LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people should make up their own minds about the decision of his senior aide Dominic Cummings to drive 250 miles (400 km) from London during lockdown. The early evidence is that they have.
In a poll conducted after a news conference on Monday where Cummings sought to explain his actions, YouGov found 59% think he should resign and 71% believe he broke lockdown rules.
And people echoed that sentiment on the streets of north-west London.
“It feels vindictive to say that he should go, but I do think that you need to feel you’ve got a government you can trust and that has integrity,” said Catherine Andrews, a corporate trainer from London.
Cummings sought to defuse the row over his trip to stay on his family’s farm, saying his actions were reasonable in the circumstances as he was worried he would not have had childcare options if he and his wife were seriously ill.
He also said he had driven to a beauty spot a further 30 miles away to test his eyesight before driving back to London. Johnson says he is satisfied with his explanation of events.
“It’s not reasonable, not at all, it’s very unreasonable. I mean what an excuse, who can believe that, you travelled 200 and whatever miles and then you travelled another 30 miles to check your eyesight,” Pauline Heward-Mills, who is retired, said.
Not everyone was so fussed by the trip made by Cummings.
“I think it’s up to himself what he does so let him carry on and does what he likes,” another local resident Thomas Gill said. “It’s nothing to do with us.”
Londoners backed the opposition Labour party last year and a majority in the city also voted against Brexit. Cummings, who ran the Leave campaign with Johnson in 2016, prides himself on being more in touch with the electorate than most observers.
“You guys are probably all about as right about that as you were about Brexit: do you remember how right you all were about that?” he told journalists who asked if he would consider his position on Saturday.
But outrage about his actions is widespread, suggesting he might have misjudged the national mood on this occasion.
Scottish junior minister Douglas Ross resigned on Tuesday, saying he could not tell constituents who had avoided leaving home to abide by the lockdown that “they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”
Poll data reflects how damaging the episode could be to the government.
Boris Johnson’s approval rating is at -1%, having been +19% four days ago, Savanta Comres’ daily tracker shows, and overall government approval is -2%, having dropped 16 points in a day.
(Writing by Alistair Smout, Editing by William Maclean)