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

24 May 2020, 19:51

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

By Fiona Jones

The former UK Government Special Adviser told LBC she was shocked at the PM's "tone deaf" defence that his senior aide was acting on fatherly instincts as "so many people have gone against instincts in order to stay at home."

The Prime Minister was drafted in for the government's daily coronavirus press briefing at the last minute, following allegations that his senior aide had broken lockdown rules by travelling to Durham from his London home on multiple occasions.

Mr Johnson's statement comes after a number of Conservative MPs called for Mr Cummings to be sacked or to resign.

Former Special Adviser Lauren McEvatt said she was surprised the Prime Minister came out with such a "full-throated defence of his effective chief of staff...either when there has been an egregious breach of the rules or such a lack of clarity of the rules that it's not clear if they were breached or not."

Ms McEvatt said that as a result the briefing was "tone deaf" and was a "huge sentiment against the Prime Minister and the government's defence."

"I think one of the most important things for any adviser to the government is to recognise that not only are you not the story, but you have to hold yourself to a higher standard because you are in the public eye.

"Whether or not he was acting on the instincts of a father, as the Prime Minister put it this afternoon, there are hundreds of thousands of fathers, and children, in this country who have acted against their instincts over the course of the last nine weeks because they were adhering to the rules the government laid down," she said.

Boris Johnson stands behind Dominic Cummings amid scandal

She reflected that the instincts of the UK's population would have been to rescue their parent from a care home, for example, or help out with childcare needs.

"So many people have gone against instincts in order to stay home and to see what would appear to be a complete opposite approach to the rules that were laid down by the Prime Minister's chief adviser is insulting, I think, to the general public and hurtful in many ways," Ms McEvatt said.

LBC's Clive Bull asked if the questioning of Dominic Cummings' actions will go away now and the former Special Adviser said it would not.

"Because there are still questions remaining about the possibility of two other trips back to Durham...while those questions remain and float along in the consciousness, this story won't go away.

"As we trundle closer to Alastair Campbell's blessed 72 hour rule of a story being about the adviser, it becomes more and more difficult for Dominic Cummings to stay in position as he begins to undermine the government's efforts in the largest public efforts we've faced in the modern era."

In Sunday's press conference, the Prime Minister 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."