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Bishop of Norwich says PM’s response to Cummings saga will have ‘very serious and damaging implications’

PUBLISHED: 12:19 25 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:34 25 May 2020

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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The Bishop of Norwich has strongly criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to stand by his chief aide Dominic Cummings.

The Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich. Picture: Diocese of NorwichThe Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich. Picture: Diocese of Norwich

The Rt Rev Graham Usher said: “The British public have responded with immense fortitude and personal sacrifice by following Government advice.

“I’m deeply frustrated that the trust and solidarity of recent weeks has been undermined by the Prime Minister’s response this weekend.”

Bishop Graham warned: “This will have very serious and dangerous implications as we move forward. Our clear aim must be to continue to halt the spread of Covid-19 and stop any more numbers being added to the already horrendous death toll.”

Before issuing his statement, Bishop Graham shared a tweet from Mr Johnson in April which had said: “Don’t break the rules. If you do, it won’t just impact you. If one person breaks the rules we will all suffer. #StayHomeSaveLives.”

Handout photo issued by 10 Downing Street of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday May 24, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.Handout photo issued by 10 Downing Street of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday May 24, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Bishop Graham added the word “indeed” as he shared the tweet.

MORE: MP calls for Cummings to go

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aide Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of risking the Government's efforts to combat Covid-19 in order to defend his senior aide following allegations he breached lockdown restrictions. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson's senior aide Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of risking the Government's efforts to combat Covid-19 in order to defend his senior aide following allegations he breached lockdown restrictions. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

His commnents came as Church of England bishops from around the country have accused the PM of treating people “as mugs” and with “no respect” after he defended Mr Cummings.

On Twitter, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?

“The moral question is not for Cummings - it is for PM and ministers/MPs who find this behaviour acceptable.

“What are we to teach our children? (I ask as a responsible father.)”

The Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon, wrote on Twitter: “Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay.”

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Dr Hartley also shared some details of her experience of being unable to see her parents during lockdown.

She tweeted: “My parents live in Durham, an hour away from where we live. My father finished radiotherapy treatment just before lockdown.

“I’ve missed his birthday, Mothering Sunday and countless other catch-ups that would have happened.

“And that’s a fraction of a story compared with others.”

Meanwhile, the Rt Rev Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, tweeted after Sunday’s Downing Street briefing: “£livingdifferently in a nation where the PM has no respect for the people.

“The bonds of peace and our common life (which had been wonderfully strengthened during the testing by CV-19) have been dangerously undermined this evening.”

In an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump, The Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, also tweeted on Sunday evening: “Johnson has now gone the full Trump.”

The Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, commented on Twitter: “I don’t usually tweet politics, and I have carefully steered clear during the pandemic. But tonight I must say: the PM & his cabinet are undermining the trust of the electorate and the risks to life are real.”

The Rt Rev Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, appeared to question how the Church of England could work with the Government during the coronavirus crisis.

He wrote on Twitter on Sunday: “Unless very soon we see clear repentance, including the sacking of Cummings, I no longer know how we can trust what ministers say sufficiently for @churchofengland to work together with them on the pandemic.”

Commenting on Mr Baines’s earlier tweet, The Rt Rev Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, wrote on Twitter: “I find myself deeply worried by the PM’s judgment call on this one.

“Not from a political perspective but a moral one.

“His response lacks both integrity and respect and he has just made his task of leading us through this crisis much, much harder.”

The Rt Rev Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle, also wrote on Twitter that she had been left “deeply troubled tonight” after the Prime Minister’s briefing.

She added: “We can forgive mistakes and poor judgement and can understand and admire loyalty but forgiveness and understanding need openness and we did not see this tonight.”


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