Boris Johnson is risking, with Cummings


Even today in the UK the headlines of the main newspapers and some tabloids are occupied by the “Cummings case”: the accusations of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser for violating the rules to contain the coronavirus by traveling with his family through England to move to quarantine at home, despite already showing COVID-19 symptoms. The government hoped to resolve the matter with the press conference when Dominic Cummings explained his reasons on Monday, reiterating that he had not violated the rules, but things got worse.

Journalists and commentators treated the accusations against Cummings and the stubbornness with which Johnson defended himself; polls show that the most common opinion in the country is that Cummings should leave the post of adviser to the prime minister and on Tuesday also many MPs from the Conservative Party have asked for the same. A government secretary resigned, explaining that he had received hundreds of protest letters from his constituents, and six ministers – say today’s newspapers – privately asked for Cummings to resign. Approval for Johnson has come to its lowest levels in recent days.

Two investigations from the Guardian he was born in Daily Maillast week they reported that between 28 and 29 March, a week after the government imposed restrictions on movements similar to those decided in Italy, Cummings had moved with his wife and their four-year-old son from London to in Durham, in the north of England, where his parents live. The journey, about 400 kilometers, had been made when Cummings’ wife had already manifested the symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and a few days before Cummings himself became ill.

– Also read: Who is Dominic Cummings, the most controversial man in British politics

Cummings justified his trip with the need to get help from his parents to take care of the son in case he and his mother got sick. In Durham, he explained, the three had stayed in an adjacent building but separate from the one where his parents live, thus not endangering anyone else’s health. The British government, also through a Johnson spokesman, explained that for these reasons Cummings had not violated the quarantine rules: but this is not the case. The government had banned all travel and family reunification, and had also indicated that families who needed help with their children should ask the local authorities for help, avoiding moving.

After days of controversy, to which Cummings had reacted by being very annoyed, the government organized a press conference on Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence, on Monday evening. Cummings read a lengthy account of what had happened, repeating that he had not violated the rules, and answered some questions from journalists insisting that the trip had been motivated by the need to take care of his son. A few hours later, in another press conference, Johnson refused to talk about the affair, explaining hastily that everything had already been said by Cummings and repeating that he would not fire him.

With Cummings’ press conference and insistence on the need to protect a 4-year-old boy, the government was likely hoping to close the matter. However, things got further complicated.

The Guardian meanwhile he had discovered that Cummings had probably returned briefly to London during his quarantine period and that he had made another trip with his wife, visiting a known location a few dozen kilometers from Durham, Barnard Castle. Cummings’ responses to these new charges were not particularly convincing: in the case of the visit to Barnard Castle, for example, Cummings justified himself by saying that he had decided to take a short drive with his wife to be sure he could face the longer journey to London (because he had vision problems). According to a survey conducted shortly after Monday’s press conference, 71 percent of Britons believed that Cummings had violated the rules, while 59 percent believed that he should be fired.

Between Monday evening and Tuesday several government officials publicly repeated their defense of Cummings, with some stumbling blocks. During a radio interview, Michael Gove, minister and important representative of the Conservative Party, was asked if he too is used to do car rides to check his vision instead of seeing an ophthalmologist: Gove answered yes, before correcting himself and explain that you are not the right person to ask that question. In other interviews, Gove has always responded to such questions with some awkwardness and with not very logical arguments: together claiming that you should not drive if you do not see well and that you can drive to ensure that you see well.

The government’s reaction to the new charges appeared to many to be particularly blind to the problems thousands of families had during the weeks of isolation, even those who were in similar condition to the Cummings family. Other government officials have been asked if anyone who has been fined for traveling during the lockdown will now be compensated; many noted that defending Cummings’ behavior had actually weakened the ability to strictly enforce the rules set by the government itself.

Many conservative MPs said they had received dozens of protest letters from their constituents and on Tuesday Douglas Ross, an Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry for Scotland, announced his resignation from the government. “I can’t explain to my constituents that something is wrong if done by them and is right if done by a government adviser,” he said. Thirty conservative MPs have officially asked for Cummings to resign. Johnson’s approval level decreased by 20 points in 4 days.

Tuesday night Emily Maitlis, the popular presenter of the BBC program Newsnight, opened the episode with a long and unusual speech: ¬ęGood evening, Dominic Cummings has violated the rules, the whole country knows it and it is surprising that the government denies it. The longer the ministers and the prime minister tell us that he respected the rules, the worse the anger at this scandal will be. ” An editorial from the Financial Times released Wednesday argues that public opinion is right to be angry about Cummings’ behavior, and that it was unwise for Johnson to pretend nothing happened. Not only because in order to defend Cummings he had to waste a lot of his “political capital”, his credibility, but also because now it will be more difficult to enforce the rules against coronavirus.

The chief of police from the Birmingham region in the north of England, he told Monday that several officers on duty have been told things like “If Cummings can do it, I can do it too”, giving substance to many criticisms received in recent days by the government. Johnson will meet representatives of the Conservative Party today to answer their questions about why he decided not to fire Cummings. For the moment, there is no indication that Johnson has changed his mind.

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