Dominic Cummings statement: ‘I behaved legally and reasonably’ in driving to Durham
- Credit: PA
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has said he “behaved reasonably and legally” in driving to County Durham during lockdown.
And he said his decision was based not only on fears over a lack of childcare if he became incapacitated with Covid-19, but also concerns about his family’s safety.
At a press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden, Mr Cummings said stories had suggested he had opposed lockdown and “did not care about many deaths”.
He said: “The truth is that I had argued for lockdown, I did not oppose it but these stories had created a very bad atmosphere around my home, I was subjected to threats of violence, people came to my house shouting threats, there were posts on social media encouraging attacks.”
He said he was told at around midnight on March 26 by the prime minister that Mr Johnson had tested positive for Covid-19.
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After discussing the national emergency arrangements, Mr Cummings said he went to Number 10 the following day for a series of meetings.
He received a call from his wife, who was looking after their four-year-old child, who said she felt badly ill, had vomited and felt like she might pass out.
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That led to Mr Cummings’ decision to swiftly leave No 10 - actions that were caught on camera in Downing Street.
After a couple of hours his wife felt better and Mr Cummings returned to Downing Street.
But he said that evening he discussed the situation with his wife - including the fact that many in Number 10 had developed coronavirus symptoms.
He was worried that if both he and his wife fell ill there was “nobody in London we could reasonably ask to look after our child and expose themselves to Covid”.
Mr Cummings said he was worried that “this situation would get worse” and “I was worried about the possibility of leaving my wife and child at home all day and often into the night while I worked in Number 10.”
“I thought the best thing to do in all the circumstances was to drive to an isolated cottage on my father’s farm.”
The press conference came after calls for Mr Johnson’s key aide to resign and explain his actions, following revelations he travelled 264 miles to his parents’ estate in Durham while his wife was suffering coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Cummings said he did not speak to the prime minister before driving to County Durham.
Mr Cummings said he was “not surprised” that people were angry over the media coverage, but that it was “a very tricky, complicated situation” which he had made a decision on.
Setting out the details of his actions, Dominic Cummings said the prime minister had asked him to publicly give his account and he acknowledged he should have spoken earlier.
“I know that millions of people in this country have been suffering, thousands have died, many are angry about what they have seen in the media about my actions,” he said.
“I want to clear up the confusions and misunderstandings where I can.
“In retrospect, I should have made this statement earlier.”
He said there were “exceptional circumstances” around care for young children.
Mr Cummings confirmed he had travelled to Barnard Castle during his time in County Durham, where witnesses said he had been spotted.
But he said that was because he had concerns over his eyesight after having coronavirus - and wanted to be sure he would be able to drive back to London.
He said allegations he returned to Durham for a second visit after April 14 were “false”.
Mr Cummings also said:
- He has not considered resigning, and did not offer to do so.
- He did not ask the prime minister about his decision and admitted that “arguably this was a mistake”.
- He drove up to Durham with his wife and son and did not stop on the way, and the next day woke up in pain and “clearly had Covid symptoms”.
And Mr Cummings insisted: “I don’t regret what I did. I think reasonable people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in the circumstances, but I think what I did was actually reasonable in these circumstances.
“The rules made clear that if you are dealing with small children that can be exceptional circumstances.
“And I think that the situation that I was in was exceptional circumstances and the way that I dealt with it was the least risk to everybody concerned if my wife and I had both been unable to look after our four-year-old.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the press conference was “painful to watch”.
“He clearly broke the rules, the prime minister has failed to act in the National interest. He should have never allowed this situation with a member of his staff,” she added.
Mr Johnson has been facing a revolt from scores of his own backbenchers as they line up to condemn the prime minister and his chief adviser.
Mr Johnson’s defence of him on Sunday had failed to quell dissatisfaction among his own MPs with 15 Conservative backbenchers having called for Mr Cummings to go, while several others have spoken out against his actions.
Ahead of the conference, Durham Police issued a new statement, in addition to its statement from Saturday.
The statement said: “We can confirm that on April 1, an officer from Durham Constabulary spoke to the father of Dominic Cummings. Mr Cummings confirmed that his son, his son’s wife and child were present at the property.
“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.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous is among those to today call for the aide to resign having yesterday came out in support after suggesting that “the welfare of Mr Cummings’ child was of understandable importance”.
Mr Aldous said he had “changed his perspective” following a strong public response - including emails from constituents he says have never contacted him before.
He said: “I was originally sympathetic to Mr Cummings. But questions have been raised about whether the family were completely self-isolating in County Durham and whether they took a family trip to Barnard Castle, 30 miles away from where he was staying.
“These new developments have made me reconsider.”
This afternoon Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman tweeted: “To restore the Cabinet’s damaged authority to demand lockdown compliance, Dominic Cummings needs today to: 1. give a clear, coherent & acceptable account, and an apology to the British people for not abiding by his own instructions (as they have). Or 2. Resign.”
It follows a tweet last night in which he said we needed “some humility” and “a clear acknowledgement” that people would be angry if they sensed double standards, and “a sincere thank you to the millions of people (including fathers) who have made sacrifices Dominic Cummings didn’t.”