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Dominic Cummings joked about swanning off to countryside before lockdown-busting Barnard Castle trip

Boris Johnson’s former top aide mockingly suggested holding a press conference from the great outdoors

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Tuesday 28 November 2023 18:22 GMT
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Covid inquiry: UK was ‘too slow’ to action first lockdown, says Michael Gove

Dominic Cummings joked about escaping to the countryside with his family as the pandemic throttled the UK in March 2020 - just two weeks before he notoriously broke lockdown rules with a trip to Barnard Castle.

The former chief aide to Boris Johnson sent a WhatsApp message to Michael Gove, who was then lead minister in the Cabinet Office, as the pair criticised the government’s approach to the pandemic.

The messages were seen by the Covid inquiry as part of Mr Gove’s evidence on Tuesday.

Mr Gove told Mr Cummings: “We are f***ing up as a government and missing golden opportunities … the whole situation is even worse than you think and action needs to be taken or we’ll regret it for a long time.”

Mr Cummings then left Mr Gove five missed calls before they proceeded to discuss what the former chief aide called “corona hell”.

WhatsApp exchange between Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove (Covid 19 Inquiry)

On 11 March, Mr Cummings messaged Mr Gove saying the Cabinet Office was a “f***ing joke” adding: “They told us they had a plan. Obv b******s.”

Mr Gove replied: “Indeed,” as Mr Cummings then said: “I’m tempted to take family to countryside and hold a press conference saying you’re on your own – the CabOff and parliament have f***ed us all.”

He added: “People should be shot,” to which Mr Gove replied: “Who did you envisage first in line?”

Dominic Cummings joked about an escape to the countryside with his family in March 2020 (PA Wire)

Just over two weeks later, Mr Cummings took his wife and son to a property owned by his parents in Durham.

He made the lockdown-busting journey by car from London at the end of March 2020, when the government had instructed people to stay at home, and returned in April after driving to Barnard Castle, County Durham, claiming he was concerned that catching Covid had affected his eyesight.

Mr Cummings was asked to leave government by then-prime minister Mr Johnson in November 2020, months after it emerged his trip broke the rules of lockdown.

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