You’d be hard pushed to have avoided hearing about the row surrounding Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s special advisor, who drove with his wife and child from London to Durham (270 miles) where his parents live during Coronavirus lockdown.
There appear to be several versions of what actually happened, but the advice from the Government throughout lockdown has been that households should not mix and older residents – 70+ – should self isolate and avoid contact with others, especially those who have been in contact with someone with Coronavirus (Covid-19). Mr and Mrs Cummings say they both had the virus.
Call for resignation
Isle of Wight politicians have expressed their concern at the actions of Mr Cummings, with Island Labour joining a number of Conservative MPs who have publicly criticised Cummings, and are demanding his resignation.
Island Labour say,
“We believe this is an opportunity for Bob Seely to demonstrate his own integrity by also calling for Cummings to be sacked.”
Labour: “Johnson’s backing of Cummings is utterly toxic”
Speaking for Island Labour, their chair, Julian Critchley, said,
“Thousands of Islanders have denied ourselves and our families the contact we so desperately want, in order to keep others safe, by following the government’s rules. Even at the cost of missing final goodbyes to dying relatives.
“We’ve followed the updates of the Isle of Wight police when they were enforcing the lockdown, with fines available for those who broke it. We have agreed with council leader Dave Stewart’s repeated messages in the local media to stay home and observe social distancing rules. Business owners and individuals have complied with the lockdown restrictions at great cost to themselves. Again, in order to protect others.
“While this has been a grim time for us all, we have been able to draw some comfort from the fact that nearly all of us have willingly suffered these privations in order to protect not just our own families, but people we don’t even know. It has been an act of collective altruism, to impose restrictions on ourselves in order to protect others.
“This is why what Cummings did is so appalling, and why Johnson and his cabinet’s backing of Cummings is so utterly toxic. To suggest that we who obeyed the rules did so because we didn’t care for our families as much as Cummings did, is disgusting and insulting.
“If we accept a situation where there is one law for the little people, but another for the powerful elite, then it is an end to our rules-based society. The implications are enormous.
“Bob Seely has rightly been consistent in calling for Islanders to observe social distancing and follow the lockdown rules. We have supported him in that. Now we ask him to support all Islanders who have made the sacrifices which Cummings felt didn’t apply to him, and demand Cummings’ immediate sacking.”
Green: One rule for us, and another rule for Conservative party politicians?
Meanwhile, Vix Lowthion, spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Green Party questioned why leader of the Isle of Wight council, Dave Stewart, had posted his approval for both Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak’s support for Dominic Cummings.
“How can the leader of the IW Council tell people to stay away from the Isle of Wight at the moment, whilst condoning these actions?
“Many Islanders would have loved to have welcomed vulnerable relatives to isolate here on the Island, but we followed the rules and told them to stay away. At great personal and economic loss.
“Is it one rule for us, and another rule for Conservative party politicians?”
Cllr Stewart told OnTheWight he had no comment to make in response.
LibDem: Seely needs to “recognise anger at weaselly nature of Cummings”
On Monday afternoon, Nick Stuart, Chair of the Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats, said,
“Dominic Cummings should have resigned or been sacked by now for his failure to follow his own lockdown rules. Bob’s refusal to say anything is a comment on his failure to move from Party loyalty to Public duty.
“Bob may have been appointed as Parliamentary candidate and then lucky enough to be elected, but he should listen to Islanders. Recognise the anger at the weaselly nature of Dominic Cummings. The architect of the Government response to Covid flouting the very behaviour he starkly presented to us. ‘Stay at Home’ – A simple message to save lives and public health. So the arrogance of someone choosing to drive over 500 miles to Durham and back and now getting his minions to tell the public it was all OK is breathtaking.
“Bob has found it easy to write about the Chinese Government approach to Hong Kong, but has refused to support the Island public in calling for the removal of a simple hypocrite. If Cummings had his second home on the Island would Bob still feel unable to make a comment? Perhaps Bob thinks that with Dominic Cummings role as the PM’s key advisor us little people shouldn’t question him”
Seely: “Cummings explanation seemed entirely reasonable”
In response, Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely, told News OnTheWight,
“It’s clear that some constituents feel strongly on this issue. I have passed these views onto the Government in Westminster. I will be responding to these emails. The Government has responded to concerns here and elsewhere by asking Mr Cummings to make a statement, which he did yesterday.
“We need to collectively respect the rules and reasons for them. Individuals and families up and down the country are exercising their own judgment on a daily basis. As part of this, people may occasionally err, and sometimes act in a way which others consider inappropriate. If there was persistent ignoring of rules, that is one thing, but in a one-off incident or a simple error of judgement, I would prefer to use a little understanding and a sense of forgiveness. I would do so regardless whether someone was a political opponent or ally. In fact, I note that three Labour MPs have broken lockdown rules as well as a Labour Minister in the Welsh Government. I think a little forgiveness goes a long way.
“Dominic Cummings explanation seemed entirely reasonable, so I hope we can now move on. There are significant and important things that we need to focus on. Dominic Cummings’ attempts to look after his family is not one of them.
Seely: “My focus will remain on the Island”
He finished by saying
“My focus will remain on the Island: liaising with a wide range of organisations (including the leadership of the Isle of Wight Council) about our ongoing response to Coronavirus, and how best to support residents and businesses; securing Government support for the Island (such as funding for a rail feasibility study); and continuing to handle casework received from constituents.”