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Coronavirus: PM hit by resignation as battle over fate of adviser Dominic Cummings grows

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A government minister has resigned over Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trips, piling on more pressure for the top Downing Street aide to be sacked.

Douglas Ross said the embattled adviser’s claim he had a valid excuse to travel during the coronavirus outbreak was “not shared by the vast majority of people who have done as the government asked”.

He was supported by senior figures in the Scottish Conservatives, as one predicted more politicians will quit government posts over the debacle.

In a letter to Boris Johnson published on Tuesday morning, the outgoing Scotland Office junior minister wrote: “I have never met Dominic Cummings so my judgement on this matter has always been open and I accept his statement on Monday afternoon clarified the actions he took in what he felt were the best interests of his family.

“However, these were decisions many others felt were not available to them.

“As a father myself, my instinct is to always do what is best for my son and wife. We have been fortunate not to have caught this awful virus but if we did, we are prepared to follow the government advice and stay at home to contain this virus.

“While the intentions may have been well-meaning, the reaction to this news shows that Mr Cummings’ interpretation of the government advice was not shared by the vast majority of people who have done as the government asked.

“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government.

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

His letter was followed minutes later by praise by the former Scottish Tories leader Ruth Davidson, who said she was “sorry” to see a “talented” minister go.

Adam Tomkins, a Tory MSP, called the resignation a “disaster” and warned: “It shows exactly why Cummings should be sacked. I suspect others will follow where Douglas has led.”

Conservative backbencher William Wragg added his voice to the calls, tweeting: “We cannot throw away valuable public and political good will any longer. It’s humiliating and degrading to their office to see ministers put out agreed lines in defence of an adviser.”

A Number 10 spokesman said Mr Johnson had thanked Mr Ross for his service and “regrets” his decision to quit.

Labour said Mr Ross had “done the decent thing” and understood “it’s not acceptable to have one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party said it shows “this issue transcends politics – it is about protecting trust and confidence in the public health advice”.

The resignation of an MP considered loyal and a rising star marks a severe blow for the prime minister, who hoped the fury from within his own party would die down.

Mr Johnson has stood by Mr Cummings for moving to his parents’ farm in Durham from London at the start of March while Britons were told to “stay at home” at the start of lockdown.

The former Vote Leave boss said he had “exceptional circumstances” to decamp 260 miles north after his wife came down with COVID-19 symptoms and he sought childcare help from his family in case the couple were incapacitated.

Mr Cummings also admitted for the first time on Monday he made a trip to a beauty spot in the town of Barnard Castle, a 30-minute drive away, to check he could see well enough to drive back to London because his eyesight had been affected by the virus.

He has been defended for the journey, where he was spotted by a witness walking by a river, by senior colleagues.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the decision to have a “test drive” was “wise”.

He told Sky News’ Kay Burley@Breakfast on Tuesday: “He was wise to make sure he was comfortable before driving back down to London on the A1 – an inevitably busy road…

“I can understand why he just wanted to make sure he was comfortable behind the wheel.”
In an unprecedented news conference on Monday held in the Downing Street rose garden, Mr Cummings said he would not apologise, had no regrets and had not considered resigning.

So far at least 20 Tory MPs, as well as bishops and NHS staff, have called for Mr Cummings to be sacked.



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