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Ousted Chancellor Sajid Javid leads Tory MP anger over Dominic Cummings

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has joined the Tory outcry over Dominic Cummings after Boris Johnson ruled out an inquiry into the scandal and pleaded with the country to ‘move on’.

In a letter to constituents, Mr Javid said that he did not believe Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip from London to Durham was ‘necessary or justified’.

Though stopping short on calling for the aide’s resignation, Mr Javid did call on him to apologise for the controversial journey.

It comes after the Prime Minister flatly dismissed calls for an official inquiry into Mr Cummings as he was grilled by senior MPs, saying the outcry was just a ‘political ding dong’.

The PM said he ‘totally understood public indignation’ about the situation, but insisted some of the allegations about his chief aide were ‘not correct’ and urged people to ‘move on’.

However, members of his own party have led anger at the row, with Mr Javid joined by paymaster general Penny Mordaunt, who said that there are ‘inconsistencies’ in Mr Cummings’ account of his trip. 

Mr Javid quit as chancellor earlier this year following an escalation in tensions with Mr Cummings, who had fired one of his aides without telling him.

After resigning, Mr Javid said Mr Johnson had told him that to stay in government he must accept the replacement of all his five-strong team with advisers hand-picked by Downing Street.

At that point he said he had no choice but to resign: ‘I don’t believe any self-respecting minister would accept those conditions.’ 

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has called on Dominic Cummings to apologise for breaching lockdown regulations

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has called on Dominic Cummings to apologise for breaching lockdown regulations

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has called on Dominic Cummings to apologise for breaching lockdown regulations

It comes after the Prime Minister flatly dismissed calls for an official inquiry into Mr Cummings

It comes after the Prime Minister flatly dismissed calls for an official inquiry into Mr Cummings

It comes after the Prime Minister flatly dismissed calls for an official inquiry into Mr Cummings

Now, the former Chancellor has resurfaced to hit-out at Mr Cummings amid the row over his alleged lockdown breach. 

Mr Javid wrote in his letter: ‘Mr Cummings has argued he acted within the letter of the law.

‘As a father myself, I also appreciate the fear and uncertainty one can feel when the safety of your child is potentially at stake.

‘That being said I do not believe Mr Cummings’ journey to County Durham to isolate on his family’s estate was necessary or justified. I remain unconvinced his visit to Barnard Castle could be considered reasonable.

‘I was also deeply concerned by his decision to return to Downing Street directly after coming into contact with a family member who was ill, potentially with coronavirus.’  

More than 40 Conservative MPs have called on Mr Cummings to quit his role amid the lockdown breach controversy. 

However, the Prime Minister has so far resisted all requests to punish his aide. 

Pushed on whether the Cabinet Secretary should carry out a formal investigation, Mr Johnson said there had been plenty of ‘autobiography’ from Mr Cummings and it would not be a ‘good use of official time’ as everyone was working ‘flat out’ on the coronavirus response. 

In one particularly bruising exchange at the Liaison Committee this afternoon, Labour’s home affairs committee chair Yvette Cooper jibed: ‘Forty-thousand people are dead. We need you to get this right now.’  

The clashes came with the row over Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown still threatening to tear the Tories to pieces.   

The party’s poll lead has been slashed by nine points in a week – thought to be the biggest drop in a decade. And despite the desperate plea for the focus to shift on to other subjects, nearly two-third say the story remains important.     

Conservative MP Danny Kruger complained that ‘one wing’ of the party was ‘going bonkers’ and comparing the alleged lockdown breach to ‘the invasion of Suez’.

Mr Javid quit as chancellor earlier this year following an escalation in tensions with Mr Cummings, who fired one of his aides without telling him

Mr Javid quit as chancellor earlier this year following an escalation in tensions with Mr Cummings, who fired one of his aides without telling him

Mr Javid quit as chancellor earlier this year following an escalation in tensions with Mr Cummings, who fired one of his aides without telling him

But in a sign of the depth of the devastating rift, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has insisted Mr Cummings ‘clearly’ did break the rules. 

