Pressure remains to sack Dominic Cummings as Tory revolt grows

Dozens of MPs voice disquiet and minister quits over Johnson adviser’s lockdown breach

Boris Johnson remained under pressure on Tuesday night to sack his chief adviser Dominic Cummings after a government minister resigned over the issue and dozens of Conservative MPs voiced their disquiet.

Douglas Ross said he was quitting as a minister in the Scotland Office because his constituents did not believe Mr Cummings was entitled to move his family from London to Durham during the lockdown and drive to a local beauty spot while there.

“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right,” he said.

At the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday evening, health secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the government might have to review all penalties imposed on people with children for travelling during the lockdown. Mr Hancock defended Mr Cummings, saying he shared the prime minister’s view that the adviser had acted within the lockdown guidelines.


But a YouGov poll found that 71 per cent of the British public believe that Mr Cummings broke the rules, up from 68 per cent on Saturday, and 59 per cent think he should resign, including a majority of those who voted to leave the EU in 2016.

20-point drop

Another poll by ComRes on Tuesday found that Mr Johnson’s approval rating has dropped 20 points in four days to minus 1 per cent. The government’s approval rating has fallen 16 points in the same period to minus 2 per cent.

More than three dozen Conservative MPs have called for Mr Cummings to resign or be sacked and many have reported receiving hundreds of emails from constituents expressing anger at his actions. Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, a former chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, wrote in an email to constituents that he had not been able to see his own dying father during the lockdown.

“Like many others, I have found the rules to be personally heart-wrenching. On 5th May, my father died of coronavirus and the pain and guilt of my being unable to visit him as he fought for his life will haunt me for the rest of my days. I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone, but I know that many of my constituents have suffered in the same or similar ways,” he said.

“And given that we fighting against a worldwide pandemic, we really do need to be all in this together. That means you, me, Ministers and senior officials. I am, therefore, urging the Prime Minister, and all those closely connected to him, to recognise the strength of feeling which exists on this issue and to dismiss Mr Cummings without further delay.”

The SDLP’s Colum Eastwood and Alliance’s Stephen Farry on Tuesday joined the leaders of the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens at Westminster in writing to the prime minister to call for Mr Cummings to be sacked.

“He is yet to express any apology or contrition for these actions. There cannot be one rule for those involved in formulating public health advice and another for the rest of us,” they said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times