Dominic Cummings says he does not regret breaking lockdown by travelling to Durham

Boris Johnson's top aide says he has not offered to resign

Dominic Cummings says he left Durham self-isolation to drive to Barnard Castle to 'test his eyesight'

Dominic Cummings has said he has no regrets about breaking the lockdown and driving to Durham after his wife had fallen ill with suspected coronavirus.

Making a statement in 10 Downing Street's rose garden, Mr Cummings said: "I don't regret what I did. I think reasonable people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in the circumstances, but I think what I did was actually reasonable in these circumstances."

In a dramatic press conference lasting over an hour, Mr Cummings made no apology. In answer to a hail of questions about his repeated apparent breaches of lockdown rules, he made clear that he had neither offered his resignation nor considered resigning and said he hoped that the public would consider, after hearing his explanation, that he behaved "reasonably".

He blamed media reports for stoking up anger against him, and denied claims that he had tried to play down the seriousness of the Covid-19 outbreak within government or argued for a "herd immunity" approach.

But his unprecedented statement did not draw a line under attacks from political opponents, with Labour saying that voters had expected an apology but instead been told that "It’s one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else.” The Scottish National Party called on Mr Johnson to sack him immediately.

And one Tory MP told The Independent that Mr Cummings’s statement had failed to sway their constituents, judging by the number of angry emails they were receiving.

But, for the second time in three days, a number of cabinet ministers took to Twitter to voice their support, with health secretary Matt Hancock saying he was "right today to set out in full detail how he made his decisions in very difficult circumstances" and urging the political world to "move on, fight this dreadful disease and get our country back on her feet".

Mr Cummings said that he made the decision to take his wife Mary and their four-year-old son to a house near to his parents' home in County Durham after she rang him at Downing Street on27 March to say she was feeling extremely ill and feared she had coronavirus. He had just learnt that Mr Johnson and a number of other people he had been working closely with also had contracted Covid-19 and feared he too was infected.

The senior aide, who was seen running out of Downing Street, said he had decided to drive his family 260 miles to a location where they could be completely isolated from other people, and where his sister and nieces, who lived nearby, would be able to help with delivering food and childcare if necessary.

He denied that this amounted to a breach of lockdown regulations which he played a part in drawing up: "The rules made clear that if you are dealing with small children that can be exceptional circumstances.

"And I think that the situation that I was in was exceptional circumstances and the way that I dealt with it was the least risk to everybody concerned if my wife and I had both been unable to look after our four-year-old."

He admitted travelling to the Teesdale beauty sport Barnard Castle and walked in a wood with his wife and son during his convalescence in County Durham, but insisted that this was to test that he was fit to drive before setting off back to London.

He told reporters he had not considered standing down and said it was "up to the prime minister" whether he remained in government.

Mr Cummings has said he travelled to Durham because he feared for the safety of his wife and young son and believed that by removing them to an isolated property he was causing "the smallest risk for the smallest number of people".

His job in government had made him the subject of threats which had left his London home unsafe, he feared.

But a Labour spokesperson said: “The British people were looking for at least an apology from Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown. They got none.

“Millions of people have made extraordinary sacrifices during the lockdown. Families have been forced apart, sometimes in the most tragic of circumstances. They stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

“And yet, the message from this government is clear: it’s one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else.”

And the Scottish National Party's leader in Westminster Ian Blackford said: "What should have been a resignation statement turned out to be a botched PR exercise that changes nothing. It is now beyond doubt Dominic Cummings broke multiple lockdown rules.

“There was no apology and no contrition from Mr Cummings for his behaviour – and now, following this unrepentant press conference, there are no excuses left for him.​

“The Prime Minister has no option but to sack Mr Cummings. His failure to do so so far is a gross failure of leadership."

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said Mr Johnson should now "terminate Dominic Cummings' contract".

"Countless people have lost loved ones and made enormous, heartbreaking sacrifices every single day since lockdown began.

"Dominic Cummings has shown that these sacrifices by millions of people don’t matter to him. His refusal to have the decency to apologise is an insult to us all. It reveals the worst of his elitist arrogance.

"The bond of trust between the Government and the people has well and truly been broken. The buck stops with the Prime Minister. By failing to act, he risks his Government’s ability to tackle this awful pandemic and keep people safe."

Mr Johnson is facing growing calls to sack his most trusted adviser for travelling while the rest of the country was being told to stay at home.

The prime minister is also coming under mounting pressure from his own MPs to order an official investigation into his chief aide.

And police have been asked to establish the facts about Mr Cummings’s movements in Durham, while the UK was in lockdown.

Less than an hour before his statement the local MP said she hoped reports he had taken a day trip in her constituency were untrue.

Dehenna Davison, the MP for Bishop Auckland, said if rules had been broken “appropriate action should be taken.”

But during his statement Mr Cummings admitted he did drive to Barnard Castle.

He said he had done so to check his eyesight, after it was affected by the Covid-19 he suffered from while in Durham.

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