Boris Johnson asks for nation to 'move on' as he stands by Dominic Cummings

27 May 2020, 16:55

Boris Johnson has appeared in front of the House of Commons Liaison Commitee
Boris Johnson has appeared in front of the House of Commons Liaison Commitee. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has said he wants the country to "move on" from the Dominic Cummings scandal during a grilling by MPs.

In an uncomfortable appearance before the House of Commons Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister held firm on his support for Mr Cummings, despite polls showing the vast majority of the British public wanting him to resign.

Mr Johnson continued to claim that much of what had been reported was "false", despite Mr Cummings himself admitting he did travel 260-miles to Durham, and then making a 60-mile round journey to a local beauty spot during the height of lockdown.

The reason for this journey, Mr Cummings claimed, was to test his eyesight.

Mr Johnson admitted that the row over his aide's journey had been "very frustrating."

"Yes look it's been a very frustrating episode and I understand why people have been so concerned," he said,

"Because this country is going through a horrendously difficult time, but I really think that in so far as what we need to do is to focus on getting the message right, which is probably common ground in your committee, then I think what we need to do really is to move on and to get on to how we are going to sort out the coronavirus."

Boris Johnson was asked by Liaison Committee chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin whether the Government's "moral authority" had been undermined by the Cummings row.

The Prime Minister said: "This has really been going on for several days now - in the media at least.

"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."

Mr Johnson said he had seen evidence to prove that some of the allegations made against Dominic 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."

When asked why an inquiry into the issue had not been called, Mr Johnson said he was "not certain that an inquiry into that matter is a good use of official time".

Mr Johnson also denied that the public are now less likely to abide by restrictions because of the personal lockdown decisions by Mr Cummings, and his subsequent public support for him.

Conservative MP Simon Hoare told 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".

Dominic Cummings has refused to resign and Mr Johnson has stood by him
Dominic Cummings has refused to resign and Mr Johnson has stood by him. Picture: PA

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."

The saga has also come at both personal and political costs for Mr Johnson, with his approval rating plummeting into negative figures and 40 of his own MPs calling for Mr Cummings' resignation.

A recent YouGov poll indicated 59 per cent of the British public want Mr Cummings to resign from his position, and a massive 71 per cent agree he did indeed break lockdown rules.

When asked why he took the unprecedented decision to allow Mr Cummings - an unelected civil servant - to hold a national press conference in the gardens of Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: "I thought that it would be very good thing if people could understand what I understood."

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