Pressure is building on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to fire his chief aide, Dominic Cummings, with polls showing voters think he broke lockdown rules and members of parliament calling for him to go.
Johnson was expected to face an hour and a half of sustained questioning from the senior members of parliament who make up the so-called Liaison Committee on Wednesday from 4 pm London time. The subject is his handling of the coronavirus crisis in general, but the opening section will be his relationship with Cummings.
In March, the aide drove his family 250 miles (400 kilometres) to his parents’ farm after his wife started to develop virus symptoms so that they could isolate there.
Government lockdown rules forbade people going to second homes to self-isolate, but Cummings argued that he and his wife feared that if they were both sick, no one in London would be able to care for their son. He said this was permitted under the rules.
“I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent.” But voters weary after months of lockdown in which they have been unable to visit family have responded with fury.
A JL Partners poll in Wednesday’s Daily Mail found 80% thought that Cummings had broken lockdown rules and 66% thought he should resign. A YouGov survey for the Times found the Conservative lead over the opposition Labour Party had fallen by 9% in a week.
“I can’t imagine it can drag on for too much longer,” said Jim O’Neill, a former Treasury minister who is reported to be in talks to lead the government’s efforts to “level up” disadvantaged parts of the country. “They have either got to somehow get attention focussed on issues which are far more important or deal with it differently,” O’Neill said.
“I have received more emails on this than on any other issue since being elected — many hundreds of messages from concerned constituents — and I join them in that view,” Elliot Colburn, a Tory MP, wrote in an open letter to Johnson.
Cummings isn’t helped by his history of making enemies even on his own side. While he and the Liaison Committee Chairman Bernard Jenkin both supported Brexit, they fell out badly in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. Jenkin tried to get Cummings fired as leader of the pro-Brexit campaign.