Dominic Cummings: the questions Boris Johnson failed to answer

24 May 2020, 21:11

Boris Johnson failed to answer a number of questions about the allegations surrounding Dominic Cummings
Boris Johnson failed to answer a number of questions about the allegations surrounding Dominic Cummings. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson failed to answer a number of questions from journalists at Sunday's press conference, during which he defended his senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

The prime minister was drafted in for the press conference last minute, following allegations that his key aide Mr Cummings had driven to Durham from London on multiple occasions.

Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: "I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I have concluded that in travelling to find the right kind of childcare, at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus - and when he had no alternative - I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent.

"And I do not mark him down for that."

Following his opening remarks, the prime minister then went on to face a grilling from the media, during which he dug in deeper to defend his senior adviser.

So what questions did Mr Johnson fail to answer?

Read more: UK Civil Service's Twitter account calls Boris Johnson's response 'arrogant and offensive'

Read more: Scientists accuse Boris Johnson of 'trashing' their advice after he defends Dominic Cummings

Coronavirus press conference (24 May 2020)

Did Dominic Cummings breach "the spirit" of the lockdown guidance?

Boris Johnson was asked by Ian Watson of the BBC whether Mr Cummings' trip from London to Durham breached "the spirit" of the government's lockdown guidance.

He replied: "I think when you look at the guidance, when you look at the particular childcare needs that Mr Cummings faced at the time, it was reasonable of him to self-isolate as he did for 14 days or more with his family where he did.

"I think that was sensible and defensible and I understand it."

What were the details of the Barnard Castle trip?

Mr Watson also asked: "You said some of the stories in the press were 'palpably untrue' but can you clear up one story which your ministers and your press officers haven't been able to clear up? Did Cummings make a trip to Barnard Castle in April when he was isolating or at least was based in Durham?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I just repeat what I have said earlier on: I have looked at them (the allegations that Mr Cummings went to Barnard Castle) carefully and I am content that at all times throughout his period in isolation, actually on both sides of that period, he behaved responsibly and correctly and with a view to defeating the virus and stopping the spread."

Boris Johnson stands behind Dominic Cummings amid scandal

When was Boris Johnson told that Mr Cummings was making the trip and did the prime minister approve?

The BBC's Ian Watson received no response from Mr Johnson to this question. The political correspondent appeared visibly frustrated following the prime minister's lack of a detailed reply.

If it was always okay to travel for childcare purposes, why were so many people unaware of this?

The prime minister was asked by Erin Lyons of the Oxford Mail about why if it was always permissible to travel for childcare purposes, so few people were aware of this.

He replied: "Mr Cummings did isolate for 14 days or more and the circumstances of his self-isolation were determined by the difficult childcare position that he found himself in and I understand that and I think that many other people do."

Former Tory Special Adviser shocked at Boris Johnson's "tone deaf" defence of Dominic Cummings

Are we now all entitled to follow our instincts during lockdown?

The prime minister claimed Mr Cummings was following his paternal instincts by seeking childcare in Durham, despite the rest of the country "following rules, not instincts."

Garry Gibbon of Channel 4 News asked whether people were now entitled to use their instincts despite lockdown restrictions.

Mr Johnson replied: "The guidance makes it very clear that where you have particular childcare needs that has got to be taken into account."

He added: "I have seen a lot of stuff in the last few days about this episode of self-isolation by Mr Cummings that does not seem to correspond remotely with reality.

"As far as I can see he stuck to the rules and he acted legally and responsibly with the sole objective of avoiding such contact as would spread the virus.

"His objective was to stop the spread of the virus and he behaved in such a way as to do that."