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Cornish MPs speak out over Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules

Cornish MPs speak out over Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:04am 28th May 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall’s MPs have been issuing statements on the furore around Dominic Cummings but none have so far backed calls for him to resign or be sacked.

Mr Cummings was reported to have driven more than 250 miles from London to his parents’ home in County Durham at the end of March during lockdown after he was concerned about he and his wife possibly having covid-19 symptoms.

The Prime Minister’s most senior advisor claims that he decided to make the journey against guidelines as he could not find childcare for his four-year-old son.

He further admitted driving to a nearby beauty spot so that he could check his eyesight was safe for him to drive back to London.

Mr Cummings said he did not regret his decision and has not apologised for his actions. The Prime Minister has given him his support.

Cornwall’s Conservative MPs have now started to give their thoughts on the issue.

All six MPs have backed a campaign encouraging people not to visit Cornwall and to #comebacklater

“As a parent I can understand why he and his wife would wish to ensure their child was in good hands once they had developed coronavirus symptoms.

“However, it is clear that the situation could have been handled very differently and it is not helpful for this ‘story’ to consume so much Government energy at a time like this.

“In these situations the media circus and public interest can often become as problematic as the incident itself and it is imperative that the Prime Minister retains control of the situation and I’ve fed this view into Government.

“Irrespective of the behaviour of one or two individuals in high office, the fact remains that it is in everyone’s interest that we continue to observe the social distancing guidance and lockdown restrictions if we are to fully beat coronavirus.

“My hope is that people do not relax and think these restrictions do not matter simply because of this debacle!”

St Ives MP Derek Thomas

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said in his statement:

“I totally understand the frustration and anger many people feel regarding the events of the weekend. We have all experienced our own hardships, inconveniences and struggles as we have been coping with the lockdown. Therefore, when we hear reports of others supposedly breaking the restrictions, particularly someone in a position of responsibility, it provokes an understandable reaction.

“I have purposely waited to make a public comment because I have learnt in my time in politics that it is best to wait until you know all the facts before making a judgement. I have very carefully considered the situation and weighed up the all information before issuing this statement.

“The initial media reports painted a very serious picture of Dominic Cummings and his journey to Durham. What is now clear is that these reports contained serious errors and aspects of speculation that have proved to be inaccurate.

“In his statement on Monday Dominic Cummings laid out the series of events and actions by him as well as his reasoning behind the decisions he took. It is quite clear that he believes his reasons for making the decisions were both responsible and reasonable.

“Over the past 10 weeks I have been contacted by dozens of constituents seeking my advice as to how the lockdown guidance and restriction applied to them. Many of them presented me with the reality of the dilemma many families have faced in seeking to abide by the restrictions whilst caring for their families in a responsible way.

“In every case I have been clear that it is not my role as an MP to make these decisions for others. I have pointed them to the guidance and the exceptions within it when it comes to caring for children and other vulnerable family members. I have stated numerous times that it is down to individuals to use their judgement as to if the exceptions apply to them and to make the decision, they believe, is right for them and their family.

“I have to say that if Mr Cummings had been a constituent of St Austell and Newquay this is the advice I would have given him.

“We can all have our own views on whether or not Mr Cummings broke the lockdown guidance. But what is also clear is that he believed he was acting within the exceptions allowed in the guidance in order to make provision for the care of his young son. What I saw when I watched his statement on Monday was a father and husband who grappled with the dilemma of caring for his family in very difficult circumstances.

“However, what is also clear is that this could have been handled so much better. Dominic Cummings himself acknowledged that it would have been better if he had provided his full explanation sooner than he did. The speculation that was allowed to build up over the weekend has made this issue far more difficult to address than it needed to be. Regrettably by the time he gave his account on Monday many people had already made up their mind and were unlikely to change it.

“I must also say that the behaviour of many parts of the media over this matter has been unacceptable and it is quite clear that their reaction has been far more about the person and their desire to see him removed from office than the actual facts. The hounding of him and his family by some media and politically motivated people has been unacceptable in a civilised democracy.

“I have never met Mr Cummings or had any direct contact with him. He fulfils an important role in government in the Prime Minister’s office, he is not elected, he is appointed directly by him and has no direct involvement in my role. I didn’t really have a view of him when he was appointed and still don’t. Whether or not Mr Cummings remains in post really is a matter for the Prime Minister. If he continues to have confidence in him than I accept that.

