CROYDON COMMENTARY: If Croydon South’s Conservative MP does not join the calls for Dominic Cummings to be sacked, PETER UNDERWOOD (right) says will be calling for his suspension from the House of Commons
It has been very easy to criticise the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis but like most of you, my focus has been on helping people to get through it and I intended to save my criticism for the inquiry that will be necessary when this is over.
But last night’s news conference from Boris Johnson has changed that.
Since the start of this crisis we have seen how incompetent this government really is. Their delay in acting to bring in a lockdown and an adequate testing regime has cost thousands of lives. Their cuts to the NHS have left it unable to cope with demands for beds, ventilators and PPE – personal protective equipment. Their policy of moving untested patients out of hospitals into care homes has spread the virus to infect and kill many, including those most vulnerable.
All of this is true. But there were already plenty of people pointing this out in the media. So I decided to focus on providing help and support to the people who most needed it.
Over recent weeks I have gone shopping or picked up prescriptions for people who needed to isolate at home. I have messaged and called family and friends who couldn’t leave the house. I have had Zoom calls with friends and work colleagues because we couldn’t meet in person.
I know that all of you have been doing the same. Doing your bit by staying at home to stop the spread of the disease and ease pressure on the NHS or going out to help other people who were doing so. We have stuck to the rules to save lives.
There have been a few notable cases of politicians and officials, in this country and others, who have broken those rules. Rightly, they have been forced to resign, or at the very least disciplined and demoted. But then there is the case of Dominic Cummings.
The press reports have provided ample evidence that he travelled hundreds of miles across the country when everyone else was being told to stay where they were. Worse than that, he knew he was infected the virus and so by travelling he was turning everywhere he came into contact with into a high-risk area.
The press reports go on to suggest that this wasn’t a one-off incident but that he made at least two trips to different locations.
Social media has been full of heart-rending stories. Friends being unable to be there for each other when they were needed most. Family members not seeing each other for weeks on end. Grandparents not being able to see new grandchildren, some who have since tragically died of the virus and so never will.
All of these people following the rules for the sake of others, while Dominic Cummings completely ignored those rules.
And, to make it even worse over 50 Conservative MPs and our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, have publicly said that he has done nothing wrong.
The explosion of anger among the public has been immense, and quite rightly so. Despite the many failings of this government, we have stuck to the lockdown rules they wrote. Then it turns out they felt they could ignore them if they wished.
Today, from across the political spectrum, including some Conservative MPs, there have been calls for Cummings to resign, and dismay at the way that Boris Johnson has failed the country by deciding to back him instead of sacking him.
Here in Croydon, Labour MPs Sarah Jones and Steve Reed have condemned Cummings and spoken against Johnson.
But what of our MP for Croydon South? So far Chris Philp has said absolutely nothing.
I have directly asked him on Twitter if he will call for the sacking of Dominic Cummings and the resignation of Boris Johnson over his handling of the affair, but I have received no reply. And I’m not the only one. Many other constituents have asked a similar question of their MP but have had no response.
This is not a time to cower in a corner and hope it all blows over. This is a time for politicians to stand up and be counted. If Chris Philp does not publicly demand the sacking of Dominic Cummings for breaking lockdown laws then he has betrayed all his constituents who have done their duty by following those rules.
I have had many disagreements with Chris over the years as we have very different views on what a government and an MP should do. But this goes beyond party politics. If Chris Philp is not willing to stand up for his constituents and instead backs a criminal who has put other people’s lives at risk, then he is unfit to be an MP.
The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament states that MPs have a “duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents” as well as requiring that MPs “shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons”.
If Chris Philp does not speak out, then he failing on both of those counts. At the time of writing, he has made no public statement, but this cannot be allowed to continue. If he doesn’t make a clear statement in support of his constituents, demanding the sacking of Dominic Cummings, and criticising Boris Johnson for his handling of the situation then I will be petitioning the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to ask that Chris Philp is suspended from the House so that we can begin the process of removing him as our MP.
In the meantime, I will continue to do what I can to support people during lockdown and I hope you do the same. I equally hope that you don’t use the dreadful example set by a senior member of the Tory government as an excuse to ignore the rules that keep us safe.
As the Government’s own poster said, “If one person breaks the rules, we will all suffer – Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives”.
- Peter Underwood is the Green Party’s candidate for Croydon and Sutton in the next London Assembly elections, whenever they are held…
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