February 26, 2021

Coronavirus lockdown breakers telling police 'if it's okay for Cummings, it's okay for us', says crime commissioner

May 27, 2020

People are breaking lockdown rules and using the actions of Boris Johnson's special adviser - Dominic Cummings - as an excuse, a senior police commissioner has said.

David Jamieson, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said members of the public were telling officers "if it is okay for Cummings, it is okay for us".

Mr Cummings has been accused of breaching coronavirus lockdown rules by travelling 260 miles with his wife and child from London to Durham, then making a 30-mile trip to Barnard Castle - which he claims he did to check if he was fit to drive.

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And as the prime minister continued to back his adviser - who has insisted he acted within the rules and refused to apologise - Mr Jamieson said the scandal was making the jobs of police more difficult.

He said people were also telling officers "it looks like there is one rule for us and another rule for the people in No 10 Downing Street".

Mr Jamieson said if the rules are flexible and open to interpretation then it makes it "almost impossible" for police to do their job effectively.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "What the police are now saying to me is they are getting quite a push back, not just from some of the younger people who previously where saying why can't I play football, why can't I go out in the streets? They're getting push backs from other generations of people as well.

"Now that is a bad sign, showing that confidence in the rules, confidence in government and thereby the police's ability to enforce it has been undermined very much in the last few days."

Sky News' policing commentator Graham Wettone said the furore had "clearly made things more difficult".

"Police have increasingly been relying on the engage, explain and encourage aspects of their guidance around lockdown restrictions and have been using enforcement measures very much as a last resort," he said.

"The effectiveness of that approach can depend on a certain amount of goodwill between officers and the public, so if people believe a government adviser is applying their own interpretation to the lockdown regulations, then that's potentially going to create problems."

The backlash against Mr Cummings's actions has intensified over recent days, with Tory MPs among critics demanding Mr Johnson sack him and polls showing the PM's popularity falling.

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said the PM should admit the damage done by the controversy.

"I think it would be really helpful if the prime minister was to acknowledge the fact that there is a risk that public trust and confidence in those social distancing guidelines has been dented and if he was to set out really clearly what the government is going to do to restore that lost trust and confidence," he said.

Asked whether Mr Cummings should go, Mr Hopson responded: "I'm not going to answer that."

  • 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.

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