavirus.

In a statement, they said: "He told the officer that his son and son’s wife were displaying symptoms of coronavirus and were self-isolating in part of the property.

"We can further confirm that our officer gave no specific advice on coronavirus to any members of the family and that Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required in that regard. Our officer did, however, provide the family with advice on security issues."

The probe comes with Boris Johnson facing a full-blown Cabinet revolt for sticking by his embattled top aide.

The scandal has enraged some Cabinet ministers, who are aligning with Tory MPs to demand that Mr Cummings is sacked.

One minister said: “Cummings is going to burn us all. He cannot stay.

"There has to be some contrition from Boris too or he will spend the next ten weeks having to answer questions about it all.

“This is not a bubble story. Real people are furious, because they have been doing the right thing and isolating.”

A second minister added: “The test is simple: Is retaining Cummings a sign of strength or weakness? It’s increasingly looking like the latter.”



A Tory MP in a northern constituency said colleagues there were fuming at No 10.

They told The Sun: “We are f****** livid. We cannot understand why the PM didn’t launch an inquiry to get to the facts.”

Another Tory added: “Are we putting Dom Cummings before the R rate? It looks like it.”

Another said: “I can only think Boris is just dependent on him, like a battery in a Duracell bunny.

“If we don’t sort this the public will turn against us in a big way.”

Boris refused to say if he knew about Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip or if he had sanctioned it.

He also refused to answer whether ordinary Brits could leave their main residence for elsewhere if they had childcare concerns.

The PM did hint that there were some special circumstances that influenced Mr Cummings’ decision, but “for medical reasons I don’t want to go into it”.

Furious Tory backbenchers are demanding the controversial aide is booted out of his role immediately.

Yesterday Tory MP Steve Baker became the first to publicly call for him to resign.

Appearing on Sky News, he said: “If he doesn’t resign we’ll keep burning through Boris’s political capital.

“I think mums and dads who very much care about their children and who have been foregoing the childcare of their extended family will wonder why he has been allowed to do this.

“We're now in a nonsense position, a pantomime position where it seems if you wish to apply a wide common sense interpretation of the rules you can do, at least if you work in Number 10.

“It’s ridiculous and he has to go.”

The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also demanded he go, pointing to the resignation of Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood after it was revealed she visited her second home.

She tweeted: "I know it is tough to lose a trusted adviser at the height of crisis, but when it’s a choice of that or integrity of vital public health advice, the latter must come first.

"That’s the judgement I and, to her credit, Catherine Calderwood reached. PM and Cummings should do likewise."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "This was a test of the Prime Minister and he has failed it.

"It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people that Boris Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings.

"The public will be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the Prime Minister's closest adviser and another for the British people.

"The Prime Minister's actions have undermined confidence in his own public health message at this crucial time.

"Millions were watching for answers and they got nothing. That's why the Cabinet Secretary must now launch an urgent inquiry."


 

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