Is it time to 'move on' from the Dominic Cummings saga?

Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings leaves his home in north London on Friday amid contoversy over whether he broke lockdown rules Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

Headlines this week have been dominated by debate over whether Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings broke the rules when he drove to his parents’ house during the coronavirus lockdown.

Cummings has denied any wrongdoing and the Prime Minister has stood firmly by his top aide.

However, public and media speculation has continued on the validity of Cummings’ visit, which also included a 60-mile round trip to a local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday.

Is it now time to move on from the issue?

During the daily coronavirus briefing at Downing Street on Thursday, Boris Johnson repeatedly refused to allow his top medical and scientific advisers to answer questions on the controversy.

Journalists Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston both attempted to press Johnson and his advisers on the matter, but were cut off and denied the opportunity to ask follow-ups on the legality of Cummings’ actions.

Boris Johnson refused to let Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (left) or Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (right) answer questions about Dominic Cummings during Thursday's daily briefing. (Getty)
Boris Johnson refused to let journalists question his scientific advisers on the issues surrounding Dominic Cummings (PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)

Kuenssberg said on Twitter: “No follow up Q today, nor did the PM allow Vallence or Whitty to answer question about whether they were worried about example being set by Cummings' behaviour. PM repeated his defence of his adviser and didn't take 2nd question, so I couldn't ask if he still believes Cummings acted 'entirely legally' as he had said, when police say they would have sent him home if they had stopped him in Barnard Castle.”

Peston Tweeted: “No.10 says the PM regards the Cummings issue “as closed” because the police have decided not to take action against his senior aide. But Durham Police would have advised Cummings to turn back if they had stopped him on the way to Barnard Castle. In that sense it was a breach of the rules, if not a punishable one. It is moot - even within the Tory Party - whether the PM is right to back Cummings.”

Johnson’s refusal to investigate or sack Cummings has prompted a backlash from opposition parties as well as his own MPs.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper told Boris Johnson to choose between protecting his embattled adviser and considering the national interest.

Speaking during the prime minister’s appearance at the liaison committee on Wednesday, Cooper accused him of putting his “political concerns” ahead of public health messaging.

She said: “Here’s the problem, prime minister, the reason you are ducking this, the reason you are not giving people a straight answer, is because you are trying to protect Dominic Cummings.

The village of Barnard Castle, Co Durham, to which special advisor Dominic Cummings drove during the COVID-19 lockdown on his wife's birthday. Cummings has said he took the trip on his wife's birthday to ensure he was fit to drive back to London (Oli SCARFF / AFP)

“The reason you have sent your all of your ministers out to say fudgy things and unclear things is because you are trying not to incriminate Dominic Cummings, and you don’t want to apologise for him.”

Police have warned that the suggested breach of lockdown rules by Cummings have undermined their powers to enforce restrictions and a government adviser warned that 'more people will die' as a result of Cummings’ actions.

Johnson told the briefing on Thursday: “Durham Police said was that they were going to take no action and that the matter was closed and I intend to draw a line under the matter”.

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