A private conference call with government whips and the new intake of Conservative MPs today appears to have smoothed over matters somewhat, with no more outright calls for the adviser to quit.

But tonight even one of the whips came out with criticism of Mr Cummings. 

Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green in North London, told the Evening Standard it was ‘entirely reasonable for people to vehemently disagree with his (Mr Cummings) view of events’.

He added: ‘I do not believe it is the conclusion many of my constituents, or myself, would have reached.’ 

Three more Tories, George Freeman, Giles Watling and Pauline Latham, have called on Dominic Cummings to resign. 

Former transport minister Mr Freeman tweeted: ‘After 48hrs & c1000 emails from constituents expressing outage at the PM’s Chief of Staff breaking the lockdown & not apologising, it’s clear that public anger at the betrayal of their trust & compliance now risks a collapse of respect for HMG public health advice. DC has to go.’ 

Bernard Jenkin

Bernard Jenkin

Yvette Cooper

Yvette Cooper

Liaison Committee chair Bernard Jenkin (left) oversaw the fiery exchanges with the PM, including Yvette Cooper (right) demanding to know what the advice to parents was about travelling for childcare

The PM has seen his party's ratings tumble by four points in a week amid the Dominic Cummings row, while support for Labour has gone up five points, according to a YouGov survey for the Times

The PM has seen his party's ratings tumble by four points in a week amid the Dominic Cummings row, while support for Labour has gone up five points, according to a YouGov survey for the Times

The PM has seen his party’s ratings tumble by four points in a week amid the Dominic Cummings row, while support for Labour has gone up five points, according to a YouGov survey for the Times

The PM's personal ratings have also been plummeting amid the row over his chief adviser's lockdown activities

The PM's personal ratings have also been plummeting amid the row over his chief adviser's lockdown activities

The PM’s personal ratings have also been plummeting amid the row over his chief adviser’s lockdown activities

Boris Johnson reveals coronavirus tracing scheme will launch later today

The UK’s coronavirus contact tracing programme will launch later day without its centrepiece NHS app as experts warned it will not be a ‘silver bullet’ which kills off the disease.  

The NHS Test and Trace system for England will see anyone who develops symptoms urged to self-isolate for seven days and told to order a test online or by phone. 

Anyone who then tests positive will be asked to provide phone numbers and email addresses to the NHS for people they have recently come into close contact with. 

Those contacts will then be tracked down and told to self-isolate for 14 days – even if they do not have symptoms.  

Boris Johnson announced the launch of the scheme during an appearance in front of the Liaison Committee on Wednesday afternoon as he admitted the UK’s testing capability was underpowered at the start of the outbreak. 

He said the ‘brutal reality’ was that the UK did not ‘learn the lessons’ of previous pandemics and therefore testing was not where it needed to be early on in the current crisis. 

He said self-isolation resulting from the test and trace programme would be an imposition for a ‘tiny minority’ but that the benefits would be worth it. 

The PM said: ‘I would just say to everybody that it’s worth it because that is the tool that other countries have used to unlock the prison. 

‘That captivity for a tiny minority for a short time will allow us gradually to release 66 million people from the current situation.’  

The Government is pinning its hopes of ending the nationwide lockdown on the success of the scheme. 

But it will go live tomorrow, earlier than the June 1 launch date which had been anticipated, without the NHSX coronavirus app which digitally records close contacts and will massively speed up the contact tracing process.

 

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Amid fierce questioning from MPs at the committee hearing this afternoon, Mr Johnson was asked whether the government’s ‘moral authority’ had been compromised.

‘This has really been going on for several days now – in the media at least,’ he said.

‘I, of course, am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period – this country has been going through a frankly most difficult time.

‘We are asking people to do quite exceptionally tough things, separating them from their families.’

Mr Johnson said he would not be adding to his previous comments on Mr Cummings and said the public wanted politicians to focus on ‘uniting our message’ and ‘focusing on their needs’.

