By Rachael Grealish
Cumbrian MPs are torn over the Dominic Cummings situation – some supporting the Prime Minister’s aide, other’s calling for his resignation.
Cummings came under fire for travelling to Durham during lockdown, then again for making the journey from Durham to Barnard Castle on April 12, both of which he admitted and said he has ‘no regrets’ over.
John Stevenson, Conservative MP for Carlisle, was among the first of the Cumbrian MPs to comment on the situation, saying he felt Cummings ‘should resign’ in a statement on Twitter.
Allerdale’s Conservative MP, Mark Jenkinson, took to his Facebook page to comment on the situation saying it was ‘time to move on’.
He wrote: “Yesterday, Dominic Cummings set out a clear and reasoned account of his actions in late March / early April, followed by extensive questioning from the press.
“It was quite clear that there has been a significant amount of misreporting around the subject, and the statement allowed us a chance to cut through some of the more politically motivated reporting.
“Lots of people have made huge sacrifices throughout this crisis, and people will make up their own mind on this subject. I missed a family funeral, as reportedly did Mr Cummings.
“Mr Cummings set out exceptional circumstances around the care of his wife and small child. I think we can all agree that the scenes from outside his house over the last few months are abhorrent. It came across quite clearly that he was fearful for the safety of his wife and child. Demonstrably false reporting is how we end up in that position.
“First and foremost he’s not a Special Advisor – he’s a father and a husband, and I think he done what most of us would have in the same situation. I would walk to the ends of the earth for my children, and should I have been placed in the same situation, where there was family childcare over being placed with friends – for the safety of that friend as much as anything else – I would probably have made the same judgement call.
“We need to deal with the facts: He is in no different to any of us in that he is expected to follow the guidance, which was drafted to allow for such circumstances.. What he done was within the law, within the guidance and had been clearly set out as acceptable in the press conference by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer just a few days before.
“On the drive to Barnard Castle, it’s easy to be critical in hindsight, and I wish I was blessed with the foresight of some journalists. He made a judgement call on a short drive prior to a 6 hour drive back to London the following day, which was not strictly against guidelines. I think we would have to walk a mile in his shoes to fully understand that decision.
“The circumstances are quite obviously entirely different to those other cases we’ve seen in the news, and there are many other cases that the press are quite clearly applying different rules to. It’s time to move on.”
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmoreland and Lonsdale and former Lib Dem leader, called the whole situation a ‘shambles’ which is ‘killing confidence in the message and the messenger’ when he took to Twitter to comment yesterday.
Simon Fell, Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness, released a statement on his website saying he won’t defend Cummings and neither will he condemn him.
In the lengthy statement, which can be read here, he said: “To be honest with you, when I heard the news about Dominic Cummings, my blood boiled. We’ve all been making sacrifices these last few weeks – some much harder than others, but all difficult.
“And as well-intentioned as this journey may have been, it also clearly undermines the message that the government has been putting out through this pandemic. And the message that people have been sticking to. You won’t find me defending him. But I’m not going to condemn him either.”
The Copeland Conservative MP, Trudy Harrison defended Cummings’ actions saying ‘he did not break the law’.
In a statement to The Herdwick she said: “Dominic Cummings provided a detailed account of the events, with a clear and methodical approach to his risk averse decision. He understood the rules surrounding the movement restrictions, along with the exceptions.
“This exceptional circumstance that Dominic was faced with afforded his own justification for travel, with the care of his child being of grave concern. He did not break the law and the police have not taken any action against Dominic, his wife or his family.”
Cummings faced backlash after admitting he not only made the journey to Durham, with his wife and 4-year-old child, but also admitted to making the 50-mile round trip to Barnard Castle – with the excuse he was ‘testing his eyesight’ to see if he was ‘safe to drive back to London’.
Yesterday, Monday May 25, the senior political aide held an extensive press conference in which he stated: “I don’t regret what I did,” and he did not ‘consider resigning’.
Since the Boris Johnson continued to back his aide and the Scottish Conservative MP, Douglas Ross, has resigned saying: “There remains aspects of the explanation which I have trouble with.”