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Boris Johnson pleads with people to move on from Dominic Cummings row

Boris Johnson flatly dismissed calls for an official inquiry into Dominic Cummings today as he was grilled by senior MPs.

The PM said he ‘totally understood public indignation’ about the situation, but urged people to ‘move on’, insisting there had already been plenty of ‘autobiography’ from his chief aide.

Pushed on whether the Cabinet Secretary should carry out a formal investigation, Mr Johnson said it would not be a ‘good use of official time’ as everyone was working ‘flat out’ on the response to the virus. 

The comments came as Mr Johnson appeared before the Liaison Committee this afternoon, with the row over Mr Cummings’ 260-mile trip to Durham during lockdown still threatening to tear the Tories to pieces. 

The party’s poll lead has been slashed by nine points in a week – thought to be the biggest drop in a decade.  

A Cabinet minister said earlier that parents with childcare issues should ‘do as Dominic Cummings did’ and exercise ‘personal judgement’. 

The Tory civil war has been escalating again, with an MP accusing his colleagues of ‘declaring no confidence’ in the PM. 

Devizes MP Danny Kruger said ‘one wing’ of the party was ‘going bonkers’ and comparing the alleged lockdown breach to ‘the invasion of Suez’.

But in a sign of the depth of the devastating rift, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has insisted Mr Cummings ‘clearly’ did break the rules. 

A private conference call with government whips and the new intake of Conservative MPs today appears to have smoothed over matters somewhat, with no more outright calls for the adviser to quit.

The PM urged people to move on from the controversy, saying there had been plenty of ‘autobiography’ from his chief aide

The PM has seen his party's ratings tumble by four points in a week amid the Dominic Cummings row, while support for Labour has gone up five points, according to a YouGov survey for the Times

The PM has seen his party’s ratings tumble by four points in a week amid the Dominic Cummings row, while support for Labour has gone up five points, according to a YouGov survey for the Times

Pictured: Dominic Cummings

Boris Johnson today

Boris Johnson (right) is facing 90 minutes of scrutiny today, but questions on coronavirus and Dominic Cummings (left) will be restricted to 20 minutes 

In a tetchy round of interviews, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) said people were entitled to exercise 'personal judgement' over the tough lockdown rules

In a tetchy round of interviews, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) said people were entitled to exercise ‘personal judgement’ over the tough lockdown rules

The PM's personal ratings have also been plummeting amid the row over his chief adviser's lockdown activities

The PM’s personal ratings have also been plummeting amid the row over his chief adviser’s lockdown activities

55% of Tory voters say Dominic Cummings should resign over his ‘lockdown breach’ journeys 

A majority of Conservative supporters believe that Dominic Cummings should be fired for breaking coronvirus rules, according to a new poll.  

Research by JL Partners for the Daily Mail found 66 per cent of people think Mr Cummings should leave his post amid the row, including 55 per cent of all Conservative voters. 

A further 63 per cent believe Boris Johnson should sack his right hand man, including 53 per cent of Tory supporters. 

Perhaps even more damning is the statistic that 80 per cent of people and almost three quarters of Conservative supporters agree that Mr Cummings broke the rules he played a key role in drawing up. 

In further bleak news for the Prime Minister, the research suggests that former Labour voters in the ‘Red Wall’ in the North and Midlands have reacted particularly badly to the row.    

At 72 per cent, working class ‘C1/C2’ voters are more likely to think the government is behaving as though ‘it is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else’, while 69 per cent are more likely to say Mr Cummings is not telling the truth than voters overall. 

Amid fierce questioning from MPs at the committee hearing this afternoon, Mr Johnson was asked whether the government’s ‘moral authority’ had been compromised.

‘This has really been going on for several days now – in the media at least,’ he said.

‘I, of course, am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period – this country has been going through a frankly most difficult time.

‘We are asking people to do quite exceptionally tough things, separating them from their families.’

Mr Johnson said he would not be adding to his previous comments on Mr Cummings and said the public wanted politicians to focus on ‘uniting our message’ and ‘focusing on their needs’.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was clearly frustrated this morning as he was forced to defend the adviser during a tetchy interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Mr Jenrick said people were entitled to ‘do as Dominic Cummings chose to do’ if they could not find childcare.

‘If there are no other options, if you don’t have ready access to childcare, you can do as Dominic Cummings chose to do,’ he said.

‘The guidelines say you must do your best, but they appreciate that family life poses particular challenges and in order to protect you children you are allowed to exercise degree of personal judgement.’