Northern Ireland committee chair Simon Hoare – one of around 40 Tory MPs baying for Mr Cummings’ resignation – warned the PM the nation will be ‘far less energetic’ about obeying future restrictions as ‘a direct result of the activities of your senior adviser’.

Mr Hoare asked what MPs should tell constituents who ask ‘if other people don’t abide by it why on earth should we’ because ‘we know what your views are, frankly Prime Minister, I don’t think anybody understands why you hold those views’.

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I don’t think that’s true about how the British people will respond to the next phases, to how to work the test and trace system, I don’t think that’s how they responded at all throughout the crisis.

‘If, just suppose for a second that you were right, which I don’t accept, all the more reason now for us to be consistent and clear in our message driving those key messages.’ 

Mr Johnson said he had seen evidence to prove that some of the allegations made against Mr Cummings were false.

But asked by Labour MP Meg Hillier whether the Cabinet Secretary should also see that evidence, the PM said: ‘I think actually that it would not be doing my job if I were now to shuffle this problem into the hands of officials who, believe me, Meg, are – as I think the public would want – working flat out to deal with coronavirus…

‘I totally understand public indignation, I totally understand that, but I do think that as I understand things, and I’ve said what I’ve said about the whole business, I think it would be much better if we could now move on and focus on the next steps.’

Under fire from Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper, Mr Johnson said people could travel to get childcare during lockdown if there were ‘exceptional’ circumstances. 

But Mrs Cooper demanded on the advice: ‘What is it? Because it is not clear to me.’  

Mr Johnson shot back: ‘The clear advice is to stay at home unless you absolutely have to go to work to do your job.

Pictured: Dominic Cummings

Pictured: Dominic Cummings

Boris Johnson today

Boris Johnson today

Boris Johnson (right) is facing 90 minutes of scrutiny today, but questions on coronavirus and Dominic Cummings (left) will be restricted to 20 minutes 

55% of Tory voters say Dominic Cummings should resign over his ‘lockdown breach’ journeys 

A majority of Conservative supporters believe that Dominic Cummings should be fired for breaking coronvirus rules, according to a new poll.  

Research by JL Partners for the Daily Mail found 66 per cent of people think Mr Cummings should leave his post amid the row, including 55 per cent of all Conservative voters. 

A further 63 per cent believe Boris Johnson should sack his right hand man, including 53 per cent of Tory supporters. 

Perhaps even more damning is the statistic that 80 per cent of people and almost three quarters of Conservative supporters agree that Mr Cummings broke the rules he played a key role in drawing up. 

In further bleak news for the Prime Minister, the research suggests that former Labour voters in the ‘Red Wall’ in the North and Midlands have reacted particularly badly to the row.    

At 72 per cent, working class ‘C1/C2’ voters are more likely to think the government is behaving as though ‘it is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else’, while 69 per cent are more likely to say Mr Cummings is not telling the truth than voters overall. 

‘If you have exceptional problems with childcare then that may cause you to vary your arrangements.’

Mr Johnson went on to describe the row over Mr Cummings as a ‘political ding dong’, and said: ‘A lot of the allegations that were made about that adviser were simply not correct.’ 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was clearly frustrated this morning as he was forced to defend the adviser during a tetchy interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Mr Jenrick said people were entitled to ‘do as Dominic Cummings chose to do’ if they could not find childcare.

‘If there are no other options, if you don’t have ready access to childcare, you can do as Dominic Cummings chose to do,’ he said.

‘The guidelines say you must do your best, but they appreciate that family life poses particular challenges and in order to protect you children you are allowed to exercise degree of personal judgement.’

Mr Jenrick also confirmed that a review into whether fines could be cancelled for thousands of people who travelled distances during lockdown – floated by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night – was not happening. 

Dozens of Mr Johnson’s own MPs have now joined opposition politicians to demand that Mr Cummings is sacked, but the premier has flatly dismissed the calls. 

