open letter
open letter

In response to the Prime Ministers press conference today in which he chose to back his advisor Dominic Cummings, South Cambridgeshire Labour have put together a letter to the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire Anthony Browne. Part of an MP’s role is to represent the concerns of their constituents and as such, writing to an MP, even one who represents a different political party is a powerful way in which the public can hold the government to account.

We would encourage residents of South Cambridgeshire to copy the text of this letter, adapt it as much or as little as you choose, and send it to Anthony Browne using the email address anthony.browne.mp@parliament.uk. You will need to provide your address (including postcode), email address and full name in order to demonstrate that you are a genuine constituent. Please ensure any correspondence is civil and constructive.

To Anthony Browne MP,

As a South Cambridgeshire constituent, I am very concerned at the conduct of the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings who travelled from London to Durham with his family at the height of the pandemic while his wife was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. I was disappointed to see your tweet in support of Dominic Cummings on 23rd May 2020 stating that

“With Dominic Cummings and his wife unwell, it is clear they had good reasons to self isolate at their parents so their children could be looked after. It would be a risk to their children not to do that. There is absolutely no reason for him to resign.”

Since your tweet, the story has developed further with the news that while staying in Durham, Mr Cummings drove 30 miles to spend some time in Barnard’s Castle. While Downing Street claim that some of the new revelations are inaccurate, no one has denied this particular trip took place and in fact Sky News have confirmed a car with his number plate was reported in the area.

In light of this news, and the Prime Ministers claim that Dominic Cummings acted with “responsibility, legally, and with integrity” I believe that there are significant questions to answer both with respect to the actions of Dominic Cummings and the judgement of the Prime Minister in showing him such unequivocal support.

The key questions are:

  • The official guidance says “Do not leave home if you or someone you live with has [COVID-19 symptoms]”. How is Dominic Cummings decision to drive 250 miles with his wife exhibiting symptoms in alignment with this advice?

While an argument has been made that there were extenuating circumstances to the trip as his child may have been vulnerable should both parents be ill, this argument raises further questions, particularly as it has been claimed by ministers that he and his family (including his son) isolated in a property and only had contact with family members who brought them deliveries of essentials.

  • It has been reported that Dominic Cummings has other family, and colleagues, who live in London. Why could these individuals not be asked to support the wellbeing of his child by bringing supplies? Alternatively, there is a well-established mutual aid group operating in the vicinity of his home, why could he not have reached out to this group for support as thousands of others around the country have chosen to do in order to comply with the very clear guidelines?
  • If Mr Cummings and his wife did not have help with childcare while isolating in Durham, how can it be reasonable to claim that the child would have been placed in a vulnerable position had they remained in London where the circumstances would have been substantially the same?
  • It has been reported that Mr Cummings did not know whether he himself had COVID-19 when he made the drive up to Durham. Does this not negate the claim that the journey was necessary due to the vulnerable position his child may be put in should he later get the disease?
  • It seems unlikely that Mr Cummings and his family made the trip without making any stops. How can we be certain that Mr Cummings actions did not expose members of the public to the virus, particularly as he was travelling from a region which at the time was the epicentre of the virus in the UK to one where the virus was not so prevalent in the community?

NHS guidance clearly explains how to deal with a situation where one member of a household has COVID-19 in terms of infection control and there are reports that spending time in close proximity to a symptomatic individual, for example a long car journey, would make infection more likely, therefore:

  • Did Mr Cummings put himself and his son in a position where catching the virus was more likely, and as such, given that he and his wife were apparently responsible for all childcare whether at home in London, or in Durham, did he not make a choice that increased the likelihood that his child would be in a vulnerable position where both parents, rather than just one, were sick?
  • With this in mind, how can the Prime Minister make the claim the Mr Cummings acted ‘responsibly’?

With respect to the trip to Barnard Castle, some 30 miles away from the home. It has been claimed that this took place following the 14 day period of isolation, with the implication that this therefore means it was within the rules. At the time of this trip however, which has been reported as taking place over Easter weekend, the government had launched a campaign urging Britons to stay at home and avoid public spaces despite good weather.

  • How can Mr Cummings’ trip be in line with lockdown rules given the governments own campaign clearly stated that people should not leave the home, and should stay within the vicinity of their homes to take any allowed exercise?

These are just a few of the questions that are raised by the Prime Minister’s statement today and I hope that in light of the new information we have received since the story initially broke you have taken the time to reflect on whether your support for Mr Cummings’ actions was appropriate.

It is very concerning that the Prime Minister, The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Attorney General have all been prepared to support Dominic Cummings at the expense of undermining the public health message that has been so necessary to begin to bring the spread of the virus back under control. Furthermore, the legal validity of fines under the emergency legislation passed to back up this public health message is also called into question by these statements of support.

I would be grateful if you would seek answers to the questions I have raised and should they not be satisfactory to the constituents of South Cambridgeshire, withdraw your support for Dominic Cummings and publicly join the calls for his resignation.

Sincerely

[Your Full Name]

[Your Email Address]

[Your Full Address]

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