Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Dominic Cummings says he has 'not considered' resigning over lockdown breach
25 May 2020, 16:35
Boris Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings has said he did not offer to resign and that he has not considered doing so, as he responded to accusations he broke lockdown rules.
Mr Cummings also said that he believes that the legal rules around the coronavirus lockdown did not cover his individual circumstances as he addressed the nation to respond to accusations levelled against him.
Speaking at the Downing Street Rose Garden today in a highly unusual appearance by a senior government adviser, Mr Cummings said: "I know that millions of people in this country have been suffering, thousands have died, many are angry about what they see in the media about my actions."
He said he wanted to "clear up confusions and misunderstanding" over the accusations he is facing, saying that he didn't do anything against the law, adding that he did not tell the prime minister because "we all had a lot on our plate".
Mr Cummings said: "In this situation I tried to exercise my judgement as best I could, I believe the law says I behaved reasonably and legally, balancing the safety of my family and the extreme situation in no 10 and the public interests in an effective government to which I can contribute."
Mr Cummings also said:
- He did not ask the Prime Minister about his decision and admitted that "arguably this was a mistake".
- He drove up to Durham with his wife and son and did not stop on the way, and the next day woke up in pain and "clearly had Covid symptoms"
- The prime minister had asked him to publicly give his account and he acknowledged he should have spoken earlier.
- He could see why people basing their opinions on media reports of his actions could be furious.
- He said his trip to Barnard Castle was made to test his eyesight before driving home to London
In a long, detailed account of his actions, he said: "Around midnight on Thursday 26 March I spoke to the prime minister.
"He told me he tested positive for coronavirus, we discussed initial emergency arrangements for No10 and his isolation and what I would do in number No10 the next day.
"The next morning I went to work as usual. I was in a succession of meetings about this emergency.
"I suddenly got a call from home from my wife who was looking after our 4-year-old child.
"She told me she suddenly felt badly ill, she vomited and felt like she might pass out and there would be no way to look after our child.
"None of our usual childcare options were available. We were alone in the house.
"After very briefly telling some officials at No10 what had happened, I immediately left the building, got into a car and drove home.
"This was reported by the media at the time who saw me run out of No10. After a couple of hours my wife felt a bit better...she urged me to return in the afternoon. And I did.
"That evening I returned home and discussed the situation with my wife. She was ill.
"She might have COVID-19, though she did not have a cough of fever. At this point, most of those who work with us most closely...either had had symptoms and had returned to work or were absent with symptoms.
"I thought there was a distinct probability i had already caught the disease.
"I had a few conflicting thoughts in my mind: first I was worried that if my wife and I were both seriously ill, there was nobody in London we could reasonably ask to look after our child and expose themselves to COVID-19.
"My wife had felt on the edge of not being able to look after him safely a few hours earlier."
He continued: "I thought that if I did not develop symptoms then I might be able to return to work to help deal with the crisis.
"The ongoing discussions about testing government staff in order to keep people able and working rather than isolating.
"At this point on the Friday advisers such as myself had not been included in the list of who were tested but it was possible this might change the following week.
"Therefore I thought that after testing negative I could continue working. In fact this did not change and special advisers were not tested.
"I have never been tested. There have been numerous false stories in the media about my actions and statements regarding COVID-19."
He also said there had been a "very bad atmosphere" around his home, saying: "The truth is I had argued for lockdown and did not oppose it.
"This created a very bad atmosphere around my home - I was subject to threats of violence, people came to my house shouting threats they post on social media encouraging attacks, there were many media reports on TV showing pictures of my house.
"I was also worried given the severity of this emergency this situation would get worse and I was worried about the possibility of leaving my wife and child at home all day.
"I thought the best thing to do in all the circumstances was to drive to an isolated cottage in my father's farm.
"At this farm, my parents live in one house, my sister and two children live in another house and there was separate cottage roughly 50m metres away from either of them.
"I did not ask the PM about this decision. He was ill himself and had huge problems to deal with. Every day I have to exercise my judgement about things like this and decide what to discuss with him."
Mr Cummings is facing sustained pressure from across the political spectrum to quit his Government role with as many as 19 Conservative MPs backing calls for him to leave his role today.
Mr Cummings travelled to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family – apparently because he feared that he and his wife would be left unable to care for their son – while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys.
Further reports also suggested he took a second trip to the North East in April, having already returned to London following his recovery from COVID-19.
But Mr Cummings rejected this claim of a second trip, saying he has photographic evidence on his phone to prove otherwise.
He then went on to clarify a trip he made while in Durham to Barnard Castle, which he says was to test his eyesight before driving home to London.
"My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease,"
"She did not want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child given how ill I had been."
In a later press conference, the prime minister continued to stand by Mr Cummings and said he, himself, now needed to wear glasses "for the first time in years," adding that he thought it could be an effect from COVID-19.
Several Conservative backbenchers have joined calls from opposition parties for Mr Cummings to quit or be sacked, amid warnings that his actions have “undermined” efforts to fight coronavirus.
It comes as Durham’s acting police and crime commissioner, Steve White, said there was a “plethora” of additional information which deserved “appropriate examination”.
He said he has written to Durham police’s chief constable asking her to “establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law or regulations in this matter”.