British Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed his senior adviser Dominic Cummings on Sunday, despite calls from within his own Conservative Party for the aide to resign for driving 250 miles during the coronavirus lockdown.
Cummings, architect of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, came under pressure when newspapers reported he had travelled from London to northern England in March when his wife was ill with COVID-19 symptoms during a nationwide lockdown.
With Johnson’s words that he had acted with integrity, Cummings was safe, at least for now. But the row in the governing Conservatives looks set to rumble on.
“I’ve had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings,” Johnson told a news conference, saying his aide had followed the “instincts of every father” when he travelled with his wife for help with childcare while isolating.
“I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, described Johnson’s decision to take no action against Cummings as “an insult to the sacrifices made by the British people”.
“This was a test of the prime minister and he has failed it,” Starmer said in a statement.
A divisive figure, Cummings is seen by allies and enemies alike as Johnson’s most important and influential strategist.
Over the weekend, Downing Street and senior ministers all backed him, an early signal of their reluctance to succumb to the demands from several Conservatives, who said they had received angry messages from voters over the trips.
Johnson’s office said Cummings made the 400 km (250 mile) journey after his wife showed symptoms, to ensure his four-year-old son could be properly cared for by relatives if he too fell ill.