Boris Johnson is coming under growing pressure to sack his top advisor amid claims the 48-year-old made two separate trips from London to County Durham, where his family lives, despite stringent lockdown restrictions. Furious Tory MPs have called for Mr Johnson to lead the daily Downing Street press conference today to explain what went on and politicians from all sides are demanding an investigation into Mr Cummings’ behaviour.
But Mr Peston believes such a move could buy Mr Cummings some time as it is unlikely he would be dismissed while a Whitehall probe was under way.
Mr Peston tweeted: “There is a last play to keep Cummings in post in face of pressure from Tory MPs for him to go, but Cummings confident he did nothing wrong – which is to ask Cabinet Secretary to investigate, as requested by Labour.
“My bet is that’s what will happen. With everything else going on, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill would love that, I am sure.”
Conservative MPs have ramped up pressure on Mr Johnson to dispense with Mr Cummings’s services after fresh allegations he broke lockdown rules more than once.
Backbench Tories, including prominent 1922 Committee member Steve Baker, said Mr Cummings “must go”.
But the advisor denied the fresh allegations that he returned to Durham in April, weeks after his initial time spent self-isolating in the region.
When asked outside his London home earlier today if he had been back to Durham in April, Mr Cummings said: “No, I did not.”
He then made his way to Downing Street.
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The Prime Minister pledged his “full support” to Mr Cummings after it emerged he had travelled 260 miles to the North East in March to self-isolate with his family while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys.
Mr Johnson told allies he would not throw Mr Cummings “to the dogs” following reports he made the journey to ensure his four-year-old child could be looked after as he and his wife were ill.
But according to reports in the Observer and Sunday Mirror, the former Vote Leave campaign co-ordinator made a second trip to Durham and was seen there on April 19 – five days after being photographed on his return to Westminster.
A second witness told the papers they saw him a week earlier in Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, a popular tourist location 30 miles from Durham, during the period he was believed to be self-isolating.
Downing Street has said it would “not waste time” replying to the fresh allegations from “campaigning newspapers”.
But Mr Baker told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “If he doesn’t resign, we’ll just keep burning through Boris’s political capital at a rate we can ill afford in the midst of this crisis.
“It is very clear that Dominic travelled when everybody else understood Dominic’s slogans to mean ‘stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’.”