I have had a large correspondence about Dominic Cummings, overwhelmingly hostile with only about 25% in support of his actions and determination to remain in office.
I have hitherto responded by saying that I will pass the views expressed on to Number 10.
I understand the indignation and genuine disappointment evident in much of my correspondence from people who have often, at great personal cost, observed the lockdown and now perceive that, despite that sacrifice, there was one rule for them and another for the powerful –and that is the essential charge, with I must address.
(Far too much of the correspondence however, has been filled with bile, sarcasm and hatred. As for the media coverage, there is nothing less edifying than the public demonstrations of the self-righteous.)
Anyone who has followed my blogs and my speech in Parliament will have realised by now that I was deeply opposed to the lockdown in the first place. I believe that it will have significantly added to the economic damage that the virus has inflicted, and I believe that it is an affront to our liberty.
So much of the correspondence that I have received reinforces the lockdown’s cruelty in preventing people visiting loved ones, when -in my estimate- sensible precautions would have enabled them to do so with very low risk.
From the outset people have sought my advice. Now, generally, whilst I’m happy to give an opinion, I don’t give advice: I point out that I’m not qualified to give advice, and that I don’t have professional indemnity insurance for when it turns out that I’ve given bad advice.
During the lockdown however, I have abandoned that caution. It was clear that there was a significant difference between public perceptions of the demands of the lockdown regulations and what the regulations actually state, a difference often reinforced by guidance given by officials.
I sought to be helpful by publishing the regulations on my website.
I was then besieged by requests for advice from people genuinely struggling to understand how their needs were affected. Principally, their enquiries were about whether they were permitted to continue working, but they covered the whole range of activity from where they could exercise and how often, even could they still move house. I was happy to accommodate them by pointing where they could use their discretion and common sense in interpreting the rules and the guidance.
Then, someone facing a dilemma somewhat similar to that faced by Dominic Cummings asked for my advice, and I told him that what he proposed to do, seemed reasonable to me in the circumstances -particularly so, given the guidance of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the daily press conference on 24th March.
So, on the central charge of one rule for Cummings and one for the rest of us, I cannot condemn him.