Mr Jenrick also confirmed that a review into whether fines could be cancelled for thousands of people who travelled distances during lockdown – floated by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night – was not happening. 

Dozens of Mr Johnson’s own MPs have now joined opposition politicians to demand that Mr Cummings is sacked, but the premier has flatly dismissed the calls. 

And Mr Kruger upped the ante by telling Newsnight that ‘one wing of our party is going collectively bonkers by comparing a four year old’s toilet break to the invasion of Suez’.

‘Appreciate the inbox and press are horrific but the PM is signalling (as he did with the sacking of 21 MPs last year – which appalled the same people in the parly party) that he’s serious.’

Mr Kruger said that Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings together were ‘why we won the 2019 election’.

‘An arguable minor infraction of lockdown rules is totally secondary to that,’ he said.

‘Also, No10 won’t budge, so calling for (Mr Cummings) to go is basically declaring no confidence in PM.’

Mr Johnson will be questioned by senior MPs over the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday as calls for his key adviser to resign continue to grow. 

But MPs on the Liaison Committee will only have a maximum of 20 minutes in a 90-minute session to probe the situation.  

Senior ministers have publicly expressed public support for the defiant adviser but a number of Cabinet members are unhappy at the situation. 

In other developments:

  • The number of jobs being bailed out by the government has hit a new high of 8.4million – plus 2.3million self-employed, according to new figures; 
  • Mr Hancock confirmed there could be ‘local lockdowns’ in future if the test and trace system identifies coronavirus hotspots
  • The government has ruled out cancelling fines for families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown, despite Mr Hancock saying it would be reviewed;
  • A witness to the alleged lockdown breach by Mr Cummings said he has been interviewed by police
  • Mr Johnson said an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak needs to take place

Four-fifths of parents would not have travelled for childcare, survey suggests 

More than 80 per cent of parents did not and would not have travelled for emergency childcare during the lockdown, a survey suggests.

Almost a quarter of people said they had been in similar circumstances to the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings and had chosen to stay put, according to a survey of 965 Mumsnet users with at least one child.

A total of 81 per cent of respondents said they either did not or would not have travelled for emergency childcare, with 23 per cent saying that they had found themselves in a situation where one parent was ill and the other suspected they may become ill too, whilst both were caring for a young child and did not travel for emergency back-up.

Of those surveyed, 90 per cent said that in their view Mr Cummings and his family broke the rules of lockdown.

A third of respondents said that knowing the actions he took, they are more likely to break lockdown rules as they now stand – with three quarters those saying they would most likely do so to visit family or friends. 

The YouGov poll is the latest to demonstrate the scale of public anger about the lockdown issue.  

A poll from JL Partners for the Daily Mail revealed that 66 per cent of people think Cummings should leave his post amid the row, including 55 per cent of all Conservative voters. 

A further 63 per cent believe Boris Johnson should sack his right hand man, including 53 per cent of Tory supporters. 

Perhaps even more damning is the statistic that 80 per cent of people and almost three quarters of Conservative supporters agree that Cummings broke the rules he played a key role in drawing up. 

In further bleak news for the Prime Minister, the research suggests that former Labour voters in the ‘Red Wall’ in the North and Midlands have reacted particularly badly to the row.    

At 72 per cent, working class ‘C1/C2’ voters are more likely to think the government is behaving as though ‘it is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else’, while 69 per cent are more likely to say Cummings is not telling the truth than voters overall.  

More research by YouGov last night found Some 71 per cent believe Mr Cummings broke the strict rules, including 56 per cent of Tory voters and 63 per cent of his fellow Brexiteers.

Almost six in 10 voters believe he should resign, including almost half (46 per cent) of Tories and 52 per cent of Leavers. 

The Prime Minister’s refusal to sack him has also had an impact on his own image.

PM’s sister says Dominic Cummings should apologise 

Rachel Johnson believes Dominic Cummings should apologise and admit he ‘messed up’ over a series of ‘bad decisions’ relating to his lockdown trip to Durham.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Boris Johnson’s younger sister said Brits were ‘unutterably furious,’ with Mr Cummings decision to drive to Durham in March, along with his trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight in April.

Ms Johnson told presenter Ben Shepherd: ‘I think that if I had been Cummings, I’d have admitted I’d messed up.’  

She added: ‘I’d have got on the front foot and said, ‘I apologise for all of those who followed my messages, I took bad decisions at the time and I understand how angry it’s made a whole country feel, and please let’s move on because we have bigger fish to fry’.’ 

