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'I don't regret what I did' - Johnson's aide defends 400km trip


Grilled: Dominic Cummings answers questions in the rose garden at Downing Street. Photo: PA

Grilled: Dominic Cummings answers questions in the rose garden at Downing Street. Photo: PA

Grilled: Dominic Cummings answers questions in the rose garden at Downing Street. Photo: PA

The British Prime Minister's chief adviser Dominic Cummings insisted last night he had no regrets over his behaviour during lockdown and had done nothing wrong by driving 400km to stay on his parents' farm.

In an extraordinary hour-long press conference, Mr Cummings refused to apologise for taking his wife and son to Durham and repeatedly said he had not broken any rules.

He said he knew British people "hate the idea of unfairness", but added: "I believe I made the right judgment but I can understand that others may disagree with that."

After three days of damaging headlines, Mr Cummings was ordered by the prime minister to make the unprecedented live television appearance in the hope it would draw a line under the growing scandal.

But he also made a series of admissions likely to draw further scrutiny of his decisions.

Mr Cummings disclosed that:

:: He had made a 60-mile round trip to a local beauty spot during his stay in Durham "to see if I could drive safely" after his eyesight was affected by a suspected bout of coronavirus.

:: He did not tell Boris Johnson he was leaving London or ask his permission to do so.

:: He returned to Downing Street to work after going home to check on his wife, who had fallen ill with suspected coronavirus.

:: He took his wife with him to hospital after their son fell ill, even though she was self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms.

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:: He avoided going public about the Durham trip because he did not want to "cause confusion".

Mr Cummings said he had not offered his resignation to the prime minister nor had he considered doing so, despite calls from more than 20 MPs for him to quit.

He said he had first told Mr Johnson he was in Durham several days into his 14-day stay there, but that both of them were too ill "to remember the conversation in any detail".

Mr Cummings also confessed that he and the government had made mistakes in their handling of the coronavirus crisis since January, but chose not to detail them.

His appearance in the rose garden of No 10 won over some Tory MPs, including Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, who said he had given a "full, frank, honest and open statement" proving he acted within the rules and that it was "time to move on".

Other MPs, however, said they would wait to see how their constituents responded before passing judgment.

Tory MPs nationwide had been bombarded with messages from constituents demanding to know why Mr Cummings had not been sacked, and with a growing sense of rebellion within the party Mr Cummings was sent out by the prime minister to explain his actions.

He said he had decided to go to Durham after his wife fell ill and he feared that no one would be able to look after their four-year-old son while he was at work.

In the event, he himself fell ill the next day, meaning the family had to spend 14 days in self-isolation.

Asked if he felt he should apologise or regretted what he had done, he said: "I don't regret what I did... I think what I did was actually reasonable in these circumstances. The rules made clear that if you are dealing with small children that can be exceptional circumstances."

He added: "I don't think I'm so different, and I don't think there's one rule for me and one rule for other people... there is no regulation covering the situation I found myself in."

Mr Cummings confirmed he had made a 96km round trip from Durham to Barnard Castle with his wife and son on April 12, in an apparent breach of the lockdown rules, but said it was effectively a test run to see if he was up to driving back to London the next day.

Asked if he understood why people were angry with his behaviour and had called for his resignation, he said: "I understand these views, I know the intense hardship and sacrifice the entire country has had to go through. However, I respectfully disagree."

Mr Johnson said at his own Downing Street press conference later: "I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain that people have been suffering and that's why I did want people to understand exactly what had happened."

He added: "People will have to make their minds up. I think he came across as someone who cares very much about his family.

"Reasonable people may disagree with his actions but I don't think reasonable people will disagree with what was going through his head."

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