Boris Johnson has dismissed the row over Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trip to Durham as a “political ding-dong”.
The prime minister told MPs that the public is not concerned about what his chief adviser “may or may not have done”.
Cummings, it emerged on Friday, drove from London to Durham on 27 March – four days after the draconian coronavirus lockdown was imposed – to isolate with his family. On 12 April, he also took a trip to Barnard Castle, claiming he needed to test his driving capabilities before returning to the capital.
The scandal is now in its sixth day, but Johnson has continued to stand by his top aide.
Appearing before the House of Commons liaison committee on Wednesday, the PM was asked by Simon Hoare – one of the first Tory MPs to call for Cummings to resign – if he was aware how “very annoyed” people are at the alleged lockdown breach.
Johnson, however, dismissed this: “I do understand people’s feelings, I do understand why people feel such indignation about the whole business, the pain of the whole business of the lockdown.
“But I really also think that what they want now is for us to focus on them and their needs, rather than on a political ding-dong about what one adviser may or may not have done.”
He added: “To repeat an important point… a lot of the allegations that were made about that adviser were simply not correct, and I don’t think that point has sufficiently been acknowledged.”
However, the PM did not say which allegations he thinks are untrue.
Johnson was earlier asked by committee chair Sir Bernard Jenkin whether the government’s “moral authority” had been undermined by the Cummings row.
He said: “This has really been going on for several days now – in the media at least.
“I, of course, am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period – this country has been going through a frankly most difficult time.
“We are asking people to do quite exceptionally tough things, separating them from their families.”
The liaison committee is the only House of Commons committee that can question a PM, providing a different type of scrutiny to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the main chamber.
PMs usually appear before the liaison committee two or three times a year. However, before Wednesday, Johnson had gone an entire 10 months as PM without attending.
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