There has been one story and one name which has dominated the news this week and has had the whole country talking: Dominic Cummings. It started on Friday when the Mirror reported that Dominic Cummings had broken lockdown to travel to Durham to stay on his family’s estate. The government’s response to these allegations was initially to deny claims and dismiss the story from “campaigning newspapers”. As reports of further subsequent sightings of Dominic Cummings in Durham emerged, the government claimed that the 260 mile trip was ‘essential’ and within the rules.
In his press conference on Monday, the British people were looking for at least an apology from Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown. They got none. The Prime Minister’s repeated attempts to defend the indefensible ring hollow with the public and risk undermining life-saving public health messaging. Instead, the message the public are hearing from this government is that it's one rule for Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, another for everybody else.
Like many MPs, the volume of emails I have received on this is like nothing else I've seen since becoming an MP. The outpouring of grief and dismay I have read from many constituents really proves how badly the government has got this wrong, and how they fail to appreciate what the British public has gone through to make lockdown work.
Since this story broke, more than 100 constituents have written to me so far with stories about the agonising decisions they have had to make in order to comply with the guidance. People grieving in isolation, who have been unable to attend funerals; who have not been able to hold the hands of their loved ones as they passed away; and the doctors who have had to deliver that news. Reading these moving stories of personal sacrifice makes you understand the anger felt by so many, and why they understandly don't want to just 'move on'.
This week has been a test for Boris Johnson, and it's clear he's failed.
Care home crisis continues
This week Boris Johnson denied that known Covid positive patients, those with symptoms, and those still awaiting test results, were being moved from hospitals to care homes.
This runs contrary to the answer I received from the Department of Health earlier this month on this issue, where I was told that it was only a small number of people were moved.
It hasn't just been a 'small number' of people with symptoms being discharged from hospitals and into our care homes. Doctors tell me they're aware of many cases where Covid-19 patients were sent into care homes and from care homes who felt pressured to receive them. As I've continued to raise, these are not exceptions, in fact the government's own guidance to care homes allowed it, explicitly.
New analysis this week revelead that councils in areas of deprivation, including Birmingham City Council, have been handed a £126m cut overall after the second payment of emergency funding to fight Covid-19, yet many have the highest infection rates in the country.
Birmingham is the 6th most deprived local authority in England and faces escalating costs in fighting Covid-19. Despite this, Birmingham City Council has been handed a £7m cut in emergency funding which is instead diverted to richer Tory councils with lower infection rates.