An open letter re Johnson and Cummings

Dear Richard

I am writing to you regarding the actions of Boris Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings, the subsequent actions of Boris Johnson himself and the potential consequences of the actions of both.

Although it will not be tested in Court it is clear to many, including those with considerable legal expertise, that Dominic Cummings breached the regulations and the accompanying guidance. Dominic Cummings during the Q&A after his statement in the Downing Street rose garden, stated that his wife did not have symptoms, while in his statement he said there was a distinct probability that he had already caught the disease. He cannot have it both ways. If his wife was not displaying symptoms, then there was no ‘emergency’ so no need to travel. If he believed he had caught the virus then he was breaching the regulations and the government advice. Cummings admitted that he drove to the hospital while ill and highly likely to be suffering from Covid-19. Again, this was not an emergency situation as his wife and child were at a hospital. Why didn’t someone from their support network, the reason for them travelling to Durham in the first place, carry out this task?

These regulations and the accompanying guidance have been followed to the letter by the overwhelming majority of the population. As you will be aware this has led to both considerable anguish and self-sacrifice for many people across the UK. The public have embraced a collectivism where the needs of the many have been prioritised over individual benefit. This is one of the reasons why there has been so much anger over the actions of Dominic Cummings, which has been further compounded by the lack of an apology and Johnson’s defence of his actions.

We all make decisions which with the benefit of hindsight we can see are incorrect and we of course are all human and emotions can get in the way of clear logical thought. However, I would point out that when dealing with a young child nothing is quite ‘spur of the moment’ as there is much to prepare. On balance I am not convinced by Cummings’s argument for making the decisions he did, and it seems the majority of the public are of the same view.

In any case whether we accept his explanation or not, we all have to accept that there are consequences to our actions, whatever our motivations for carrying them out. As Dominic Cummings has an extremely high profile, his actions have more potential consequences and this is why people in positions such as his are bound by higher standards than others. For example, if I were to have taken the same actions it would have had little consequence for the UK as a whole. In your position as an MP if you were to have done the same it would have received a higher profile and the consequences would have been greater as your actions would have set a bad example for your constituents and the general public.

The actions taken by Cummings and the lack of consequences from taking those actions, including a ringing endorsement from Boris Johnson that Cummings had behaved “responsibly, legally and with integrity” has significant potential consequences for public health, including an increased number of deaths.

This endorsement by the Prime Minister, the lack of any apology and the absence of any disciplinary action has meant that the belief that there is one rule for the UK public and a different rule for those in high office is widespread. You will be aware from your inbox that this is not just anger from the ‘Westminster bubble’ or resentful ‘Remainers’ as some commentators have indicated.

Success in defeating Coronavirus relies on a number of factors including clear messaging, trust in the government and for us all to behave in a way which while curtailing our freedoms, benefits our communities as a whole.

The actions that Dominic Cummings took and the robust defence by Johnson have risked all three. The frankly bizarre explanation of the Barnard Castle trip has led to general ridicule which further weakens the government message.

We are in a critical phase of dealing with Coronavirus, which unfortunately is likely to play out for a considerable length of time. It seems that the government has brought forward the relaxation of lockdown for political rather than scientific reasons and against ‘the science’. Some have argued that this is to distract from the ongoing anger around Cummings.

Two questions come to mind.

Have the actions of Dominic Cummings and the defence of them by Boris Johnson increased the likelihood that critical government messaging will be ignored, with potential public health consequences?

Has the lack of an apology from Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson’s endorsement of his special advisor fractured the trust between the government and the public, with potential public health consequences?

If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then I believe your action on this matter should have been the same as that of many of your colleagues, who have called for the resignation of Dominic Cummings. I ask you to reconsider your stance.

I hope you and your family are keeping well and I hope we will be able to catch up soon on the step-free issue we were dealing with pre pandemic.

Yours sincerely

Julian Vaughan

Sent to Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for NE Bedfordshire, on 30th May 2020

 

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