“Please be assured however, I have passed on the strength of feeling of the many local people who have contacted me regarding this issue to the Prime Minister.

“What is clear is that this whole episode has the potential to hugely damage the government’s work in fighting this virus. We cannot allow that to happen.

“What we need now is to be able to draw a line under this matter and move on. Important steps are about to be taken in coming out of lockdown and allowing our economy to reopen. It is vital this happens in order to begin the recovery and we need the machinery of government to be able to focus on this task.

“So, while I totally understand and accept that many people who have made sacrifices are angry and upset, many even feel betrayed, we cannot allow this episode to undermine our collective effort to win the fight against this virus.

“We all need to continue to do what is needed to prevent the spread of the virus and work together to rebuild our economy in the coming weeks and months.

“We need to support individuals, families and business to get through the challenging months that lie ahead. That is what I want to be able to focus on and trust that we can all do the same. I will therefore not be making any further comments on this matter. I want to focus all of my efforts on serving the people of St Austell and Newquay and getting through this challenging situation as best we possibly can.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray told the BBC:

“I can’t say that I support completely him driving that far because I am completely aware that I have got constituents who their parents may have a separate property for them to stay in but I have been spending so much of my time saying to people who have second homes in my constituency ‘Don’t come to your second home’ that I do think that it sends out the wrong message.”

South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray

Cherilyn Mackrory, MP for Truro and Falmouth, said in a letter sent to people who had contacted her on the issue:

“Firstly, thank you to everyone who has contacted me about this issue. Trust me when I say you are not alone. I have received nearly one thousand emails about this, all from concerned constituents who feel like they have had an almighty kick in the teeth over the weekend. I can assure you that I have read every single one of them over the past few days and given a great deal of thought as to how I would respond and what position I should take on this. Let me be clear that I share plenty of your concerns.

“Before I begin, I want to highlight the abuse that I have received regarding this matter. This is wholly unjust. I, like you, have been sticking to the word of the Government guidance. My team and I have worked hard to help thousands of constituents during the crisis. Abuse of any kind is wholly unacceptable and I will not tolerate it.

“As for the issue at hand, know that I share your anger, frustration and annoyance. This is an unwelcome distraction at a time when the country could be united. United in our fight against an invisible killer. Right now I should be working with you, with businesses and with schools planning for the easing of lockdown. To ensure we get it right and to ensure we all remain protected. Instead, I have found myself spending days reassuring you that the guidance we all stuck to, was not open to interpretation. We should all be in this together.

“After seeing the news unfold over the weekend, and after the sacrifices you have made over the last few months no doubt this hurts. Trust broken and integrity questioned. I know some will have lost loved ones over recent weeks, for that I am sorry.

“I have never met Mr Cummings. However, I have no doubt that the actions he took he thought were just and necessary. Many in my constituency, and across the country, did not. For that, I feel, there needed to be an apology. It was not my understanding that the guidance and rules could be subject to interpretation. As I saw it, the guidance was there to be stuck to. To save the NHS from being overwhelmed.

“For the past two months I have been clear; Stay away from Cornwall and from second homes. #comebacklater. Under no circumstances should you leave your primary residence to stay overnight elsewhere and many people have sacrificed a lot to stick to the guidance. This still remains the case. For Mr Cummings to travel 260 miles, knowing that he may soon be affected by COVID-19, is not acceptable.

“As a wife and a mum, I do understand what Mr Cummings was trying to achieve by safeguarding his family. However, by making that journey, by taking that course of action, it may have endangered many, many more.

“What Mr Cummings did may not have been illegal, but it did go against clear government advice. The Government advice that you and I, and the rest of the country, took at face value. Stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS. I am afraid, with the information I have seen, I simply cannot condone his actions in this case.

“In addition to this, I also cannot condone the recent related actions of the press pack and the hounding of a parent holding his young son outside his home. We can all recall multiple cases where such actions by the media have inadvertently ended someone’s life and I will not add my voice to it. This has always been completely unacceptable to me and continues to be.

“I have fulfilled my role by feeding our comments, both yours and mine, to Government but the future of Mr Cummings’ employment is a decision for the Prime Minister.”

Cherilyn Mackrory, MP for Truro and Falmouth

George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth and Scott Mann, MP for North Cornwall are yet to comment on the issue.

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