I have been overwhelmed with emails from constituents expressing their anger, hurt and disappointment over the recent behaviour of Dominic Cummings and the Prime Minister.
I share that anger and I have previously set out some of my views on social media which you can see here and here.
On Monday evening the nation was looking at the very least for an honest explanation and an apology. Instead, we received some frankly laughable excuses and no apology whatsoever.
Cummings actions are inexcusable. It is clear he broke lockdown rules more than once and the right thing for him to have done would have been to apologise and resign.
There are numerous contradictions in his statement and the trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight is an extraordinary excuse which I think most people would be hard-pressed to believe.
Additionally, the explanation that he followed his parental instincts and did what any good parent would do is offensive. It implies that those families who were in similar or significantly worse situations but followed Government guidelines did not care about their families enough.
Overwhelmingly, people have felt bound to follow the rules, no matter how difficult their circumstances. They have done so because they know it could save lives.
In my view there are no exceptional circumstances in this case, he was in a position that families have found themselves in the length and breadth of the country.
I also struggle to believe that the Prime Minister’s chief adviser would have had no childcare options in London had he and his wife become too sick to care for their son.
The vast majority of people across our country have made extraordinary sacrifices during the lockdown. Families have been forced apart, sometimes in the most tragic of circumstances. But they have stayed at home to protect the NHS and to save lives.
Meanwhile, the statements from Cummings and the Prime Minister have made it apparent there is one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser and another for everybody else.
Further, in my role as Shadow Solicitor General, I am extremely concerned that the Attorney General tweeted her support for Cummings’ actions. When there is still a significant question mark over whether a criminal offence has been committed this support destroys confidence in the Attorney General’s impartiality and the Rule of Law.
The public reaction to what Cummings has done demonstrates his actions have undermined trust in this Government. I am extremely concerned that this may impact public compliance with necessary Covid guidelines both now and in the future, particularly if we enter a second wave of the virus.
Therefore, in my view, it is extremely important that Dominic Cummings gives a full apology and hands in his resignation. If he does not then I remain clear that he should be dismissed by the Prime Minister.
Finally, I want to thank you for doing what the vast majority have done - following the rules no matter how difficult the circumstances. We will beat this pandemic and we will do so by all working together following the rules that are set.
We have come a long way since the beginning of the lockdown but there is still a way to go and to get through this we are going to need to ensure the Pandemic’s impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods is kept to a minimum.
With the economy necessarily being shut down, it was right that the government acted to protect jobs and incomes by launching the Job retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). However, the limitations of these programmes are reducing their scope.
For example, there are a number of significant gaps which have left many self-employed people falling outside of the scheme. This includes those who work through Limited Companies, those who have yearly operating profits of £50,000 and over, the newly self-employed and freelancers who fall below the 50% of self-employed income threshold.
I have raised these barriers with the Chancellor and called for the inclusion of limited company directors in the scheme, a tapered package of support rather than a cliff edge at £50,000, an extended deadline for submitting 2018/19 returns and the option to submit 2019/20 returns early to calculate the grants on this basis.
But the problems do not end here. Workers who have had recent gaps in their earnings because of maternity leave will receive less financial support as this is not exempt from the calculations for support. This discriminates against women and I raised this with the Chancellor last week but did not receive a satisfactory answer.
In all, it is estimated that over 75,000 recent mothers could receive less income and two million self-employed people will be unable to access SEISS. I do not doubt the scale of the challenge facing the Government but without urgent reforms to the SEISS many of my constituents, and I fear many more people across the country, will face serious hardship in the coming months.
It falls to us to do all we can to continue pressing the Government on this issue so they are true to their word and ensure that no workers are left behind in these challenging times.