The controversy and criticism over the journeys during lockdown to Durham and Barnard Castle by the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings rumbles on. Now marlborough.news has been handed a copy of the letter Danny Kruger MP has sent to those who emailed him about the issue.
We believe his ‘general reply’ is certainly of interest to those of our readers who are his constituents – and is also of much wider public interest.
I’ve had a remarkable number of emails about Dominic Cummings and I thought I’d write a general reply which can go out immediately, rather than trying to reply to each one individually which would take weeks for you to get a response. I hope that what follows addresses your concerns.
Monday’s statement from Mr Cummings was comprehensive. It’s a complicated story and he gave all the details. In short, they chose to self-isolate near his sister in County Durham so she could deliver food for them and, if the worst came to the worst and they couldn’t look after their son – if they both had to go to hospital, for instance – she could scoop him up. On this basis, I am content that the trip was within the guidance, which states that in exceptional circumstances – including the wellbeing of a child – moving location is acceptable, so long as proper isolation rules are followed, which apparently they were.
I respect all those who have made great sacrifices to stay away from their wider families during the lockdown. The Cummingses did this too, albeit at a location far from home. I accept this looks bad. You can legitimately question why they had to travel a long way to self-isolate. It’s not obvious that driving to Barnard Castle was necessary. And it may be that some of their decisions were wrong. But as I said in a tweet at the weekend, the decision was taken ‘at a time of great stress and worry, the fear of death and concern for a child.’
My strongest opinion in all this is not whether they should have gone north or not, but that we should show some understanding and sympathy to a couple who acted in an emergency. The situation is quite different from that of Professor Ferguson, who had his girlfriend to stay, or the Scottish Chief Medical Officer who visited her second home for a weekend break. This was not a casual jolly. It was not a trip to see his parents (he didn’t stay with or visit them at all), but the act of a mum and dad feeling desperately anxious. In the complex circumstances they found themselves in (including the fact their London home was the target of protesters, and without their usual childcare options) they took a decision which was reasonable, and which I believe many others would have taken in the same situation.
In answering constituents’ enquiries about what they may or may not do during the lockdown – for the guidance is not definitive in all circumstances, and every family has different pressures – I have consistently suggested a generous interpretation of the rules, and advised people to trust their own judgment. So long as we stay indoors (and in our gardens), have no social contact with people outside our households and make only essential journeys we are, in my view, complying with the Stay Home guidance.
I appreciate that in asking for sympathy for Dominic Cummings, for some people – perhaps you – I am asking a lot. He is widely criticised by people who don’t like his politics or his tactics, and his trip to County Durham either confirms their view that he is a destructive renegade, or is simply a new stick to beat him with. This is where I declare a personal interest. I am an old friend of Dominic and an even older friend of his wife Mary, and I have great affection and respect for them both.
Dominic can appear graceless when he is doorstepped by the media, but he does not hold the media in very high regard. His sole focus is on delivering the agenda that he believes people want, and that they voted for in the 2019 election: getting Brexit done; rebalancing the economy in favour of the people and places left behind in recent decades; and fixing the Whitehall machine. Not everyone agrees with this agenda, but he believes (and I agree) that it is what the majority of the country want. I mention this because a lot of the criticism directed at him states or implies that he is indifferent to the people of this country, to their interests and concerns. I know that the opposite is the case.
I understand why many people will be angry about this episode, but I hope in turn you understand why I take a different position. I am very sorry as your MP not to be able to represent your views on this occasion.
Danny Kruger MP
Member of Parliament for Devizes
28 May 2020
For further information, below is a link to the page on Danny Kruger’s website entitled ‘Dominic Cummings – a final response to the comments I have received’: https://www.dannykruger.org.uk/news/dominic-cummings-final-response-comments-i-have-received