Renewed calls for Dominic Cummings to be sacked after rise in lockdown rule-breaking following Durham trip

Senior aide to prime minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Senior aide to prime minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

There have been renewed calls to have Dominic Cummings sacked after research showed lockdown rule-breaking has increased since his trip to Durham County.

Research carried out by the University College London found that fewer people were now willing to follow social distancing rules as a result of senior advisor's journey.

Dominic Cummings travelled to Durham from London with his wife and child in April as the peak of the virus hit Britain. He also drove 30 miles to Barnard Castle to 'test his eyesight' while in recovery.

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When news of trip broke on May 22, MPs and public health experts called for his resignation. However, Boris Johnson refused to fire his top aide and instead backed him in a statement where he said Cummings had done what any other 'reasonable' parent would have to seek childcare support.

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Researchers looked at how this impacted on public confidence towards Downing Street by reviewing 220,000 survey results from 40,000 people living across Britain between April 24 and June 1.

Respondents were asked how much confidence they had in the government's handling of the pandemic on a scale of one (none) to seven (a lot).

The findings, published in the Lancet, discovered that among those living in England, confidence dropped approximately 0.4 points on this scale between May 21 and 25 - the same week news of Cummings' trip broke.

Researchers said the backlash was only felt by people living in England while those living in other devolved nations recorded no massive swing in support for their governments.

They also said the gap between those in England and the devolved nations was continuing to widen.

Among other key issues raised was adherence to lockdown measures, which researchers said was already starting to decline but dropped even more rapidly in the following weeks in England.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, of UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care said: 'Public trust in the government's ability to manage the pandemic is crucial as it underpins public attitudes and behaviours at a precarious time for public health.'

She added: 'Trust in government decisions and actions relating to the management of Covid-19 is a major challenge globally and these data illustrate the negative and lasting consequences that political decisions can have for public trust and the risks to behaviours.'

Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey called the prime minister 'weak' and 'incompetent' for not firing Cummings.

'Millions of people across the UK have made heart-breaking sacrifices to comply with the lockdown and help keep others safe from coronavirus. They were rightly outraged when Boris Johnson's chief advisor thought it was one rule for him and another rule for the rest of us, and it's not surprising people have since lost trust in this government.

'It's insulting that Dominic Cummings still hasn't apologised, and that Boris Johnson hasn't sacked him. The prime minister has chosen saving his advisor over maintaining public trust and confidence in the government.

'This new evidence of the damage Cummings has done to our country's public health fight ought to be his final straw.

'Johnson should sack him now and focus on regaining the public's trust - and the fact we all know he won't is yet more evidence of the weakness and incompetence of our current prime minister.'

The social study was launched in the week before the UK went into lockdown.

It tracked how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health.

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