An open letter from the Chair to John Howell MP:
25 May 2020
My expectations of this Prime Minister have never been high. Before last night’s press conference I thought he would do one of two things: either he would announce Cummings’ departure, or he would say that a serious offence had been committed, that Cummings had expressed regret, and because of the special circumstances he was allowing him to stay on with a warning (with or without an official enquiry).
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that he would declare him free of blame, as he has done. This is an action which he must clearly have taken on his own initiative without any rational advice. It defies all logic, when the police, legal opinion and the senior medical officers have made it clear that Cummings’ actions were a breach of the law which Boris Johnson himself created. Neither honourable intentions nor “instinct“ are a valid defence before the law. Both the Prime Minister and his attorney general should know that. It is factually untrue that “any father would’ve done the same”. Many fathers in the same situation have not, and have obeyed the law at great cost to themselves.
Last night the Prime Minister had the opportunity to explain whether there were any extenuating circumstances, for example, as required by law, that it was a matter of saving life. He did not. Furthermore, he did not attempt to excuse or even deny Mr Cummings’ second and possibly more trips to Durham, or his being at Barnard Castle when he should have been in isolation
In this action the PM has given carte blanche to any citizen, on a bank holiday weekend, to use good intentions as an excuse for breaking the law. This is going to mean huge waste of police time, because the police in trying to enforce the law will daily be confronted with such arguments.
More importantly, the huge sacrifices made over the past two months, the massive permanent loss of jobs, the economic cost approaching £200 billion, and the risks taken by NHS staff to reduce the number of deaths, will have been wasted as we watch mortality rise again. This is beyond irresponsible.
Mr Johnson has forever forfeited the right to be respected. In trying to retain Cummings unconditionally, the Prime Minister has hitched his wagon to Cummings, and must now face the consequences. This is now in the hands of Tory MPs. It is a matter of conscience, and those who fail to put country before party will not be forgiven.
Dr Peter Burke