A very large number of constituents have contacted me to ask my views on Dominic Cummings. I have read fully each of the emails sent to me and I have been responding with the following email.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I have been struck by just how many emails I have received from constituents about the actions taken by Mr Cummings and the strength of sentiment.
Most emails contained strong criticisms. The words used by constituents to express their feeling “disgust”, “incensed”, “disgraceful, “shameful”, “anger” convey clearly how deeply hurtful this revelation has been for them.
Many constituents included personal stories of sacrifice and loss; a number sharing the searing pain of bereavement in this extraordinary period of isolation and confinement. I have read fully each of the emails sent to me.
Perhaps I can share some of my own experience of lockdown. Like most people, I have followed the guidance. My father is 90 and lives alone. During the lockdown we learned that his brother, my uncle, had died. I did not visit him. As for many others, these circumstances created great anxiety.
As your MP I want to be able to look you and other constituents in the eye when discussing why I voted for the special measures, and how they have been carried out, knowing that you and I are in this with the same understanding, and with the same shared goal.
Ultimately the decision regarding Mr Cummings’ role is one for the Prime Minister and he has made clear his point of view. I understand and accept the decision of the Prime Minister. Notwithstanding this, I have a duty as your MP to convey the opinions of my constituents to the Prime Minister and have done so.
Some constituents stated explicitly that they expect a higher standard from public officials. I agree. Over the lockdown period, we have had a series of officials who have been found to have broken the rules: in a sense, we have been here before.
My approach has been to look at each case individually – was the transgression rank hypocrisy, was it bending the rules but understandable for human reasons, or was it a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the rules? Quite rightly in this country we expect our leaders to “do as they say”, but equally, I would hope, we can be fair and compassionate when needed.
I see this as an individual making what he considered to be the best decisions for his family at a difficult time. He made decisions to deal with immediate circumstances exercising his judgement. With the benefit of hindsight, and now being well, perhaps he might have made different decisions, but I am not prepared to condemn him for the actions he took. Nobody in public life deserves a “free pass” but if we want humanity in our politics, we need to understand our leaders are human.
The explanation of this human dilemma has not been communicated in such a manner as to heal the hurt that has been felt. An apology is not always needed as a concession that you did something wrong but sometimes to show that you understand the pain to others that may have been caused.
I am aware that my view on this matter will not rest easily with some who wrote to me. However, I feel that a sense of humanity has been lacking in our political discourse for years now. Different sides of an argument rage against the other; always stating their opinion, rarely if ever listening to the other side. Having a discourse and accepting different conclusions is not weak, it is the foundation for progress.
To draw inspiration from a literary character, Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” and “the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Let me close by reaffirming that I have passed on to the Prime Minister the comments by constituents such as yourself and the emotional force behind many of them.