Mr Johnson had a net approval rating of 19 per cent on Friday before the news of his chief aide’s 260-mile journey to Durham.

But a poll by Savanta ComRes yesterday put Mr Johnson on -1 per cent after he and senior ministers leapt to Mr Cummings’ defence – the lowest of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister now has an approval rating of below that of opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, and the ratings of other senior ministers including Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock have similarly tumbled.

The row appears to have taken its toll on the Government as a whole, with a Friday approval rating of 20 per cent falling to -2 per cent.  

The Liaison Committee includes William Wragg, who has said it was ‘humiliating and degrading’ to see ministers put out agreed lines in defence of Mr Cummings, and Caroline Nokes, who has informed her party whips there could not be ‘wriggle room’ for some people when it comes to lockdown rules.

Also among those questioning the PM will be Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper, and Tory chairman of the Health Committee Jeremy Hunt – who has said he believes Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules.

Mr Cummings said he had driven to Durham to isolate in a property on his father’s farm because of concerns over care for his four-year-old son if both he and his wife were incapacitated by Covid-19.

Jeremy Hunt’s statement on Dominic Cummings:

In a letter to his constituents calling for Cummings to go, Hunt said: ‘Having watched the broadcast yesterday, my own view is that what he did was a clear breach of the lockdown rules – coming back into work when he had been with his wife who was ill, driving to Durham instead of staying at home and visiting Barnard Castle.

‘These were clearly mistakes – both in terms of the guidance which was crystal clear, and in terms of the signal it would potentially give out to others as someone who was at the centre of government.’ 

But a growing number of Conservative MPs have voiced their frustration over Mr Cummings after he expressed ‘no regrets’ about his trip. 

Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross quit the Government yesterday, saying he could not ‘in good faith’ defend Mr Cummings’ actions.

Tory grandee Sir Roger Gale said the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee should make it clear to the PM his adviser should go.

‘The time I think has come for Mr Cummings to resign or for the PM to dispense of his services,’ the North Thanet MP said.

‘There are people on the 1922 executive who are courageous, and that’s their job.

‘They are elected to tell the PM what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear.’

Tory voters agree that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, according to separate YouGov polling from yesterday

Tory voters agree that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, according to separate YouGov polling from yesterday

There is broad support for Mr Cummings quitting across Leave and Tory voters, according to a poll yesterday

There is broad support for Mr Cummings quitting across Leave and Tory voters, according to a poll yesterday

Tory MPs who have called for Dominic Cummings to be sacked

The number of Tory MPs who have now called for Mr Cummings to be sacked after his press conference stands at at least 30. 

They are believed to be: 

Douglas Ross – Scotland minister who has quit

Harriett Baldwin – former Treasury minister

Sir Roger Gale – Tory veteran, MP since 1983 

Martin Vickers – Eurosceptic MP for Cleethorpes

Peter Bone – leading Brexit campaigner in 2016

Craig Whittaker – former Tory whip 

Robert Goodwill – former environment minister

Paul Maynard – ex-transport minister

Mark Pawsey – MP for Rugby for 10 years

Sir Robert Syms –  MP for Poole since 1997 

Tim Loughton – former children’s minister

Jason McCartney – former RAF officer

Peter Aldous – MP for Waveney since 2010

John Stevenson – solicitor and MP for Carlisle

Caroline Nokes – ex-immigration minister

Damian Collins – chair of DCMS select committee

Philip Davies – outspoken backbench MP

Julian Sturdy – farmer and MP for York Outer

Alec Shelbrooke – backed Jeremy Hunt for leadership

Mark Harper – former chief whip

Stephen Hammond – arch Remainer MP for Wimbledon

Simon Hoare – Only an MP since 2015

Andrew Percy – ex-Northern Powerhouse minister

David Warburton – MP for Froome since 2015

Steve Baker – Former ERG chairman and Brexiteer

Andrew Jones – North Yorkshire MP since 2010

Jeremy Wright – Former Attorney General and DCMS Secretary

Bob Neill – Justice Select Committee chair

James Gray – MP for North Wiltshire for 23 years

George Freeman – Former transport minister

Mark Garnier – Wyre Forest MP since 2010 

Jackie Doyle-Price – Thurrock MP and former civil servant 

Stephen Metcalfe – Father-of-two with wife Angela 

Elliot Colburn – Carshalton and Wallington MP since December 

Bob Stewart – Former British Army officer

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk