'He’s not above anybody' - Mother and son protest outside Dominic Cummings' home

Boris Johnson is facing sustained pressure to sack his key aide Dominic Cummings following allegations he breached coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

It comes as a mother and son arrived outside Mr Cummings’ house carrying a sign that reads: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”, a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The British Prime Minister will discuss the easing of measures at a Cabinet meeting today, but the political storm over his chief adviser’s trip looks set to overshadow any announcements.

Mr Cummings travelled to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family – apparently because he feared that he and his wife would be left unable to care for their son – while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Protesters hold a sign with a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm outside the north London home of Dominic Cummings (Aaron Chown/PA)</figcaption>
Protesters hold a sign with a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm outside the north London home of Dominic Cummings (Aaron Chown/PA)

Further reports also suggested he took a second trip to the North East of England in April, having already returned to London following his recovery from Covid-19 – a disease which has seen more than 45,000 people in the UK die after contracting it.

Several Conservative backbenchers have joined calls from opposition parties for Mr Cummings to quit or be sacked, amid warnings that his actions have “undermined” efforts to fight coronavirus.

The pair protesting outside Mr Cumming's home, who gave their names as Michelle and Milo, live near to the British Prime Minister’s adviser.

Michelle told reporters: “Our street looked after each other, he’s not above anybody.”

She added: “I think it’s sad that none of his neighbours could possibly come and help him.

“We’re all in this together.”

“I think he has to go, and this is our way, on a Bank Holiday Monday of saying we’re not happy.

“We weren’t happy with Boris yesterday.”

Durham Police has been asked to “establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law” surrounding Dominic Cummings’ visit to the county.

In a statement, the force’s acting police, crime and victims’ commissioner Steve White said: “I am confident that thus far, Durham police has responded proportionately and appropriately to the issues raised concerning Mr Cummings and his visit to the County at the end of March.

“It is clear however that there is a plethora of additional information circulating in the public domain which deserves appropriate examination.

“I have today written to the Chief Constable, asking her to establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law or regulations in this matter at any juncture.

“It is vital that the force can show it has the interests of the people of County Durham and Darlington at its heart, so that the model of policing by consent, independent of government but answerable to the law, is maintained.

“It will be for the Chief Constable to determine the operational response to this request and I am confident that with the resources at its disposal, the force can show proportionality and fairness in what has become a major issue of public interest and trust.”

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the British Government’s advisory group on behavioural science, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “If you look at the research it shows the reason why people observed lockdown was not for themselves, it wasn’t because they were personally at risk, they did it for the community, they did it because of a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’.

“If you give the impression there’s one rule for them and one rule for us you fatally undermine that sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ and you undermine adherence to the forms of behaviour which have got us through this crisis.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

And Gloucestershire’s independent police and crime commissioner Martin Surl said Mr Cummings’ actions made a “mockery” of police enforcement earlier in the lockdown.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it makes it much harder for the police going forward – this will be quoted back at them time and time again when they try to enforce the new rules.

“But I think more importantly it makes something of a mockery of the police action going back when the message was very, very clear: stay at home.”

Mr Johnson said he could “not mark down” Mr Cummings for the way he acted, and told the Downing Street press conference on Sunday that, following “extensive” talks with his aide, he concluded “he followed the instincts of every father and every parent”.

He said Mr Cummings had “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity”.

The British PM is set to reveal plans to ease restrictions for certain sectors of the economy – with the changes expected to signal the reopening of some non-essential shops – when the Cabinet meets today.

It follows confirmation that the phased reopening of England’s primary schools will commence on June 1.

Mr Cummings’ actions have provoked fury among some MPs, with Tory former minister Paul Maynard saying: “It is a classic case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ – and it is not as if he was unfamiliar with guidance he himself helped draw up.

“It seems to me to be utterly indefensible and his position wholly untenable.”

Senior Conservative MP Simon Hoare, who had earlier called for Mr Cummings to go, later lamented Mr Johnson’s press conference, telling the Daily Mail: “The PM’s performance posed more questions than it answered.

“Any residual hope that this might die away in the next 24 hours is lost.”

Somerton and Frome MP David Warburton said he was “unconvinced” by the PM’s defence of Mr Cummings, while Tory grandee Lord Heseltine said it was “very difficult to believe there isn’t a substance” in the allegations about Mr Cumming’s movements.

The PM also came in for stinging criticism from bishops, who accused him of treating people “as mugs” and with “no respect” after he opted to stick by his chief aide.

The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, tweeted: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?”

Britain's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it was his “understanding” from the Prime Minister that Dominic Cummings and his family did not break the law in their trip to Durham during lockdown.

He told BBC Breakfast: “(The Prime Minister) has been absolutely categorically assured that both Dominic Cummings and his family both followed the guidance and also followed the rules…

“The guidance is incredibly extensive and at the heart of that guidance is always the issue of safeguarding children and making sure that children are always absolutely protected.

“My understanding is from what the Prime Minister said yesterday… is that at every stage Dominic Cummings followed and his family followed the guidance and at no stage did Dominic Cummings or his family break the law.”