While the U.K. suffers from one of the worst coronavirus death tolls in the world – losing more than 37,000 people to the virus – a controversial issue is currently inflaming spirits across the country. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a growing upheaval over his chief advisor Dominic Cummings – the latter having allegedly breached the lockdown rules, which he helped formulate, by traveling hundreds of miles from London to Durham during the lockdown period.
The story started following revelations by The Guardian and Daily Mirror that Cummings was seen near his parents’ house in Durham. Then, witnesses’ accounts placed him near a historical touristic site causing a further media storm. Facing enormous media criticism, Cummings conducted a press interview, which raised more questions than answers. Even so, the chief advisor did not apologize for his actions, stating that he has no intention of quitting his position.
The revelation – not to mention multiple subsequent cover-up attempts – sparked outrage among the opposition. Meanwhile, dozens of government MPs have warned ministers their defense of Cummings risks undermining the lockdown as their inboxes fill with irate emails from angry constituents who argue that "rules that apply in the streets do not apply in Downing Street."
However, despite growing pressure mounting on Cummings to resign and the apparent loss of public confidence in the government over the matter, Johnson continues to stand by his aide, claiming that his most valued adviser acted within reason. This position has damaged Johnson and paved the way for more questions about his dependence on the advisor, to the extent that some pundits argue that the prime minister could not function without him.
What makes Cummings so special?
Cummings is the mastermind behind the "Vote Leave" campaign and architect of the "take back control" catchphrase that inspired support for Brexit. The central part he played in delivering a victory for the Leave camp, as well as the general election, enabled him to rise as an influential policy advisor within Johnson's Conservative Party. Since July 2019, his appointment as chief adviser to Johnson has handed him the chance to swing the Conservatives and made him the most powerful unelected political figure in the country.
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