Coronavirus: Boris Johnson prepares for grilling over Dominic Cummings as polls show popularity sinking

May 27, 2020

Boris Johnson is preparing to face a super committee of MPs over his protection of Dominic Cummings, as pressure builds for his top aide to be sacked and the government's popularity appears to sink.

The prime minister will be grilled by a senior group of politicians known as the liaison committee at 4pm on Wednesday, which will be the first time he has faced them since he won the job 10 months ago.

He is facing calls from at least 30 of his own MPs to sack Mr Cummings for making three trips during the lockdown, which the adviser says were to seek childcare help from his family in Durham.

One government minister has already quit in protest and the housing secretary admitted "many people across the country" are also aggrieved.

Robert Jenrick told Sky News that "many people across the country, including many of my colleagues in parliament, believe he made the wrong decisions".

But he insisted Mr Cummings "acted reasonably" and "did obey the guidelines".

However, even some of the newest intake of Tory MPs have spoken out, with Stoke-on-Trent North's Jonathan Gullis saying Mr Cummings's actions mean the lockdown message "has been undermined".

"Even if the law hasn't been broken, the spirit of the law has been broken," he said.

Dozens of the new Tories held an hour-long call with the deputy chief whip to air their concerns, Sky News has been told.

"Very few" were said to have outright called for Mr Cummings to be sacked but the group signalled if any more revelations came out they would be prepared to escalate their demands.

Meanwhile the trickle of backbenchers voicing discontent continued, with Sir David Amess on Wednesday calling for the adviser to be suspended and investigated and David Simmonds saying he "should step down".

Mr Cummings has said he does not regret decamping 260 miles away from his London property while Britons were being told to "stay at home" - and dismissed the revelation he was spotted by a river in a town 30 minutes' drive from Durham, saying that trip was to test his eyesight.

The former Vote Leave strategist has not apologised, and said he had no intention of quitting during a Downing Street news conference held three days after the reports of his movement first surfaced.

Despite his lengthy explanation, new surveys suggest his claim he had "exceptional circumstances" to make the journeys has not gone down well with the public.

A YouGov poll carried out afterwards found 71% of Britons thought he did break lockdown rules - up 3% from Sunday, including a majority of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Remain and Brexit supporters.

And 59% of those surveyed also said he should resign.

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Research carried out by an ex-Number 10 pollster's new firm JL Partners for the Daily Mail on Tuesday also found that Mr Johnson's popularity rating as best leader had dropped by five points to 37% in just four days.

While Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's has risen by seven points to 35%.

And Mr Johnson's net approval has dropped 20 points to -1% since the end of last week, while the government as a whole dropped 16 points in a single day down to -2%, in separate polls by Savanta ComRes.

Lisa Nandy, Labour's shadow foreign secretary, told Kay Burley@Breakfast the country needs to "move on" to deal with the "huge problem" of how to reopen the economy, explaining an employer of hundreds in her Wigan constituency recently went into administration.

But she added "we need to move on in a way that the public can have confidence about the advice being given and the decision being taken - and if there's one rule for government advisers and one rule for the rest of us, people will not have confidence and they won't follow the guidance".

Liz Saville-Robert, Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader, also told Sky News: "It isn't a minor personal scandal, this is a public health scandal because it will affect how people will think they can behave in the future."

Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World -- a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

We'll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too.

If you'd like to be in our virtual audience - from your own home - and put questions to the experts, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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