Conservative MP and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he does think Dominic Cummings breached lockdown rules, but doesn’t think he should resign.
In a letter to a constituent, seen by the Guardian, Hunt said:
Having watched the broadcast yesterday, my own view is that what he did was a clear breach of the lockdown rules – coming back into work when he had been with his wife who was ill, driving to Durham instead of staying at home and visiting Barnard Castle.
These were clearly mistakes – both in terms of the guidance which was crystal clear, and in terms of the signal it would potentially give out to others as someone who was at the centre of government.
However, he said he will not add his voices to the list of those calling for Cummings to resign, adding that “as someone who has been at the centre of media storms with a young family, I know you do make mistakes in these situations”.
I am also not convinced that politics gains much from the spectacle of scalp-hunting even though I recognise that accountability is central to our democracy and sometimes people do need to resign.
He concluded by saying it was more important to hold the government to account on “whether we really are going to follow global best practice and introduce Korean/German track and trace so we kill off a second wave of the virus and get the economy back on its feet.”
“I will be questioning the Prime Minister about this at the Liaison Committee on Wednesday,” he said. “I actually think this matters far more than Dominic Cummings although I am sure he will get plenty of questions on that too.”
Three people were arrested after an illegal rave was held at a nature reserve near the centre of Leeds, police have said.
Local groups have claimed that up to 200 people were involved in the party at the Kirkstall Valley nature reserve, on the banks of the River Aire on Monday evening.
West Yorkshire Police said young people were seen wading across the river to get to the party and officers were called at 6.37pm.
A spokesman said:
There were also concerns for the safety of individuals attending, as a shallow part of the river was being used as a crossing.
Officers attended alongside other emergency services and three arrests were made. Sound equipment was also seized.
Superintendent Chris Bowen said: “We would urge people to consider their own safety and the safety of others, particularly during the warmer weather and the ongoing period of lockdown.”
Members of a Kirkstall community group on Facebook expressed their anger about the damage to the reserve.
A post read:
Well the fine youth of Leeds ONCE AGAIN show NO RESPECT for wildlife in bird breeding season never mind lockdown.
Once again on the Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, youths, people have a full blown amped up music rave on the nature reserve last night from approx 9pm.
Not content with the damage they caused at the last one in 2018 burning down meadows full of moths and butterflies and causing disturbance to waterfowl wildlife. This time it was on the protected nature reserve island.
The group said bird life will have been scared away from their nests by the ravers, and chicks and nests will have been abandoned or trodden on.
They wrote: “We are left heart broken for the likely damage to birds nests and their young and to other species breeding at this time of year.
“We are DISGUSTED with the LITTLE RESPECT people show for wildlife thinking only of themselves and where they can get the next high from.”
The destruction left behind at a Leeds nature reserve after an illegal woodland rave.
Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw calls for Cummings to resign
The Scottish conservative leader, Jackson Carlaw, has finally called for Dominic Cummings to resign, after coming under intense pressure while a number of his own MSPs expressed their strong support for their colleague Douglas Ross, who resigned as a UK government minister earlier today in protest at the Cummings row.
After an earlier equivocal statement, in which he said that “this is a difficult situation for many, and people will arrive at different judgments,” Carlaw told STV this afternoon:
It is absolutely a matter for the prime minister himself who serves him and for how long they serve but given the furore, given the distraction we are now in, given the distraction to the prime minister onto this issue if I were Mr Cummings I would be considering my position.
A number of the Scottish Conservative MSP group called directly for Cummings to quit as they expressed their solidarity with Ross.
Adam Tomkins described Ross’s resignation as “a disaster”, stating: “His was one of clearest voices for the union in government. It shows exactly why Cummings should be sacked.”
A number of senior Holyrood colleagues followed suit, privately expressing frustration at Carlaw’s weak initial statement.
With Holyrood elections only 12 months away, Scottish Tories are all too aware of how this plays to Scottish voters in terms of the apparent entitlement of distant London elites.
at 4.02pm BST
Opposition leaders write joint letter to the PM calling for Cummings to go
The leaders of opposition parties (excluding Labour) have sent a joint letter to the prime minister, urging him to sack Dominic Cummings over his lockdown breaches.
The letter, which was also forwarded to Sir Patrick Vallance, chair of Sage, reads:
It is now a matter of record that Mr Dominic Cummings broke multiple lockdown rules.
He is yet to express any apology or contrition for these actions. There cannot be one rule for those involved in formulating public health advice and another for the rest of us.
This is an issue that transcends politics. It has united people of every party and political persuasion, who believe strongly that it is now your responsibility as Prime Minister to return clarity and trust in public health messaging.
We are clear that this can now only be achieved by removing Dominic Cummings from his post without further delay.
The letter was signed by:
Ian Blackford, SNP
Sir Ed Davey, Liberal Democrats
Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru
Colum Eastwood, Social Democratic and Labour party
Caroline Lucas, Green party
Stephen Farry, Alliance party
New: letter from opposition parties (bar Labour) to PM (copying in Vallance) calling for Cummings to go. Says issue transcends politics, PM must return trust and clarity to public health messaging pic.twitter.com/Co2RxqqUTX
May 26, 2020
at 3.30pm BST
Scots should wear face masks on public transport, government urges
Scots should wear face coverings whenever travelling on public transport, other than ferries, the Scottish government’s transport secretary has announced, as he published further travel guidance in advance of the easing of lockdown restrictions across the country on Thursday.
Michael Matheson told the Holyrood chamber:
Even with the measures being put in place by transport operators, it may be difficult for people to maintain physical distancing throughout their journey in some forms of public transport.
I know these are real concerns of the travelling public, operators and transport staff. For that reason, people should, and are expected to, wear face coverings as an additional measure when using public transport and as a consideration to staff and fellow passengers.
