Reports in the media that Bishop Auckland constituency MP, Dehenna Davison has joined calls for Boris Johnson’s top aide, Dominic Cummings to quit have been branded “misleading” by her office.
Instead, Ms Davison has joined two other local Conservative MPs who have published a collective statement criticising Mr Cummings’ actions without explicitly calling for his resignation.
The joint statement by Ms Davison, Richard Holden MP (North West Durham) and Paul Howell MP (Sedgefield) said: “Like many of our constituents, we have spent the last few days with a feeling of disappointment, anger and frustration.
“Many people across our constituencies have made, and continue to make, incredible sacrifices. People are coping with situations that were unimaginable not long ago. Some of our constituents have lost their lives and many have lost people close to them, before their time.”
The statement alludes to Mr Cummings’ car journey with his wife and child from London to a private cottage on his parent’s farm in County Durham which they undertook after learning that his wife was displaying signs of Covid-19 infection.
The journey appeared to contravene the Coronavirus lockdown guidance which states that “if you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), then you must stay at home for at least 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.”
Mr Cummings said that the drive was necessary so that his son could be cared for if both he and his wife took ill at the same time.
However, the Special Adviser to the prime minister appeared to contradict that reasoning when he claimed that while he was suffering from the symptoms of Covid-19 infection himself, he drove to a Durham hospital to pick up his son who had spent the night there.
Mr Cummings also admitted that he drove his family 30 miles each way from the family home to Barnard Castle in what has been called a clear breach of the lockdown rules but what Mr Cummings called a necessary test drive to check his eyesight before embarking on a longer journey to London the following day.
National Chair of the Police Federation, John Apter was quick to issue a warning to other motorists not to attempt a similar exercise:
Just days before the controversy erupted into national headlines, Ms Davison had tweeted that she was raising concerns with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, at the numbers “of people flocking to Teesdale beauty spots…”, adding that Ms Patel communicated that “she’ll take this up with police chiefs”.
Shortly afterwards, rumours that Mr Cummings had visited Barnard Castle began to circulate and yesterday (25 May), Mr Cummings was forced to admit that he had made the journey.
Earlier in the day, Ms Davison had published a statement on her Twtter feed, saying: “I sincerely hope that reports that Dominic Cummings travelled to tourist sports in Barnard castle are not true, as I know my constituents would expect those with power to follow the same guidelines and make the same sacrifices we have all had to make during this difficult time,” adding “if rules have been broken, appropriate action should be taken.”
It is unclear whether Ms Davison or her colleagues believe that any rules have been broken, but in their statement, the three have not called for any action to be taken against Mr Cummings, saying:
“We had been relentlessly demanding that the Prime Minister’s adviser give an account of the timeline of his visit to County Durham and answer the valid questions of ourselves and our constituents. Mr Cummings’ personal statement dealt with a number of concerns, such as the misleading Guardian story about the police and the untrue story in The Mirror concerning allegations of multiple family trips to his parents. Overall, we believe his actions to be motivated out of his desire as a parent to do what he thought was necessary in protecting his family. However, in the same circumstances, none of us would have made the decisions he made – particularly over the visit to Barnard Castle. We also closely followed the statements from Durham Constabulary as they clarified what had happened.
We asked Ms Davison to clarify whether she felt Mr Cummings had broken the rules and should resign. A spokesperson said: “The joint statement is all [Ms Davison] has to say on the matter.”
Meanwhile, the Conservative MPs calling for Mr Cummings to step down have been joined by a cross-party group of political leaders who have written to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, calling for Mr Cummings to be fired “without further delay”.
However, a Downing Street spokesperson said that Mr Cummings had “answered questions extensively” during an unconventional press conference in the Rose Garden at Downing Street, while Cabinet colleagues of the prime minister continued to throw a protective blanket over the Special Adviser during continued media questioning.
Mr Cummings said he has “no regrets” about his actions and behaved “reasonably and legally”, adding that he had not offered his resignation nor considered it.
The full statement issued by local Conservative MPs can be read on Ms Davison’s Facebook page: