Nearly a million (989,420 at time we published on Friday lunchtime) people have signed a petition calling for the prime minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings to be sacked amid the backlash over journeys he made during lockdown.
Seventy-one per cent of people in a YouGov survey thought the PM’s chief advisor had ignored government regulations when he drove more than 200 miles to his parents’ estate in Durham at the height of the lockdown.
Meanwhile, 59 per cent of those polled thought Mr Cummings should quit his post.
Mr Johnson came under questioning before the Commons Liaison Committee of senior MPs, on Wednesday, Johnson said he was “deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period”, but insisted it was now time to “move on”.
“Quite frankly I’m not certain – right now – that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time,” the PM said. “We are working flat out on coronavirus.”
Yesterday Boris Johnson was accused of “silencing” two of the Government’s top coronavirus advisers after blocking questions about the Dominic Cummings controversy at the daily Downing Street press conference.
The Prime Minister was peppered with questions about his decision not to sack his chief aide, who Durham Constabulary said may have committed “a minor breach” of rules when he drove to Barnard Castle under lockdown, during the Thursday evening address.
But Mr Johnson said he wanted to “draw a line” under the Cummings affair, and said he would not allow Government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty to answer questions on the row to “protect them” from a “political argument”.
Labour MP Bill Esterton said: “The public can see that the Prime Minister won’t let his officials answer questions about Cummings.
“This is further undermining trust in the government and more to the point in the advice that’s needed to keep us safe.”
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, added: “Concerns have already been raised by the Society and others on the wisdom of Number 10 deciding which media questions will be answered and which not during this current debate.
“It is unfortunate that there appears to still be a tendency to act in a manner that might be seen by some as attempting to control the message.
“While scientific and medical advisers may not wish to answer what they might consider political questions, that should surely be a matter for them.”