The Prime Minister said he had no idea his then-chief of staff had driven to County Durham during the early days of the first Covid lockdown, with his wife and child in tow, in an apparent breach of regulations.
Mr Cummings said the drive to picturesque Barnard Castle on April 12, 2020 – wife Mary Wakefield’s 45th birthday – was to test his eyesight before driving home, having spent the previous fortnight at a house on his parents’ farm.
The family had initially left home in London on the day Mr Johnson was diagnosed with Covid over fears both Mr Cummings and his wife could fall sick and struggle to look after their young son, it was said. A year later, Mr Cummings told MPs they fled the capital due to security threats.
The revelation of the lockdown-busting trip caused a huge scandal, but Mr Cummings was able to cling to his job after he held an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street garden and was publicly backed by the PM.
Boris Johnson labelled Dominic Cummings (right) a ‘total and utter liar’ over his infamous Barnard Castle trip
The Prime Minister said he had no idea his then-chief of staff had driven to County Durham during the early days of the first Covid lockdown
In July 2021, more than six months after his acrimonious departure from Downing Street, Mr Cummings gave an interview to the BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg, claiming his former boss knew all about the trip.
WhatsApp messages from the time, released for the first time at the Covid Inquiry yesterday, revealed Mr Johnson’s anger at such a suggestion.
Mr Johnson told Jack Doyle, then the Downing Street director of communications: ‘Cummings a total and utter liar.
‘He never told me he had gone to Durham during lockdown. I only discovered when the stories started to come out about Barnard Castle etc.
Mr Cummings said the drive to picturesque Barnard Castle (pictured) on April 12, 2020 – wife Mary Wakefield’s 45th birthday – was to test his eyesight before driving home
‘He later claimed that he had told me but that my brain was so fogged by Covid that I didn’t register.’
Hugo Keith KC, counsel to the inquiry, challenged Mr Cummings on discrepancies between his witness statements and Mr Johnson’s WhatsApp messages.
An uncomfortable Mr Cummings said the handling of the fallout over the trip by Downing Street was an ‘absolute car crash’ and ‘did cause a lot of people pain’. But he refused to acknowledge that his apparent breach of the rules ’caused immeasurable offence and additional pain to the bereaved’.