And Mr Kruger upped the ante by telling Newsnight that ‘one wing of our party is going collectively bonkers by comparing a four year old’s toilet break to the invasion of Suez’.

‘Appreciate the inbox and press are horrific but the PM is signalling (as he did with the sacking of 21 MPs last year – which appalled the same people in the parly party) that he’s serious.’

Mr Kruger said that Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings together were ‘why we won the 2019 election’.

‘An arguable minor infraction of lockdown rules is totally secondary to that,’ he said.

‘Also, No10 won’t budge, so calling for (Mr Cummings) to go is basically declaring no confidence in PM.’ 

Senior ministers have publicly expressed public support for the defiant adviser but a number of Cabinet members are unhappy at the situation. 

In other developments:

Four-fifths of parents would not have travelled for childcare, survey suggests 

More than 80 per cent of parents did not and would not have travelled for emergency childcare during the lockdown, a survey suggests.

Almost a quarter of people said they had been in similar circumstances to the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings and had chosen to stay put, according to a survey of 965 Mumsnet users with at least one child.

A total of 81 per cent of respondents said they either did not or would not have travelled for emergency childcare, with 23 per cent saying that they had found themselves in a situation where one parent was ill and the other suspected they may become ill too, whilst both were caring for a young child and did not travel for emergency back-up.

Of those surveyed, 90 per cent said that in their view Mr Cummings and his family broke the rules of lockdown.

A third of respondents said that knowing the actions he took, they are more likely to break lockdown rules as they now stand – with three quarters those saying they would most likely do so to visit family or friends. 

The YouGov poll is the latest to demonstrate the scale of public anger about the lockdown issue.  

A poll from JL Partners for the Daily Mail revealed that 66 per cent of people think Cummings should leave his post amid the row, including 55 per cent of all Conservative voters. 

A further 63 per cent believe Boris Johnson should sack his right hand man, including 53 per cent of Tory supporters. 

Perhaps even more damning is the statistic that 80 per cent of people and almost three quarters of Conservative supporters agree that Cummings broke the rules he played a key role in drawing up. 

In further bleak news for the Prime Minister, the research suggests that former Labour voters in the ‘Red Wall’ in the North and Midlands have reacted particularly badly to the row.    

At 72 per cent, working class ‘C1/C2’ voters are more likely to think the government is behaving as though ‘it is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else’, while 69 per cent are more likely to say Cummings is not telling the truth than voters overall.  

More research by YouGov last night found Some 71 per cent believe Mr Cummings broke the strict rules, including 56 per cent of Tory voters and 63 per cent of his fellow Brexiteers.

Almost six in 10 voters believe he should resign, including almost half (46 per cent) of Tories and 52 per cent of Leavers. 

The Prime Minister’s refusal to sack him has also had an impact on his own image.

Mr Johnson had a net approval rating of 19 per cent on Friday before the news of his chief aide’s 260-mile journey to Durham.

But a poll by Savanta ComRes yesterday put Mr Johnson on -1 per cent after he and senior ministers leapt to Mr Cummings’ defence – the lowest of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister now has an approval rating of below that of opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, and the ratings of other senior ministers including Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock have similarly tumbled.

The row appears to have taken its toll on the Government as a whole, with a Friday approval rating of 20 per cent falling to -2 per cent.  

The Liaison Committee includes William Wragg, who has said it was ‘humiliating and degrading’ to see ministers put out agreed lines in defence of Mr Cummings, and Caroline Nokes, who has informed her party whips there could not be ‘wriggle room’ for some people when it comes to lockdown rules.

Also among those questioning the PM will be Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper, and Tory chairman of the Health Committee Jeremy Hunt – who has said he believes Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules.

PM’s sister says Dominic Cummings should apologise 

Rachel Johnson believes Dominic Cummings should apologise and admit he ‘messed up’ over a series of ‘bad decisions’ relating to his lockdown trip to Durham.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Boris Johnson‘s younger sister said Brits were ‘unutterably furious,’ with Mr Cummings decision to drive to Durham in March, along with his trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight in April.

