Dominic Cummings was fighting for his political life last night as pressure mounted on Boris Johnson to sack his chief adviser for flouting lockdown rules.
Downing Street‘s top aide travelled from London to his parents’ Durham farm in March to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms – despite the government’s own restrictions banning non-essential journeys.
The bombshell revelations whipped up accusations of hypocrisy and prompted rivals to brand Mr Cummings’ position ‘untenable’.
Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems all tightened the screw on the Prime Minister to take action, while the knives were also out among Tories already disgruntled with the firebrand Brexiteer.
Friends close to Mr Cummings claimed he was not bothered by the reports he had been quizzed by police for breaching the rules, and claimed he was not poised to resign.
But the frenzy of calls for his scalp reached fever pitch last night, with many asking why they should obey the pandemic laws if Mr Johnson’s right-hand man did not.
High-profile resignations of architects of the lockdown who flouted rules, such as Prof Neil Fergurson and Scotland chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood, have paved a precedent for Mr Cummings to quit.
Sources said the 48-year-old Number 10 staffer made the 264-mile trip to the North East so his parents could care for his young son if both he and his wife, who were both displaying symptoms, were unable to look after him.
Yet he was afforded little sympathy from Britons wrestling with equally difficult situations during the health crisis, who are expected by the government to stick to the measures.
Mr Johnson’s credibility is also under the spotlight, with questions swirling over whether he knew his senior aide was breaking the lockdown.
When Mr Cummings was announced to have contracted Covid-19 symptoms on March 30, the PM’s official spokesperson told journalists he was isolating ‘at home’.
Downing Street has not commented on the story, muddying the waters as to whether Mr Cummings did not tell the PM about his trip, or whether he did tell his boss and Mr Johnson kept this quiet.
Dominic Cummings was fighting for his political life last night as pressure mounted on Boris Johnson to sack his chief adviser for flouting lockdown rules (duo pictured in September)
Boris Johnson ‘s chief adviser Dominic Cummings (pictured yesterday) was investigated by the police for flouting lockdown rules, it was revealed tonight
Neighbours were ‘shocked’ to see the 48-year-old in the North East a few days after he was seen in Westminster (pictured running) and announced to be isolating with Covid-19 symptoms
The Downing Street aide is claimed to have travelled from London to his parents’ home in Durham in March
A Labour party spokesman said: ‘If accurate, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules.
‘The Government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel.
‘The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings. Number 10 needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.’
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said: ‘Following the news that Dominic Cummings travelled from London to Durham during lockdown and his behaviour was investigated by the police, his position is completely untenable – he must resign or be sacked,’
Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: ‘If Dominic Cummings has broken the lockdown guidelines he will have to resign. It’s as simple as that.’
Labour MP Angela Eagle tweeted: ‘One law for them another for the rest’. Her colleague Stella Creasy tweeted: ‘So we can now take children from a household where people have tested positive to stay with the likely over 70s? Missed that exemption in the guidance’.
Piers Morgan wrote: ‘So, Boris Johnson’s right hand man Dominic Cummings broke lockdown to go to his parents’ house 100s of miles away… AS HE SELF-ISOLATED WITH CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS. Fire him tonight Prime Minister – or why should anybody heed your lockdown rules?’
He added: ‘Boris Johnson must have known where Cummings was self-isolating. Why did you let your chief adviser break your lockdown rules, Prime Minister?’
Durham Constabulary officers did not fine Mr Cummings, but ticked him off and stressed the need to follow the restrictions, which the Number 10 staffer himself helped to craft.
Neighbours were ‘shocked’ to see him in the North East a few days after he was pictured in Westminster and announced to be isolating with Covid-19 symptoms.
His wife, the journalist Mary Wakefield, has wrote about his struggle with the disease and suggested he was holed up at their London residence, as did the Prime Minister’s spokesperson at the time.
But last night a Mirror and Guardian investigation claimed that he was quizzed for breaching lockdown curbs restricting travel.
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary said: On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.
‘Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.
‘In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.’
Dominic Cummings and wife Mary Wakefield, who wrote about her husband’s coronavirus battle
Dominic Cummings pictured in April in London, after he allegedly returned from the North East
Timeline of Cummings’ lockdown flouting
March 23 Boris Johnson announces lockdown.
March 27: On the same day the Prime Minister tests positive for coronavirus, his top aide is seen running across Downing Street to get home to his wife Mary Wakefield.
She later wrote in The Spectator that Mr Cummings did ‘rush home’ to look after her when she developed symptoms.
March 28 & 29: Mr Cummings develops symptoms of the disease over the weekend, Downing Street confirms, with Mrs Wakefield saying he felt ‘weird’.
He reportedly collapsed before spending ten days bedridden with a high fever, spasms and breathlessness.
March 31: The Government adviser was in Durham, according to the investigation, with police confirming they visited an individual who had travelled to the city from London to self-isolate.
April 5: Mr Cummings is allegedly spotted by a witness at the grounds of his parents’ home near Durham at 5.45pm with a child believed to be his son. The same evening Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigns for breaching lockdown rules for visiting her second home.
April 14: The PM’s aide is photographed in Downing Street for the first time since recovering from coronavirus.
The neighbour, who did not want to give their name, told the Mirror: ‘I got the shock of my life. There was a child, presumably his little boy, running around in front. I recognised Dominic Cummings, he’s a very distinctive figure.
‘I was really annoyed. I thought ‘it’s OK for you to drive all the way up to Durham and escape from London’.
‘I sympathise with him wanting to do that but other people are not allowed to do that. It’s one rule for Dominic Cummings and one rule for the rest of us.’
