PM says 'people will have to make their minds up' over Dominic Cummings' Durham trip explanation

Boris Johnson has batted away questions over the behaviour of his most senior aide as he said “people will have to make their minds up” over Dominic Cummings’ explanation for breaking lockdown rules.

By Geraldine Scott
Monday, 25th May 2020, 8:17 pm
Updated Monday, 25th May 2020, 8:20 pm

Mr Cummings appeared before the press today to answer questions over a trip to stay on his parents’ property in Durham, an episode he confirmed was true, as well as a visit to Barnard Castle which he said was to test his eyesight.

However he disputed other parts of the reporting, including that he made a second trip or that he had opposed the lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

When questioned by journalists Mr Johnson said he had been told of Mr Cummings’ decision to drive to Durham to isolate while he was himself ill and “had a lot on my plate”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA

“I didn’t know about any of the arrangements in advance,” Boris Johnson told the Downing Street press conference.

“What I think did happen was while I was ill and about to get a lot sicker we had a brief conversation in which I think Dominic Cummings mentioned where he was.

“But I have to tell you, at that particular stage I had a lot on my plate and really didn’t focus on the matter until these stories started to emerge in the last few days.”

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Dominic Cummings defends trip to Durham in Downing Street press conference

He said he regretted the “confusion and anger” caused by the row, as well as “the pain that people feel”.

He added: “This is a country that has been going through the most tremendous difficulties and suffering in the course of the last 10 weeks and that’s why I really did want people to understand exactly what had happened.”

But he said: “I really feel that it would be wrong of me to try to comment further. I think people will have to make their minds up. I think he spoke at great length. To me, he came across as somebody who cared very much about his family and who was doing the best for his family.

“I think, as he said himself, reasonable people may disagree about some of the decisions that he took, but I don’t think reasonable people can disagree about what was going through his head at the time and the motivations for those decisions.”

And he stressed that he did not believe that his any of his staff in Downing Street had done anything to undermine the lockdown messaging.

He added: “I cannot give unconditional backing to anybody, but I do not believe anybody in Number 10 has done anything to undermine our messaging.”

Mr Cummings claimed a one-hour roundtrip to the town of Barnard Castle with his wife and four-year-old son in the car was a test of his eyesight after recovering from suspected coronavirus, in preparation for returning to London.

He said: “My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease. She did not want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child given how ill I had been.

“We agreed that we should go for a short drive to see if I could drive safely, we drove for roughly half an hour and ended up on the outskirts of Barnard Castle town.”

Mr Johnson said his own eyesight had been affected by coronavirus.

The PM said: “I’m finding that I have to wear spectacles for the first time in years – I think because of the effects of this thing – so I’m inclined to think there’s some … I think that’s very, very plausible that eyesight can be a problem associated with coronavirus.”