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Our message to Barnet's MPs: Dominic Cummings must go

May 24, 2020 11:56 AM
By Gabriel Rozenberg
  • UPDATE, 27 May: We have received a response from Mike Freer which we have added to this article below

It is now clear that Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, the most powerful unelected figure in the country, deliberately and repeatedly broke lockdown rules by visiting his family some 260 miles away from his primary residence.

Cummings should have resigned - or been sacked. Instead the Tories have spent the past two days defending him. By doing that, they are watering down their own lockdown messaging. In a public health emergency this is a shocking thing to do.

Many, many Barnet residents are furious that Cummings has been allowed to act in this way. So Barnet Liberal Democrats have written to our three MPs. We are calling on Mike Freer, Matthew Offord and Theresa Villiers to publicly call for Dominic Cummings to be fired.

Our emails to the MPs are below and we will publish their responses on this page in an update.

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To: Mike Freer MP (Finchley & Golders Green)

Dear Mike,

Throughout the lockdown there was one crystal-clear message: "Stay Home". Today Grant Shapps told Andrew Marr: "We've never told people where they have to specifically locate themselves". In other words, the government is tearing up its entire disease control strategy in order to shield Dominic Cummings. This is outrageous - and dangerous.

Across Britain, and in Barnet specifically, people are making extreme sacrifices in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some people have had to attend funerals of their parents over the internet. By defending Cummings - by claiming he was only doing right by his family - the entire Conservative Party is belittling all our efforts.

Lockdowns rely on consent and mutual respect. You are a Government Whip. You know that if one wrecker is allowed to ignore the rules, collective action becomes impossible.

I am therefore asking you to tell the Prime Minister to sack Dominic Cummings.

I am making this correspondence public.

Update, 27 March: response from Mike Freer (reproduced in full)

Thank you for contacting me about the Prime Minister's advisor Dominic Cummings. Due to the amount of correspondence received on this matter, and the range of comments, it is not possible to respond individually.

Before I made any comment, I believe it was important that I knew all of the facts on the matter and heard both sides of the story. Mr Cummings has now given a full account and explanation of the actions he has taken in his press conference on Monday.

I certainly would not have taken the actions Mr Cummings did. There is an argument that can be made for Mr Cummings' trip, and I know that many will understand his actions as a father. Of course, it is entirely reasonable for people to vehemently disagree with his view of events. I do not believe it is the conclusion many of my constituents, or myself, would have reached. Many would simply not have taken this course of action.

I completely understand the anger with which you write, especially as the British public have given up so much to help fight this virus. Please be assured that the full feeling of my constituents is always passed on to relevant ministers, including the Prime Minister.

As a Government Minister, I am in the privileged position of being able to ensure your views, the strength of your views, alongside my own views, are conveyed directly to the Prime Minister. I take my role in representing the constituency very seriously and in my experience, firm but private representations are more effective than public denunciations.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Freer MP

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To: Matthew Offord MP (Hendon)

Dear Matthew

Yesterday a mass WhatsApp instruction went to Tory MPs, ordering them to put out tweets defending the Prime Minister's chief of staff. I congratulate you for not doing so, and I urge you now to go further. I ask you to publicly call on Boris Johnson to sack Dominic Cummings.

As you know, residents in Hendon, and across Barnet, have borne enormous hardships since March in order to suffocate the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown worked. But what happens if the transmission rate increases? How will the government have the authority to act in the future -when the man in charge bucks the rules and the Conservative Party comes out to defend his actions?

Several of your colleagues are now saying what is obvious: Cummings must go, as otherwise there can be no respect for the rules. This is a serious public health emergency and I urge you to do the right thing by your constituents. Please tell the Prime Minister that Cummings must go.

I am making this correspondence public.

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To: Theresa Villiers MP (Chipping Barnet)

Dear Theresa,

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, unambiguously and repeatedly broke the rules of the lockdown and quarantine. The decision by the government to defend him rather than call for his dismissal will strike everyone in Chipping Barnet as incomprehensible.

Our community stayed home. By doing that we got infections down in London. It came at great personal cost: to our ability to care for our loved ones, in particular elderly relatives; and to our children's upbringing as schools have been closed. For many the sacrifices were vast - having to attend funerals of their parents over the internet, for example.

Your colleague Steve Baker has this morning called on Boris Johnson to get a grip and sack Cummings immediately. You have yourself, at various points in your career, stood up for what you personally believed in, even if it was not the 'party line'.

I am therefore asking you to come out today and call for Cummings to be fired.

I am making this correspondence public.