On April 14, the aide was pictured back in Westminster for the first time since his coronavirus recovery.
The Prime Minister is fighting to keep his closest lieutenant tonight following a string of demands for Mr Cummings’s scalp.
Mr Cummings was not slapped with the £60 fine for breaching the rules, which were ushered in on March 26.
They stated: ‘You should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home.
‘The only exception is if they need help, such as having shopping or medication dropped off.’
The day after these curbs were enforced, on March 27, Mr Cummings raised eyebrows when he was pictured sprinting along Downing Street after it was announced that Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had tested positive for coronavirus.
On March 30, news broke that the aide was self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms, and the PM’s spokesperson later confirmed he was ‘at home’.
The PM’s official spokesman told journalists: ‘I think he’s in touch with No10 but he is at home, he is self-isolating, he has some symptoms.’
Several days later, on April 5, Mr Cummings allegedly remained at the property in Durham and was spotted by a neighbour of Mr Cummings’ parents, Robert, 73, and Morag, 71.
They claimed they spotted him outside the property while passing for their daily exercise and heard Abba’s Dancing Queen playing loudly.
The neighbour saw the political aide, wearing a scarf and coat, and with a small boy running around, believed to be his son.
The BBC reported that Mr Cummings and his wife stayed in a separate building at his family’s farm while they both had coronavirus.
He is also said to have told colleagues that he and his wife feared they would not be well enough to look after their small boy. ITV reported that they decided, already ill, to drive them all to the North.
The revelations have stirred up fury and political rivals tonight lined up to accuse Mr Cummings of hypocrisy and demand he resign
The Prime Minister is fighting to keep his closest lieutenant tonight following a string of demands for Mr Cummings’s scalp (pictured together in October)
What were the rules when Cummings broke lockdown?
When Boris Johnson introduced the UK lockdown he gave ‘a very simple instruction – you must stay at home’.
But it has now emerged his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, allegedly broke the rules just days later by travelling 260 miles from his London home to his family home in Durham.
The rules, announced in a speech the PM made to the nation on March 23, stated that people would only be allowed to leave the house for limited purposes.
These were shopping for basics, one form of exercise a day, travelling to and from work, but only where absolutely necessary, and medical needs.
Reinforcing the message, he said people should not meet family members who do not live with them.
When he returned to work, Mr Cummings’ wife, an editor at The Spectator, wrote about their experience of self-isolating in lockdown.
In the same issue of The Spectator, Mr Cummings wrote: ‘At the end of March and for the first two weeks of April I was ill, so we were both shut in together.’
Communities Secretary Roberty Jenrick clung on to his cabinet job following revelations he had travelled from London to his country home.
Mr Jenrick was also criticised for travelling 150 miles from his London property to his Herefordshire home from where he travelled to his parents in Shropshire.
However, he defended his actions, saying he went to deliver food and medicine to his isolating parents.
This month Professor Neil Ferguson quit as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) after it was revealed his girlfriend had been visiting him during lockdown.
Scotland Yard criticised his behaviour as ‘plainly disappointing’ but ruled out issuing a fine because he ‘has taken responsibility’ after resigning as a key Government adviser in the coronavirus response.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, also quit after making two trips to her second home during lockdown.
Despite Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backing Dr Calderwood to remain in her position, she ultimately decided to relinquish her role so as not to be a ‘distraction’ from the Government’s social-distancing message.
Mr Cummings was is a long-serving political aide who has garnered a reputation as a maverick in Westminster.
He made waves as a special adviser to then Education Secretary Michael Gove, who locked horns with teachers he referred to as the ‘blob’.
The arch-Brexiteer masterminded the Vote Leave victory in the 2016 referendum, but was quickly cast into the political wilderness when Theresa May became premier.
He returned to government in 2019 as Mr Johnson’s most senior adviser in Downing Street.
From Vote Leave to Team Boris: The making of political maverick Dominic Cummings
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings has allegedly been caught breaking lockdown rules by visiting his parents’ home in Durham while he was recovering from Covid-19.
Mr Cummings rose to notoriety in politics, first as an adviser to Michael Gove and then as campaign director at the official Brexit group Vote Leave.
He was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a Channel 4 drama about the Brexit campaign, which played up his role in covering a red bus with the disputed £350 million a week figure, arguing the cash could be used to fund the NHS.
Mr Cummings, a hate figure for many pro-EU politicians, said the £350 million/NHS argument was ‘necessary to win’ the campaign.
Mr Johnson appointed Mr Cummings to his top team as senior adviser at Number 10 when he became Prime Minister in the summer of 2019.
The appointment of the abrasive former campaign director was controversial, given he was found to be in contempt of Parliament earlier in the year for refusing to give evidence to MPs investigating misinformation.
Mr Cummings has built a reputation as someone who does not play by the rules of conventional politics.
He was once called a ‘career psychopath’ by former prime minister David Cameron, according to widely reported remarks.
But Mr Cummings is no stranger to an insult either, describing David Davis, then the Brexit secretary, as ‘thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus’ in July 2017.
The December 2019 election victory gave Mr Johnson the political capital he needed to take bold decisions – and Mr Cummings soon set to work on his goal of reshaping Whitehall, issuing a recruitment call for data scientists, economists and ‘weirdos and misfits with odd skills’ to shake up the Civil Service.
In April, it was revealed Mr Cummings has also been present at meetings co-ordinating the response to the coronavirus pandemic as part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
This raised concerns over a lack of breadth in expertise of the meetings and political interference in science-based advice.
Mr Cummings had previously been observed failing to follow the two-metre social distancing rules as he walked along Downing Street flanked by fellow aide Cleo Watson on April 14.