Boris Johnson has managed the rare feat of uniting the UK, as voices from across society express outrage at his support for Dominic Cummings’ lockdown journeys. Even the pro-Tory Daily Mail joined in with a scathing front page.
The prime minister’s efforts at a press conference on Sunday to draw a line under his senior adviser’s extensive lockdown travel backfired spectacularly, sending public fury at the apparent double standards to extraordinary new heights.
Even the old reliables in the media turned on the UK government, with a blistering spread of front pages that attacked Johnson and his hodophile adviser.
The Daily Mail led the charge with a front page that screamed “What planet are they on?”. The paper said that Cummings “broke the spirit and letter of the lockdown” with the 260-mile journey from London to Durham, which he made in April with his wife, who was exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, and his child.
The Mail reported that the PM is facing a “furious Tory backlash” from all levels of his party, and demanded that Cummings resign or be sacked. It has been a staunch supporter of Johnson throughout his political career, so abandoning him over his support for Cummings marks a significant new development, and suggests that the saga is set to run and run.
The Mail was far from alone in attacking the prime minister’s performance on Sunday. The Daily Mirror, traditionally a left-leaning newspaper, roared “A cheat & a coward,” alongside photos of a grinning Cummings and a sour-looking Johnson.
The paper noted that the prime minister endorsing seemingly flagrant lockdown breaches risks enabling the coronavirus to spread further in the UK. “Lockdown chaos will put lives at risk as gutless Johnson says Cummings OK to flout rules,” it writes.
Elsewhere, the Guardian said that Johnson has risked his political reputation by defending his aide, and the Independent homed in on his lack of answers at the press briefing, which left “a party divided and voters angry”.
It wasn’t all bad news for the PM, however, as the Daily Express largely focused on his press conference statement, and led with “Defiant Boris stands by his man.”
The Daily Telegraph, where Johnson used to work, also played a straighter bat, opting to use Johnson’s defence of Cummings in its headline, which read: “He has acted responsibly, legally and with integrity”.
However, even the prime minister’s former employer had to echo the political discontent, and the subhead noted cabinet unease about Johnson’s decision to back Cummings. The paper also ran an article about ministers’ alarm over a stance that “could cost lives”.
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