Gove passionately defended Cummings’ press conference and his reasons for travelling from London to Durham to put his child in the care of his parents. As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster reeled off excuses for Cummings, BBC Breakfast host Walker demanded to know why the Prime Minister’s aide couldn’t apologise for breaking lockdown rules.
Walker began: “Mr Gove, thank you for spending a bit of time with us this morning.
“I do want to talk to you about the shops announcement a little bit later on but we’ve had many questions about what many people will have watched yesterday, both the Dominic Cummings press conference and then the Prime Minister’s briefing as well.
“We heard from Dominic Cummings, he spoke about mistakes and he even mentioned regret. Do you know why he couldn’t use the word sorry? Why couldn’t he apologise?”
“Well, I think Dominic completely understands the concern that people felt as the story broke,” Gove replied.
“I think the account he gave was exhaustive, it was detailed, it was verifiable and I think people will have made their own mind up as they listened to Dominic’s account or as they read about it subsequently and I think most people will understand he was someone who was under pressure and put the health of his wife and son first and who took care to ensure they, as a unit, as a family unit, were not in danger of affecting other people.”
Walker pointed out Dominic Cummings risked breaking the law for his decision to drive to Barnard Castle, which he claimed was to test his eyesight was good enough to drive down the A1 back to London. He asked: “On that point in particular, can you explain a way around that, why you would take on that journey to test your eyesight in that situation?”
“First thing to say is that Dominic had received medical advice, senior medical advice, saying he was safe to return to work, it was more than 14 days after he had first shown symptoms of the virus,” Gove replied.
“It was important that he return to work and certainly it’s the case that his dedication tow work is phenomenal. He wanted to make sure that before taking the journey down the A1 that he was safe to drive, and of course, in the course of that journey, it was confirmed, he confirmed to himself that he was sae to drive.”
Walker interrupted: “Mr Gove, if your eyesight is not good enough, that in itself is an offence under the Road Traffic Act.”
Gove answered: “Well, Dominic’s eyesight was good enough, that was the whole point of the journey, to determine if he could drive safely.”
“So you’re entirely happy with that explanation, which also happened to be on his wife’s birthday, which is another reason people have brought that into consideration when they are listening to his explanation of what they heard yesterday,” Walker demanded to know.
“Yes but to my mind I can’t see the relevance of that,” Gove remarked. “He drove to Barnard Castle, the family stopped, he walked a few yards, sat on a bench for a short period of time, then walked back to the car and drove to his home. So, the fact, as it also happened to be Easter Sunday, is immaterial.”
It was then that Walker began to lose it with the politician and his excuses for Cummings as he exclaimed: “See the issue is Mr Gove, is that I think many people will have been listening to Dominic Cummings yesterday, listening to the Prime Minister and listening to you now today, and they have had these conversations with themselves, with their family members, they have been desperate to visit their parents, they have been desperate to visit their family members, they’ve had ill children, they have been suffering with coronavirus and yet, they abided by the government guidelines.
“I think many people are listening to you today and saying, even if Dominic Cummings didn’t actually break those guidelines, what he did was against the spirit of the guidelines.
“Here is a man who was partly responsible for bringing these regulations in, which have governed us, and many people will be watching this morning thinking ‘I followed that to the letter because I was trying to protect not only myself but my family and others and Dominic Cummings didn’t.’”
Gove was left momentarily speechless by Walker’s rant before hitting back: “Erm, that is the case that has been put consistently over the course of the last three days but as you yourself I think acknowledged, he didn’t break the letter of those guidelines. He acted in a way that many people…”
Walker jumped in to correct Gove, snapping: “I said in the spirit of the guidelines Mr Gove.”
“Yes, that’s the point, I think people will make up their own mind based on what they heard yesterday,” Gove hit back.
“But it wasn’t, you know, you quite understandably make some points, people haven’t seen their parents, I haven’t seen my parents and I appreciate the pain and difficulty it has caused.
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“But it wasn’t the case that Dominic went to see his parents in the way that it was reported or speculated on over the weekend.
“There were a number of things which were said over the course of the weekend and I’m not critical of anyone, you know, this is a fast-moving media environment but they were inaccurate.
“I can understand on that basis, why some people, on the basis of those inaccurate stories were particularly angry.
“Now those inaccuracies have been put to rest, now that it’s clear that Dominic didn’t break the guidelines, people can then form their own judgement about whether or not they thought what he did was wise.
“My own view is that it was entirely reasonable and the allegation was from some that he was heedlessly and recklessly putting people in danger but I think if we look at the whole story, we can see that that is not the case and he was seeking to act in a way that sought not to risk any spread of the infection but ensure his family were safe and protected.”
Published at Wed, 27 May 2020 06:22:00 +0000