Cummings-gate: Unrepentant and determined to stick it out

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 68 (Tuesday, May 26 2020)

IT’S bound to end in tears. The unprecedented 60-minute grilling of the Prime Minister’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings in the Rose Garden at No 10 Downing Street by the cream of British journalism solved exactly zilch.

Cummings stands accused of flouting the lockdown rules by driving 260 miles to his family’s home in Durham after he and his wife showed signs of coronavirus. And then being seen at a local beauty spot.

It was just the kind of story the national press like to get their teeth into.

Cummings, in a less than confident performance, provided detailed information on his movements, denied that he had broken the law, saying he acted in a responsible and legal manner, adding that he had never considered resigning.

None of the scribes sat in the sun in the garden at No 10 believed his story. But he stuck to it and Prime Minster Boris Johnson continues to back him all the way.

One government minister, Douglas Ross, has resigned informing the PM in a scathing letter that he cannot tell his constituents “they were wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right”. Others might follow.

Boris sent his big guns out to the television and radio stations this morning to try and calm the situation but none of them seemed totally convinced about Cummings’ explanation.

So what happens now?  The tabloids will keep digging to find some more dirt and the Tories will just hope it eventually dies down.

Some of them are asking whether Cummings’ misdemeanour is any different to Labour MP Stephen Kinnock driving 200 miles to see his grandparents earlier in lockdown.

I stick to what I said yesterday – the Cabinet Secretary should investigate the circumstances and if he is found to be in breach of lockdown rules he would have to go.

Cummings’ grilling by the press made another mockery of the later than usual press briefing at No 10, taken again by the Prime Minister. You can imagine his other lieutenants saying, “Not on your Nelly, I’m not doing it!” Most of the questions were about Cummings and Boris flatly refused to move his position, giving the same answer time an again. Why oh why do they bother?

Back in the real world, the number of new cases and deaths are continuing to fall, which should give all of us encouragement that we are getting there. And the really good news is that there has not been a death from COVID-19 at the Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester for more than a month.

Lyme’s starting to emerge from lockdown

I left my daily exercise walk to the seafront later than usual to see how many people were enjoying the glorious weather. There were more on beach than the previous two Bank Holiday days, but it was not overcrowded by any means and certainly not as bad as in other UK resorts.

Southend is the nearest beach to London and from TV reports it looked like half the capital had gone for a day out at the seaside. It was absolutely teeming.

Lyme has come through the Bank Holiday pretty well without the massive influx of day-trippers that was feared.

I spoke to one of the traders down on the front who told me that takeaway business was better than expected.

It’s important that social distancing continues to be adhered to. We are lucky to be living in this area, one of the least contaminated by this disease in the country, and we need to keep it that way. It’s too early to take off the shackles completely.

Boris announced yesterday that non-essential shops will be able to open again on June 15 and this will be seen as the start of Lyme slowly emerging from lockdown. Some hospitality outlets will be able to do so from July 1, but there is still a lot of confusion about how this will happen, especially for the smaller pubs and cafés.

Back on the reporting beat

At LymeOnline we have had a hectic few days as we have added another string to our bow by agreeing to provide the editorial content for two new local news websites for Axminster and Seaton called Nub News.

They are the latest two to be added to a network of 35 throughout the country launched by former City of London banker Karl Hancock, who is a member of Lyme Regis Golf Club. He has ambitions to make Nub News the number one platform for local news and he hopes to eventually have 700 sites serving towns with populations between 5,000 and 1,000.

Following the closure of the View From series and the opening of LymeOnline, we have been approached about launching similar projects in both Axminster and Seaton. It would be foolhardy to consider doing this at this time, especially with advertising revenues in steep decline and more local papers closing all over the country.

For the last two years I have been virtually semi-retired but this means I will be returning to full-time employment. But I’m looking forward to being back on the reporting beat in Axminster and Seaton and it will help shore up LymeOnline which has lost considerable revenue during lockdown.

Reporting is what I enjoy most and I’m looking forward to renewing my old contacts in both towns.

You can visit the new sites at https://axminster.nub.news/ and https://seaton.nub.news/

I’ve always relished a new challenge and being a part of this exciting new media initiative this has given me a new lease of life.

James Bond actor Sean Connery was once quoted as saying: “There’s always a new challenge to keep you motivated.”  I rather concur with that.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 803 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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