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  • Al Jennings

#Durham-Gate

Updated: May 26

This is a bit of a strange article for me to write, and it’s not an indication of what my blog is about and where it’s headed. However, I have somethings I need to get off my chest following the last couple of days and the explosive stories that have ripped through the news. I’m not a journalist, I don’t masquerade to be one. I’m a writer with opinions – and this is just that – this is my opinion on Durham-Gate and the government’s failure to act on such brazen rule breaking.

News of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings blatantly flouting and breaking the lockdown has swept across Britain during this bank holiday weekend causing outrage and disgust from many people.

The United Kingdom was placed into Lockdown on March 23rd, where the government stated; “People must remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk. Leaving your home – the place you live – to stay at another home is not allowed”. Simple. Clear and Direct instructions to the general public on how to observe and respect the measures which were brought in to “Protect the NHS” and “Save Lives”. Just a couple of days later; both Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are bust confirmed to have tested positive for Coronavirus.

It was reported on Friday 22nd May by a joint investigation by The Guardian and the Daily Mirror, that Dominic Cummings along with his wife and small child travelled from their primary address in Islington, London to his family’s farm in Durham and it was on this date that the Cummings Family were spoken to by Durham police on the 31st March. A week into the National Lockdown that caused many people and families to make significant changes and sacrifices to do what they had been told to do; “Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives”.

It was reported that Cummings had travelled to Durham, a 4-hour car journey, so that his family could support with childcare during the lockdown – however no childcare was sought? Cummings and his Wife were symptomatic at the time.

Right. Here is a question for you – how many three-year olds can go on a four-hour car journey, or adults for that matter without having to go to the toilet? Do they have the bladder of horses? I can barely go a couple of hours without needing to go the loo. So, I find it hard to believe that they won’t have stopped at one of the various services along the A1. Thus, exposing the virus against people who would have been performing critical front-line roles keeping this country going.

During a worldwide health pandemic, we were asked to put our lives on hold to protect other. People have died from this disease alone in hospitals with no family around them. People have been unable to attend funerals to mourn their loss. We have all made massive sacrifices, and these have been difficult times for everybody. People have lost their jobs – companies vanished. People with no history of mental health illness are developing serious problems for the first time during the lockdown over isolation, job insecurity and bereavements. Yet the man behind the government’s message and response to the pandemic believed that he was above it all and was able to do what the hell he wanted.

Outrage was widespread, with twitter erupting into a frenzy, and anger and upset being voiced across the whole political spectrum. There was a consensus, that regardless of party line Cummings had broken the lockdown rules and for that many believed that his position was now untenable.

Let’s not forget, that also during this pandemic a Scottish Public Health advisor resigned from her position for travelling from Glasgow to a holiday home in Fife. Neil Ferguson, a government scientist resigned for leaving his to pursue an extra-marital affair in early May. If there is one thing that I cannot stand is a double standard.

Number 10, however, took a different view to country. Releasing a statement to the media; “it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for” and that “Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally”.

As Mandy Rice Davis once said, “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”

Number 10 continued to defend Cummings throughout the day. Various cabinet ministers tweeted messages of support for Cummings. Even during the daily briefing deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries seeming began to rewrite their own advice saying that it was permissible to travel during lockdown if “there was an extreme risk to life”. Transport Secretary, Grant Snapp’s who had clearly drawn the short straw, even seemingly implied that Durham Police were liars stating that “at no time was he or his family spoken to by police about this matter”. A bold statement to make don’t you think. This was then double downed by Durham Police later on that evening.

A further joint investigation between The Guardian and the Daily Mirror, released on the evening of May 23rd claimed that during Cummings time in Durham he had visited a beauty spot 30 miles from the property he was isolated in and then returned AGAIN to Durham days after he was pictured back in London.

Suffice to say, the country has imploded. Calls for Cummings to be sacked or resigned sounded across the political spectrum. Was this seemingly the end for the Aide? Of-course it wasn’t. Boris fronted the daily briefing this evening and vehemently supported Cummings and blustering his was through a set of tough journalist questions, without having actually answering one of them.

His decision to do this angered the nation.

What Boris has done, is clearly stated to the entire country; there is one rule for us, and one rule for everybody else. The government has also decided that one unelected man’s job is also more important than the population of this country. What this has also done is insult every grieving person who has lost someone to the Coronavirus. Every distraught family member who has not been able to attend a funeral. Every frontline carer risking their life on a daily basis.

It makes Boris look weak. It makes it look like that Cummings has something over the government that makes them want to keep protecting him.

It’s clear the Government has made severe failings in its response to the virus. They were slow into lockdown. They were slow on testing. Slow on the organisation of personal protective equipment. It begs the question how can one of the most developed countries in the world could get it so wrong?

This really is a massive slap in the face to the British people who over the last ten weeks have locked down and stayed at home. People have put their lives on hold, and it leaves the question – what was the point for all that sacrifice? What little credibility that the government had has now gone entirely.

Who can trust them? What will happen to the lockdown? Is it now effectively over? Will there be a second peak? Why should we follow the rules – when Dominic Cummings could not.

One thing is for certain, the story is far from over. This is going to run and run. This is a not a solely political matter. It is one of morals, of values and it’s about doing what is right. What remains of Johnsons government after this remains to be seen – but with a strong opposition in the face of Sir Kier Starmer, it will be held to account one way or another.

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