Ms Johnson told presenter Ben Shepherd: ‘I think that if I had been Cummings, I’d have admitted I’d messed up.’  

She added: ‘I’d have got on the front foot and said, ‘I apologise for all of those who followed my messages, I took bad decisions at the time and I understand how angry it’s made a whole country feel, and please let’s move on because we have bigger fish to fry’.’ 

Mr Cummings said he had driven to Durham to isolate in a property on his father’s farm because of concerns over care for his four-year-old son if both he and his wife were incapacitated by Covid-19.

But a growing number of Conservative MPs have voiced their frustration over Mr Cummings after he expressed ‘no regrets’ about his trip. 

Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross quit the Government yesterday, saying he could not ‘in good faith’ defend Mr Cummings’ actions.

Tory grandee Sir Roger Gale said the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee should make it clear to the PM his adviser should go.

‘The time I think has come for Mr Cummings to resign or for the PM to dispense of his services,’ the North Thanet MP said.

‘There are people on the 1922 executive who are courageous, and that’s their job.

‘They are elected to tell the PM what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear.’

Tory voters agree that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, according to separate YouGov polling from yesterday

Tory voters agree that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, according to separate YouGov polling from yesterday

Tory voters agree that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, according to separate YouGov polling from yesterday

There is broad support for Mr Cummings quitting across Leave and Tory voters, according to a poll yesterday

There is broad support for Mr Cummings quitting across Leave and Tory voters, according to a poll yesterday

There is broad support for Mr Cummings quitting across Leave and Tory voters, according to a poll yesterday

Tory MPs who have called for Dominic Cummings to be sacked

The number of Tory MPs who have now called for Mr Cummings to be sacked after his press conference stands at at least 30. 

They are believed to be: 

Douglas Ross – Scotland minister who has quit

Harriett Baldwin – former Treasury minister

Sir Roger Gale – Tory veteran, MP since 1983 

Martin Vickers – Eurosceptic MP for Cleethorpes

Peter Bone – leading Brexit campaigner in 2016

Craig Whittaker – former Tory whip 

Robert Goodwill – former environment minister

Paul Maynard – ex-transport minister

Mark Pawsey – MP for Rugby for 10 years

Sir Robert Syms –  MP for Poole since 1997 

Tim Loughton – former children’s minister

Jason McCartney – former RAF officer

Peter Aldous – MP for Waveney since 2010

John Stevenson – solicitor and MP for Carlisle

Caroline Nokes – ex-immigration minister

Damian Collins – chair of DCMS select committee

Philip Davies – outspoken backbench MP

Julian Sturdy – farmer and MP for York Outer

Alec Shelbrooke – backed Jeremy Hunt for leadership

Mark Harper – former chief whip

Stephen Hammond – arch Remainer MP for Wimbledon

Simon Hoare – Only an MP since 2015

Andrew Percy – ex-Northern Powerhouse minister

David Warburton – MP for Froome since 2015

Steve Baker – Former ERG chairman and Brexiteer

Andrew Jones – North Yorkshire MP since 2010

Jeremy Wright – Former Attorney General and DCMS Secretary

Bob Neill – Justice Select Committee chair

James Gray – MP for North Wiltshire for 23 years

George Freeman – Former transport minister

Mark Garnier – Wyre Forest MP since 2010 

Jackie Doyle-Price – Thurrock MP and former civil servant 

Stephen Metcalfe – Father-of-two with wife Angela 

Elliot Colburn – Carshalton and Wallington MP since December 

Bob Stewart – Former British Army officer

Boris Johnson’s crunch appearance in front of the Liaison Committee: PM dismisses calls for official inquiry into Dominic Cummings, says he wants to reduce 2m social distancing rule and admits ‘not everybody’ will return to school from day one

By David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline 

The Prime Minister today faced a long-awaited grilling by senior MPs on the House of Commons Liaison Committee. 

