Johnson’s top aide ‘not sorry’ over lockdown fiasco
Boris Johnson has warned his support for his right-hand man Dominic Cummings was not "unconditional" as pressure continues to build on his top adviser.
It comes as Mr Cummings refused to say sorry in a strident defence of his decision to drive more than 400km to his family's home during the UK's strict coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Johnson, who has been under pressure to sack Mr Cummings, said that he still backed him.
But when pushed, he added: "I can't give an unconditional backing to anybody. I do not believe anyone in No. 10 has done anything to undermine our messaging."
Mr Johnson was also asked if he did not sack Mr Cummings because he could not cope without him.
The grilling of Mr Johnson came after Mr Cummings fronted an extraordinary press conference trying to explain his actions.
The usually scruffy adviser turned up late where he read out a lengthy statement in a smart white shirt.
He was at pains to shore up his position, saying that he drove five hours to his parents' property in Durham to help with childcare because his wife was sick with coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Cummings also defended a 30-minute drive on a separate occasion, where he stopped for 15 minutes to sit by a river, because he said he needed to test whether his eyesight was strong enough to drive back to London to head to work.
He was asked if he thought the UK public was stupid for sticking to lockdown rules, and repeatedly quizzed on whether he regretted his actions and would he say sorry.
Mr Cummings, 48, stood his ground and claimed that some of the media reports about his actions were wrong
"I don't think there's one rule for other people, as I said I knew what the guidance was, it talks about exceptional circumstances with small children, and I believe I behaved reasonably and legally," he said.
Mr Cummings' main argument was that if both he and his wife were sick he did not have anyone to look after their four-year-old child.
His nieces, aged 17 and 21, lived on his parents' property in a separate house and had offered to look after their son in case of emergency.
Mr Cummings did come down with symptoms, and his son was taken to hospital after he was vomiting.
However, he did accept that he could have tried to get childcare from neighbours or friends instead of driving half way up the country.
Mr Cummings was also asked how he expected single parents with coronavirus to look after their children.
The relentless political adviser whose self belief and take no prisoners attitude was a key reason behind Brexit and Mr Johnson's landslide election win in December, was subdued, but not humbled.
"The rules explicitly say when you're living with small children you have to exercise your judgment," he said.
"I don't regret what I did. Reasonable people may well disagree about how I thought about what to do in these circumstances."
Mr Cummings also moaned about the media, saying that he had been heckled by his neighbours at his home in London because of incorrect reports.
He had been asked at off-the-record press briefings for weeks where he was when he was self isolating when he had coronavirus symptoms.
But he had refused to reveal his whereabouts.
He did finally concede that it "would have been better" if he had come clean earlier, instead of being forced into an extremely rare media conference.
Mr Johnson announced, amid the noise surrounding Mr Cummings, that outdoor shops would open on June 1, and all shops would open on June 15.
The UK has been locked down since March 23, and has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe.
Originally published as Johnson's top aide 'not sorry' over lockdown fiasco