Dominic Cummings believes he behaved 'reasonably' when travelling during UK lockdown

Dominic Cummings has sought to defend his decision to drive to County Durham despite the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, saying he believes he behaved “reasonably” and does not regret his actions.

In a highly unusual press conference in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister’s chief adviser said he made the journey because of fears over a lack of childcare if he became incapacitated with Covid-19, but also concerns about his family’s safety.

Mr Cummings said stories suggested he had opposed lockdown and “did not care about many deaths”, but he told reporters: “The truth is that I had argued for lockdown.

“I did not oppose it, but these stories had created a very bad atmosphere around my home, I was subjected to threats of violence, people came to my house shouting threats, there were posts on social media encouraging attacks.”

Mr Cummings said he was worried that “this situation would get worse”, and “I was worried about the possibility of leaving my wife and child at home all day and often into the night while I worked in Number 10”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Dominic Cummings during the briefing (Jonathan Brady/PA)</figcaption>
Dominic Cummings during the briefing (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I thought the best thing to do in all the circumstances was to drive to an isolated cottage on my father’s farm,” he added.

Asked what his message would be to Tory voters in the North East, Dominic Cummings said he had made mistakes about “all sorts of things in Government”, but “I don’t think I have made a mistake about these 14 days that are in question”.

“And I would stress to people that they should not believe everything they read in newspapers or everything they see on TV,” he said.

The defence of his actions comes amid furious calls for him to resign or be sacked by Mr Johnson for travelling to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family after his wife developed coronavirus symptoms.

Mr Cummings denied further reports which suggested he took a second trip to the North East on April 14.

He conceded that “reasonable people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in the circumstances”, but said: “I don’t regret what I did.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Journalists sit at distance while listening to Dominic Cummings (Jonathan Brady/PA)</figcaption>
Journalists sit at distance while listening to Dominic Cummings (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He added: “I think what I did was actually reasonable in these circumstances. 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.”

Asked if he felt he owed an apology to the public, he said: “I don’t think I’m so different, and I don’t think there’s one rule for me and one rule for other people.

As I said, I knew what the guidance was. It talks about exceptional circumstances with small children, and I think that in all the circumstances I behaved reasonably and legally as I said.

Asked how he could countenance staying on and not resigning, he said: “I think there is understandable anger but a lot of that anger is based on reports in the media that have not been true and it’s extremely regrettable.”

Mr Cummings insisted that his trip to Durham to isolate was not because the property on his father’s farm was a “nice place to be”.

“The point about it was not that it was some nice place to be. If you have been there, you would see that it’s sort of concrete blocks,” he said.

“The point about it was not that it was a nice place to be, but that it was the safest place to be in the circumstances – and it meant that I didn’t have to expose other people to risk unless I absolutely had to in a critical emergency.”

Mr Cummings also said:

– He has not considered resigning, and did not offer to do so.

– He did not ask the Prime Minister about his decision and admitted that “arguably this was a mistake”.

– He drove up to Durham with his wife and son and did not stop on the way, and the next day woke up in pain and “clearly had Covid symptoms”.

– The Prime Minister had asked him to publicly give his account and he acknowledged he should have spoken earlier.

– He could see why people basing their opinions on media reports of his actions could be furious.

Mr Cummings confirmed that he went on a “short drive” to Barnard Castle because his eyesight had been affected by the disease and his wife did not want to risk the long drive back to London.

He added: “My wife was very worried, particularly as my eyesight seemed to have been affected by the disease.

“She did not want to risk a nearly 300-mile drive with our child given how ill I had been.

“We agreed that we should go for a short drive to see if I could drive safely, we drove for roughly half an hour and ended up on the outskirts of Barnard Castle town.

“We did not visit the castle, we did not walk around the town.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the press conference was “painful to watch”.

“He clearly broke the rules, the Prime Minister has failed to act in the National interest. He should have never allowed this situation with a member of his staff,” she added.