Lockdown breach: Dominic Cummings ‘acted legally’, says Johnson

Adviser blames inaccurate media reports for public anger over 420km journey

Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to British prime minister Boris Johnson, has told the media that he feels he acted "reasonably and legally" after driving from London to Durham despite the UK's Covid-19 restrictions.

Boris Johnson has expressed regret over "the confusion and the anger and the pain" felt by many over the breaches of lockdown rules by his chief adviser Dominic Cummings. But the British prime minister insisted that Mr Cummings acted legally in moving his family from London to Durham when they were ill with coronavirus, adding that "you will have to make up your own minds".

Mr Johnson was speaking after an extraordinary press conference when Mr Cummings sat alone at a trestle table in the Downing Street garden explaining his actions and answering questions from reporters. He blamed inaccurate media reports for the public anger that drove 20 Conservative MPs to call for his sacking amid warnings that he had undermined the government’s social distancing messaging.

But he admitted for the first time that while he was in Durham, he drove with his family to Barnard Castle, a beauty spot half an hour away, and visited a forest and a petrol station. He expressed no regret for his actions and said he had never considered resigning.

The prime minister's own judgement is now in question. If he was really convinced by Dominic Cummings's story, he is in a small minority

“I don’t regret what I did. As I said, I think reasonable people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in these circumstances. But I think that what I did was actually reasonable in these circumstances,” he said.


Mr Cummings appeared to have breached the government’s guidelines by returning to Downing Street after his wife fell ill with coronavirus, driving 420km (260 miles) to his parents’ farm in Durham, and from there making the trip to Barnard Castle and the other stops.

Opposition parties

The leaders of Britain’s opposition parties will meet today to consider what steps they can take to hold Mr Cummings and the prime minister to account.

"The prime minister's own judgement is now in question. If he was really convinced by Dominic Cummings's story, he is in a small minority and the public's confidence in Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus crisis will only fall further," Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey said.

But as cabinet ministers declared it was time to move on, Mr Johnson sought to refocus public attention by announcing more measures to ease the lockdown.

From June 1st, outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allowed to open and all other non-essential shops, department stores and shopping centres can open from June 15th if they comply with guidelines to make them “Covid-secure”.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times