A UK government minister has resigned in protest after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior aide refused to apologize for allegedly breaching lockdown rules.
The resignation piled further pressure on Johnson to fire Dominic Cummings, his top strategist, who has refused to quit over claims that he flouted the government’s lockdown advice.
The main charge against Cummings is that he ignored the government’s own orders to “stay at home” when he drove more than 400km to his parents’ property in northeast England to get childcare support for his four-year-old son.
UK Minister for Scotland Douglas Ross said many voters in his district could not understand Cummings’ actions.
“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government,” Ross said in his resignation letter, posted on Twitter. “I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”
A spokesman for Johnson said the prime minister wanted to thank Ross for his service and “regrets his decision to stand down.”
While Ross is not a big name in the government, his dismay is shared privately by many members of the ruling Conservative Party, including other ministers. Ross’ decision to go public and quit could unleash a fresh wave of criticism of Johnson’s handling of the row.
Cummings on Monday hosted an hour-long press conference to explain his actions, and Johnson mounted another public defense of his aide immediately afterward, but the anger at the adviser has clearly not abated.
“I don’t regret what I did,” Cummings said at the press conference. “I believe I made the right judgement, though I understand that others may disagree with that.”
In a sign of how the controversy is hurting the prime minister, a tracker of Johnson’s popularity through the crisis, based on more than 1,000 UK respondents compiled by data firm Savanta, showed his approval rating had dropped to minus-1 percent, compared with 19 percent just four days earlier.
Conservative MP Simon Jupp, a former aide to the foreign secretary, yesterday joined in the criticism and suggested Cummings should have quit.
“I have felt a mixture of anger, disappointment and frustration in recent days,” Jupp wrote. “Hundreds of people have contacted me regarding Dominic Cummings.”
Opposition politicians were yesterday due to hold talks on the steps they would take to hold Johnson accountable for the actions of his aide. Still, loyal ministers continued to try to defend him in public.
“There’ll be many people who will think that his actions were wrong or mistaken, but looking at it in the round, I think his actions were reasonable,” Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove said, defending his colleague on BBC TV. “People will make their own mind up as they listened to Dominic’s account.”
A spokesperson for the Labour Party said the public wanted “at least an apology” from the aide, but had not got one.
“It’s one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else,” the spokesperson said.
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