Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the reaction of one of Croydon’s MPs to yesterday’s controversial covid-19 press briefing from Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference on Sunday evening, when he defended his senior adviser Dominic Cummings after he’d been shown to have broken coronavirus lockdown laws, was “an insult” to the British people and did not give the public “the respect they deserve”, after two months of observing coronavirus lockdown.
That’s according to Croydon Central’s Labour MP, Sarah Jones, when interviewed by BBC News following the controversial press statement from Downing Street.
Reports in the Daily Mirror and Guardian on Saturday showed that Cummings’ 260-mile drive with wife and child to elderly relatives in Durham had broken the lockdown rules the No10 chief of staff had helped to draw up. The reports drew widespread – though not universal – support for Cummings from cabinet ministers and Tories at Westminster and closer to home until follow-up reports on Sunday suggested Cummings had broken the lockdown for a second time, apparently to undertake some sightseeing.
By Monday, even the Tory cheerleaders at the Daily Mail splashed with an incredulous “What planet are they on?” front page.
Cummings, and yesterday the Prime Minister, denied some details of the reported sightings in the north-east.
Today, the County Durham police commissioner has formally called for an official investigation into Cummings, and goings – a matter which could be resolved with a 15-minute examination of the data stored on the government official’s phone.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has avoided any outraged calls for Cummings to be sacked, preferring to stand back and allow Conservative backbench MPs to do that for him, as Downing Street’s failure to be honest with the British public is seeing the government’s coronavirus strategy unravel and Johnson lose credibility in the country.
Jones, as Labour’s shadow spokesperson policing, was lined up to voice her party’s position on the Sunday morning TV politics shows, and then later in the day was asked by BBC News for her immediate reaction after Johnson’s somewhat Orwellian-style, Ministry of Truth announcement that Cummings had done no wrong by following his “instinct”, rather than the law.
Speaking via a video link from her home in West Shirley, Jones said, “Millions of people have made sacrifices over this period and that press conference was an insult to all the British people who’ve worked so hard to bring our infection rates down.
“The Prime Minister took a nakedly political decision to shift the rules so that his political adviser would be safe,” Jones said.
“The way that he spoke, where he didn’t answer questions… to suggest the rules were fine to follow his instinct, to travel across the country because they might need childcare flies in the face of everything that the British people have been doing, the sacrifices people have been making.
“It’s really disappointing that the Prime Minister didn’t answer any questions and didn’t give the British people the respect they deserve by saying we all have to live by the same rules.”
Earlier in the day, on Sky’s Ridge On Sunday, Jones had said the Prime Minister’s actions as “questioning and undermining… our police force in Durham – this is very serious.”
Labour leader Sir Keir has sent a series of questions to Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, calling for an official Downing Street investigation.
“We all have sympathy with everybody in this situation,” Jones said, “but I know single mums who’ve had covid where their child has had to stay with them.
“We heard Johnson say, ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’. He didn’t say, ‘Or drive 260 miles to Durham if you think that’s the right thing to do’. People are rightly feeling: is it one rule for us and one rule for the people at the top?”
Cummings is expected to make a public statement, and take media questions, later today.
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