‘Time to move on’ – Hitchin and Harpenden MP on Dominic Cummings saga

PUBLISHED: 17:02 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:59 27 May 2020

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has called on the District Council to make parking in Hitchin town centre free. Picture: Martin Wootton

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has called on the District Council to make parking in Hitchin town centre free. Picture: Martin Wootton

Martin Wootton

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has urged the public to “move on” from the Dominic Cummings saga, while admitting the government’s communication in the early stages of lockdown was “a failure”.

Dominic Cummings denied any breaches of lockdown rules during his 260 mile journey to County Durham. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA WireDominic Cummings denied any breaches of lockdown rules during his 260 mile journey to County Durham. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Mr Afolami faced a host of questions on the topic of Cummings, the lockdown and his thoughts on the government’s response, by Emma Barnett on BBC R5 Live earlier today.

Although he refused this newspaper’s request to answer questions on the same topic, Mr Afolami argued that it is time for ministers, MPs and the public to move on and tackle the health and economic issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “My view is that this is pretty unprecedented, a senior advisor making a statement, the media questioned him on that and he answered all their questions.

Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media on Monday. Jonathan Brady/PA WireDominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answers questions from the media on Monday. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

“I take his [Cummings’] statement at face value, and the Prime Minister has accepted that explanation and has chosen to keep him in post.

“I think what we need to do now, is effectively take that and move forward... This is a very difficult situation and I can frankly see it both ways. It’s obviously a very nuanced situation.

“I think really it’s arguable, the point is he has given his explanation.

“I think we need to now, as I say we are on day five or six of this thing, be really focusing as MPs, as ministers and as the country not just on the health issues related to this pandemic but the economic problems that are resulting.”

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When questioned on his use of the words nuanced and arguable and if that made a mockery of the majority of the public who have obeyed the lockdown, Mr Afolami defended his views.

He said: “I don’t believe that makes a mockery, I think that individuals’ lives are often complicated and nuanced. I’ve had lots of constituents in recent weeks and months with a particular issue – abuse, children with disabilities or other issues that may not always be covered.”

In response, Emma Barnett asked: “People like you, Bim, saying it’s arguable and nuanced were not saying this at the height of lockdown. The government’s message was clear: If you have symptoms, if you are ill, stay at home. It was an instruction.

“Where were the words nuanced, or arguable? Where were those words at the beginning of this?”

Bim replied: “I think there’s a fair criticism that in the earlier phases of lockdown, that not everybody was always aware of the particular issues if you’ve got extenuating circumstances or where there are particular scenarios that may require people to do different things from overall guidance.

“I think that’s a failure of the government and of MPs at that time not to communicate as strongly as we should have done.”

We asked readers what they thought of the Dominic Cummings saga, with almost 3,000 respondents answering our survey.

The vast majority – more than 75 per cent – wanted to see Cummings resign or be sacked in the wake of his 260 mile trip in March. 77.9 per cent of you also disagreed with his decision to make the trip to his parents’ estate in Durham.

Finally, 76.2 per cent of you thought Boris Johnson was wrong to stand by Cummings through this.


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