Dominic Cummings’ Barnard Castle trip ‘deeply unfortunate’ admits justice secretary

Robert Buckland says actions of political figures and celebrities ‘has an impact’ on public behaviour

Cummings Barnard Castle trip 'unfortunate episode', says minister

Dominic Cummings’s lockdown trip to Barnard Castle was “deeply unfortunate”, and undermined the government’s public health messages, one of Boris Johnson’s senior ministers has admitted.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland was asked on the BBC if he thought the prime minister’s former chief adviser had broken the coronavirus rules.

“Look, it was a deeply unfortunate episode. There is no doubt about that and it didn’t help when it came to creating a consistent message,” Mr Buckland told Question Time host Fiona Bruce.

Although he pointed out that Mr Cummings was “no more” in politics, the minister said the actions of public figures and celebrities “has an impact” on public behaviour.

It marks the first clear condemnation by a cabinet minister of the former No 10 strategist’s actions since the scandal broke in the spring.

Ministers rallied around Mr Cummings in May when Mr Johnson came under intense pressure from opposition MPs and some Conservative backbenchers to sack his strategist.

Only the government’s paymaster general Penny Mordaunt admitted there were some “inconsistencies” in Mr Cummings’ account of his travels around Country Durham. Douglas Ross, who was then Scotland minister, quit in protest. Mr Ross said he could not tell constituents who had been unable to family “they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right”.

Mr Buckland also clashed with TalkRadio host Julia Hartley-Brewer on Question Time after he claimed the government “trusted” the public to follow the latest Covid rules and did not want to come across as “authoritarian”.  

Mr Buckland: “I think it’s important in terms of the messaging that we give out that we don’t sound in effect authoritarian. In other words we don’t become too shrill, too didactic, because we couldn’t achieve progress without cooperation and solidarity with the people of this country.”

He added: “These messages are well understood by the majority of the British people, I trust them to do the right thing.”  

Ms Hartley-Brewer replied: “I’m sorry – that’s a lie, you do not trust the British people to do the right thing. Otherwise you wouldn’t decide who they can or cannot go to the pub with, who they can or cannot have in their home.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in