More Yorkshire Conservative MPs join calls for Dominic Cummings to resign
At least six of Yorkshire’s Conservative MPs have now called for the Prime Minister’s most senior aide Dominic Cummings to resign following allegations he breached coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
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 – a disease which has seen more than 45,000 people in the UK die after contracting it.
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.
Calder Valley’s Craig Whittaker, Colne Valley’s Jason McCartney, Cleesthorpe’s Martin Vickers, Harrogate and Knaresborough’s Andrew Jones, and York Outer’s Julian Sturdy have all said they now believe Mr Cummings’ post to be untenable.
Mr Whittaker said although he was “sure [Mr Cummings] took the decision in the best interests of his family [...] like every decision we take we also have to take responsibility for those decisions”.
Mr McCartney said many people had made “huge sacrifices” during the lockdown and “it is right therefore that we feel angry and let down when we hear that those involved with setting the rules and communicating them may have broken those rules themselves”.
Mr Vickers said the episode undermined the Government message but said the press were “out to get” Mr Cummings.
While Mr Jones said, in a letter to constituents: “It seems clear to me that Mr Cummings has broken the guidelines which we were and are all expected to follow.
"For that reason I think that he should resign and if he does not do so then he should be dismissed.”
Mr Sturdy added: “As more information is revealed, I believe it is becoming clear that Dominic Cummings’ position is no longer tenable, and the Government need to urgently refocus on our national priorities, namely our efforts to manage the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Thirsk and Malton’s Kevin Hollinrake at first defended Mr Cummings’ actions but as reports of a second trip emerged, he said if this was true it was “unacceptable”.
While Scarborough’s Robert Goodwill wrote in an email to a constituent, shared on social media: “I agree with you his position is untenable and he should be relieved of his post.”
Alexander Stafford, MP for Rother Valley, stopped short of calling for Mr Cummings to resign but said: "There cannot be one rule for one and another for others."
He said he had personally experienced sacrifices during lockdown as after giving birth to his daughter last month, his wife had to stay in hospital for a period, where he could not visit.
He said: "This was harder than can be imagined, but this sacrifice was the right thing to do to protect lives."
He added: "We don't have all the facts, and nor should we make quick decisions on partial information, which is why I have been and continue to seek proper and true answers to get to the bottom of what happened.
"To me, not only the letter of the law needs to be obeyed, but the spirit of it too."
Nationally at least 20 Conservative MPs have now broken cover to say he should go.
However some other Yorkshire Tories played down the significance of the claims.
One said many emails received from constituents seemed to follow one of around four similar templates, and that it was simply a scandal whipped up by the media.
Another also suggested the press was blowing the story out of proportion.
Mr Johnson said he could “not mark down” Mr Cummings for the way he acted, and told the Downing Street press conference on Sunday that, following “extensive” talks with his aide, he concluded “he followed the instincts of every father and every parent”.
He said Mr Cummings had “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity”.
However a number of Church of England bishops also took to Twitter yesterday to air their views.
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?
“The moral question is not for Cummings – it is for PM and ministers/MPs who find this behaviour acceptable.
“What are we to teach our children? (I ask as a responsible father.)”
A few minutes earlier, the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon, commented in response to a critical tweet about the Prime Minister.
She wrote: “Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay.”
Dr Hartley also shared some details of her experience of being unable to see her parents during lockdown.
She tweeted: “My parents live in Durham, an hour away from where we live. My father finished radiotherapy treatment just before lockdown.
“I’ve missed his birthday, Mothering Sunday and countless other catch-ups that would have happened.
“And that’s a fraction of a story compared with others.”
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, commented on Twitter: “I don’t usually tweet politics, and I have carefully steered clear during the pandemic. But tonight I must say: the PM & his cabinet are undermining the trust of the electorate and the risks to life are real.”
The PM is set to reveal plans to ease restrictions for certain sectors of the economy – with the changes expected to signal the reopening of some non-essential shops – when the Cabinet meets today.
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