Dominic Cummings draws condemnation from across UK society

Caroline Davies
Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

The revelation that Dominic Cummings travelled to Durham during the lockdown has touched a nerve with millions of people who have stuck rigidly to the governments’ rules.

The disclosures provoked condemnation across society, and it grew on Sunday when Boris Johnson defended Cummings without offering a detailed explanation or agreeing to an inquiry into the matter.

The political class were always going to react, but it also angered senior members of the clergy, who accused him of treating people as mugs, and scientists who said he had “trashed” their advice. Police, lawyers, medics and the media have also weighed in.

Scientists

“On top of all the failing to get the tests in, failing to get the PPE, where thousands of lives have already been lost unnecessarily, this on top of that is the last straw for many people … This is being perceived as extremely unfair in a situation where millions of people have made huge sacrifice.” Susan Michie, a member of SPI-B, the government’s advisory group on behavioural science

“Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control Covid-19.” Prof Stephen Reicher, SPI-B member

“I am sorry to have to say that as another member of SPI-B I have to agree.” Robert West, SPI- B member

“It is the feeling they are taking everyone for fools and that there is one rule for them and one rule for everyone else, and it will stop lockdown being effective.” Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London and member of the independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)

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Clergy

“The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?” Nick Baines, bishop of Leeds

“I find myself deeply worried by the PM’s judgment call on this one. Not from a political perspective but a moral one. His response lacks both integrity and respect.” Olivia Graham, bishop of Reading

“I don’t usually tweet politics, and I have carefully steered clear during the pandemic. But tonight I must say: the PM and his cabinet are undermining the trust of the electorate and risks to life are real.” Pete Wilcox, bishop of Sheffield

“It’s that sense of deception there, that we are being either lied to, or at the very least things are being hidden from us that we need to know in order that we, the people of this country, can really understand that we are all in this together,” said David Walker, the bishop of Manchester. He urged Johnson’s cabinet colleagues to tell him: “Look Boris you got that wrong … everybody can forgive a sinner who’s repentant. Say you’ve got it wrong and we can move on.”

“The PM tells us that Cummings ‘followed the instincts of every father’ and that he ‘does not mark him down for that’. The point is that thousands and thousands of parents, including me, have not been able to follow their instincts because they felt they had to obey the rules!” John Inge, bishop of Worcester

Police

“What the prime minister did yesterday has now made it exponentially tougher for all those people on the frontline … enforcing the lockdown. We are in the middle of a national emergency and people who make the rules cannot break the rules, otherwise we are going to have chaos.” Mike Barton, former chief constable of Durham

“It makes it much harder for the police going forward. This will be quoted back at them time and time again when they try to enforce the new rules. But I think more importantly it makes something of a mockery of the police action going back when the message was very, very clear: stay at home.” Martin Surl, independent police and crime commissioner for Gloucestershire

Politicians

“This was a test of the prime minister and he has failed it. It is an insult to the sacrifices made by the British people that Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings. If I were prime minister, I would have sacked Cummings.” Keir Starmer, Labour leader

“I fear, and I say this with a heavy heart, Boris Johnson is putting political interest ahead of public interest,” said Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland. She also drew comparison with the resignation of Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood: “ She didn’t try to save her own skin at the expense of the public health message and I think that’s what has to happen here now with the prime minister and Dominic Cummings.”

“If the prime minister doesn’t sack Cummings today, his authority to lead the country in this public health crisis will be totally undermined.” Ed Davey, acting Liberal Democrat leader

“Like other MPs commenting my inbox is chockablock with emails from constituents furious about Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson’s blasé endorsement of his actions. The hypocrisy stinks and people know it.” Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary

Legal

“The uncertainty and anger generated will allow others, as a minimum, to be ‘generous’ with their own understanding of the rules. That may increase the spread and lead to further avoidable deaths.” Geoffrey Nice QC, former judge and war crimes prosecutor

“It is very clear that there is a very significant issue as to whether Dominic Cummings has committed a criminal offence under regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) 2020 ... ‘no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse’.” Lord Falconer, shadow attorney general

“There are questions to be answered as to how Mr Cummings says that he acted legally. Indeed, unlike all those people who have been prosecuted to date, Mr Cummings’ household actually did have Covid-19.” Kirsty Brimelow QC

Medics

“Frankly, Cummings spits in the face of all our efforts, the whole NHS. If he doesn’t resign, I will.” Dr Dominic Pimenta, cardiology registrar on a Covid-19 ICU ward

“The sense of feeling is really strong amongst doctors writing to us across our social media platforms. They are outraged given what they’ve seen and had to endure over the last few months. Everyone has pulled together to cope through really testing times in the NHS. To many, it feels like a betrayal. The rules apply to everyone, even Dominic Cummings. When it comes to social responsibility, every single one of us in this country has had to make tremendous sacrifices for our wider community. To have individuals in power who should know better, who are privy to all the information and all the scientific evidence – which we know he was when he attended Sage - to do what he did, it’s contemptuous, it really is.” Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK

Media

“He has violated the spirit and letter of the lockdown and, in doing so, he has given every selfish and reckless person in this country a licence to play fast and loose with public health … He and his master will try and brazen this out. It will not work. For the good of the government, and by extension the nation, Dominic Cummings must resign now. Or the prime minister must sack him. No ifs, no buts.” Daily Mail editorial

“How many people will now use their ‘instinct’ to avoid obeying the Govt’s crucial public health guidance re Covid-19? How many of those who do will get infected by the virus & then infect others? How many people will die? This is the direct consequence of what Cummings did.” Piers Morgan, broadcaster and columnist.