Matheson urged the public and employers to “adapt to a new environment which has flexible and remote working at its core” as he revealed that transport operators estimate capacity will be between 10% and 25% of normal availability even with full services resumed.
He said that there remains a need to reduce demand for transport, and encouraged employers to show as much flexibility as possible, allowing later or earlier starting times as well as encouraging home working in order to flatten peak travel demand.
He said there would be a strong focus on active travel – like walking and cycling – through a range of schemes, including the national cycle training scheme for schoolchildren.
at 3.31pm BST
Charity shops are expecting a large volume of donations when they reopen and plan to isolate items for 72 hours before they go on sale as part of measures to ensure the safety of customers.
The government said charity shops are among retailers that can resume trading from 15 June, but at least one charity is saying it will only commit to reopening once it is “safe to do so”.
Charities are asking people who have spent time decluttering their homes during lockdown not to leave donations outside shops and to be “thoughtful” about when they donate.
The government is also being urged to give more “definitive” guidelines regarding how long items should be left before being put out on sale.
Oxfam said it was working on a “detailed plan” to enable its shops to reopen but does not currently have a confirmed date, and pointed out that many of its 20,000 shop volunteers are elderly people.
The charity said in a statement:
We are following government advice and are taking comprehensive steps to create a safe environment, including ensuring social distancing within the shops, providing personal protective equipment, regular cleaning of all surfaces, doors and equipment, and the isolation of donated items for 72 hours prior to listing for sale.
A woman walks past donations left at a charity shop in Urmston during the coronavirus lockdown. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Traid (Textile Reuse and International Development) is planning a phased reopening of its charity shops around 18 June, beginning with the most spacious stores in Dalston, Kilburn, Peckham and Shepherd’s Bush.
Chief executive Maria Chenoweth said:
Currently, the Charity Retail Association recommends quarantining clothes and textile donations for 72 hours, which we are able to do.
However, Traid is keen for something more definitive from the government regarding how long clothes and textile donations should be left before putting on sale.
The British Heart Foundation said “a small number” of its shops will reopen from mid-June, with the rest to reopen over the following weeks once safety measures are established.
at 3.25pm BST
Hi everyone, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be steering the blog for the next hour.
Feel free to get in touch with your comments and story suggestions.
UK death toll passes 37,000
Across all settings, the number of confirmed reported deaths in the UK has risen to 37,048, the Department of Health and Social Care said. That is an increase of 134.
Department of Health and Social Care
As of 9am 26 May, there have been 3,681,295 tests, with 109,979 tests on 25 May.
265,227 people have tested positive.
As of 5pm on 25 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 37,048 have sadly died. pic.twitter.com/qNNPHGUDvQ
May 26, 2020
at 3.13pm BST
Another Tory MP says Cummings should resign
Another Tory MP, Mark Harper, has said Dominic Cummings should have offered to resign.
The Forest of Dean MP said in a statement shared on Twitter that Cummings’ decision to travel to Durham “is certainly not the conclusion I would have reached, given the sacrifices many are having to make in the interests of the nation’s health”.
More damningly, he wrote:
As for the trip to Barnard Castle on 12 April, there is no credible justification for this.
In these circumstances, as an absolute minimum, an apology should have been made and level of regret expressed. I am disappointed that Mr Cummings did neither.
I have always said that politics is a team effort, not an individual one. Difficult times are ahead, which will require the Government to be able to deliver clear and credible public health messages. In the interests of us all, I hope this will still be possible. pic.twitter.com/R7hymZE843
May 26, 2020
at 3.03pm BST
Artists in rural and urban locations across the world have been invited to create temporary light installations in their homes at dusk over the weekend of Friday 29 – Sunday 31 May as part of the online art project Lockdown and Light.
The project has been developed by Suffolk-based artists David Campbell Baldry and Jane Watt as part of the ongoing biennial series Landscape and Light. They hope the installations will be visible to neighbours and passersby.
To take part, participants are asked to upload still or moving images of their installations to Instagram and tag with #lockdownandlight and @lockdownandlight.
at 2.56pm BST
People in England could be allowed to socialise in larger groups in gardens or parks, Michael Gove has confirmed, but visiting family and friends indoors still appears some way off, my colleague Rowena Mason reports.
Speaking to broadcast media this morning, Gove signalled the possibility of more outdoor meetings – discussed at cabinet – could pave the way for barbecues, garden parties and other forms of socialising, although it is likely the physical distancing rules would still apply.
However, the prime minister gave no update about this on Sunday or Monday when he spoke at the daily press conference, while Gove talked only about bigger outdoor meetings being allowed “in the coming weeks”.
Gove also suggested it would be some time before pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars would return to normal.
There have been zero new deaths from coronavirus reported today in Northern Ireland by the Department of Health. The overall total according to the department remains at 514.
Public Health Wales said a further eight people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths in Wales to 1,282.
Another 141 people have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 13,556.
Public Health Wales
The latest number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Wales has been updated.
Find out how we are responding to the spread of the virus in our daily statement here: https://t.co/1Lza9meaTL pic.twitter.com/im2jEI7Grw
May 26, 2020
The Tory former minister Stephen Hammond told his constituents in Wimbledon that Dominic Cummings’ actions may have undermined efforts to protect people from coronavirus, and he should have quit.
Whilst one might have some sympathy with his motives and his concern for his family, I am angry that so many have sacrificed so much for public safety and yet this man has decided his interpretation of ‘doing the right thing’ overrode the clear instruction of stay at home.
It is clear to me that Mr Cummings has broken some of the guidelines which we all were instructed to follow.
Public adherence to the rules is achieved by consent in this country and that is made much harder if people feel it is one rule for them and another for senior government advisers.