The 90 minute hearing focused on coronavirus. Here are the key points from Mr Johnson’s responses. 

Dominic Cummings row 

The Prime Minister flatly dismissed the calls for an official inquiry into Dominic Cummings today as he was grilled by senior MPs, saying the outcry was just a ‘political ding dong’.

The row over Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown in March and the PM’s refusal to sack him is still threatening to tear the Tories to pieces.

The party’s poll lead has been slashed by nine points in a week – thought to be the biggest drop in a decade.

The PM said he ‘totally understood public indignation’ about the situation, but insisted some of the allegations about his chief aide were ‘not correct’ and urged people to ‘move on’.

Pushed on whether the Cabinet Secretary should carry out a formal investigation, Mr Johnson said there had been plenty of ‘autobiography’ from Mr Cummings and it would not be a ‘good use of official time’ as everyone was working ‘flat out’ on the coronavirus response.

The row over Mr Cummings' 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown in March and the PM's refusal to sack him is still threatening to tear the Tories to pieces

The row over Mr Cummings' 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown in March and the PM's refusal to sack him is still threatening to tear the Tories to pieces

The row over Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown in March and the PM’s refusal to sack him is still threatening to tear the Tories to pieces

Easing social distancing

Mr Johnson revealed he has asked top Government scientists to review the two-metre social distancing rule in the ‘hope’ that it can be reduced to help pubs and shops reopen.

The UK has one of the strictest contact gap rules in the world to counter coronavirus transmission, double the one metre gap recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Schools and shop in the UK are due to open in the next few weeks with strict measures already being planned to keep children and shoppers two metres from each other as much as possible in both settings. 

Mr Johnson was asked about the two metre rule by Science Committee chairman Greg Clark.  

The PM replied that the Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advice was that there was a ‘considerable reduction’ in risk at that distance, compared to a smaller gap. 

‘My own hope is that as we make progress in getting the virus down … we will be able to reduce that distance which I think will be particularly valuable on (public) transport and in the hospitality sector,’ he added.

The Government’s women problem 

Mr Johnson said he would have liked to have had more female representation at the daily Downing Street press conferences.

Priti Patel is the only woman minister to have led one of the set pieces since they started in March. 

In response to questions from Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, the PM said: ‘It’s certainly true that I would have liked to have had more female representation at the press conferences so far.’

Mr Johnson also acknowledged that female workers have been ‘harder hit’ by the pandemic, because ‘very often they will have jobs, particularly lower paid jobs, that make it more difficult for them to work from home’.

The Prime Minister said having women in the room when decisions are made has a ‘huge difference’ to the nature of the decisions taken.

Asked how many women is ‘enough’ representation, Mr Johnson appeared to laugh – before the committee chairman Bernard Jenkin said: ‘It’s not a joking matter though, is it?’

The PM said: ‘It’s not, and all I say, Caroline (Nokes), is that it’s incredibly important to us.’

Back to school 

Mr Johnson said he expects ‘not everybody will go back’ on day one of the phased reopening of schools next week, but insisted it is ‘safe provided everybody remembers the guidelines we’ve set out’, including social distancing and hand washing.

On whether the plan is for the remaining primary school pupils to return a month before the summer holidays, Mr Johnson said: ‘We will keep that under review, we’d like to do it if we can, it depends on our national success in keeping the disease under control.’

Pressed on introducing a catch-up premium and summer schools to help disadvantaged pupils, the PM told the Liaison Committee: ‘I want to support any measures we can to level up.’

He added: ‘There’s no doubt a huge social injustice is taking place at the moment because some kids are going to have better access to tutoring and schooling at home, and other kids aren’t going to get nearly as much, and that’s not fair.

‘That’s one of the reasons we need to get schools back.’

He said the catch-up fund was a ‘good idea’, before highlighting support in place, adding: ‘There’s a lot more that needs to be done.’

Source: Daily Mail – Articles

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