Leading article

Dominic Cummings in untenable position

If a senior Stormont figure, regardless of party affiliations, was found to have travelled some 260 miles to the other end of Ireland at a stage when their partner had Covid-19 symptoms, in clear contravention of the lockdown rules, a resignation or dismissal would surely have been inevitable.

Dominic Cummings, who is in a key position as chief adviser to the British prime minister Boris Johnson, undertook a journey of equal length, from London to Durham, in exactly such circumstances last month, but has so far remained in post.

Mr Cummings has insisted that he behaved `reasonably and legally' by making the trip with his family because he wanted to ensure that he would be near relatives and have childcare if he contracted coronavirus, despite other recent high profile departures after less serious breaches of the protocol.

Mr Johnson yesterday endorsed the conduct of Mr Cummings, and claimed his close associate had acted with integrity, but the prime minister will be well aware of the levels of concern which are growing even within his own party.

Durham's acting police commissioner, Steve White, probably best summed up the public mood by saying that, given the ethos of the official guidelines, the actions of Mr Cummings had been `most unwise'.

Mr Cummings, before his Downing Street appointment, was the head of the deeply contentious Vote Leave campaign before its narrow success in the UK 2016 EU referendum campaign.

He is now at the heart of the attempts to implement Brexit, and it will be remembered that, when asked about the enormous implications on both sides of the Irish border, he reportedly said that he did not care if Northern Ireland fell into the sea.

While it may well be that Mr Cummings is entirely disinterested in the consequences of Brexit for any part of Ireland, he now needs to be held firmly to account over his attitude towards the covid regulations which were supposed to apply to all UK citizens.

The fresh information emerging over the weekend called his account of his overall movements in Durham into direct question, and Mr Johnson must be aware of the grave damage which will be caused to his administration if he allows Mr Cummings to remain in his crucial role.

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Leading article