Since last weekend, I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents about the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings, and the allegations that he broke the Government’s lockdown rules.
When my wife and I were suffering from Coronavirus, we followed the self-isolation rules to the letter, remaining in our house with our young son for 14 days, even though we have family only a few miles away. Having experienced this, it is difficult to hear of others travelling long distances to access support, and I therefore both understand and have empathy for the frustration expressed by many of my constituents. Throughout the outbreak like most people, we have done everything possible to stick to the advice, leaving our house only for very limited purposes.
I have to state also that the symptoms of this virus can be incredibly frightening, especially so for those looking after a young child. While I would not have done the same thing as Mr. Cummings, I find it difficult to condemn any person for acting in what the thought was genuinely the best way to ensure the safety of his wife and child, in what must have been a very stressful situation. To be clear about the rules at the time of Mr. Cummings’ journey, on 24th March the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenny Harries OBE advised that, “clearly if you have adults that are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance”.
Mr. Cummings’ actions may have been within the letter of the law, but were almost certainly not in the spirit of it. For this, I believe he should show contrition and apologise to the public, who have shown great restraint and fortitude in following the rules. However, I could not in good conscience call for the resignation of anyone for doing what they believed was in the best interests of their family’s safety and health.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been doing everything possible to follow the guidelines and combat the spread of the virus. I know most people have made huge sacrifices and this has been a very worrying time for all. Many have not seen close family for months, and have struggled to get through these very challenging times. For many, this sacrifice has been far more than anyone should have to cope with, and my thoughts are with all those who have suffered from the virus and tragically lost family or friends. It is vital that we all continue to work together in our city to follow social distancing if we are to get through this, and I hope the strength people have shown so far in sticking to these measures will not be impacted by this situation.
Finally, I must place on the record my criticism of some national media outlets in their handling of this story and the entire coronavirus outbreak. Their actions in peddling misleading rumours throughout this crisis have done just as much harm to the public’s confidence in the lockdown measures. Far too often, there has been a focus on getting the next headline and attempting to predict what might be the next advice, rather than on publishing a clear message about which advice to follow. Furthermore, intimidation and stunts such as the broadcasting of distressing images on a large screen through Mr. Cummings’ window while only his wife and child were at home goes beyond the just and necessary scrutiny of those in power, and is a toxic influence on public discourse at a time when civility and caring for others have never been more important.
The last few days have been a wholly unnecessary distraction from the vital work of supporting individuals and businesses which have been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, and I now hope to be able to move on and focus all of my efforts on supporting my constituents, who have sacrificed so much to keep each other safe during this difficult time.