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Cummings’ neighbours under siege in storm over lockdown drive

Chaos as media and protesters gather in Islington street where the under-fire PM’s aide lives

29 May, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Photographers and police officers outside Dominic Cummings’ home during chaotic scenes this week

NEIGHBOURS of Dominic Cummings say their street has become “like Oxford Circus” as the media and protesters attempt to confront the prime minister’s under-fire special adviser.

Mr Cummings, who is Boris Johnson’s top aide, has faced huge public anger this week after it was revealed that he drove 260 miles from his home in a street off Essex Road to his father’s estate in Durham during the lockdown.

He was accused of hypocrisy and contempt for the rules he had helped to write, as he confirmed he had left London on March 27.

He said he became concerned about childcare for his four-year-old son after his wife, the Spectator writer Mary Wakefield, developed coronavirus symptoms and Mr Cummings feared he would also fall ill.

Mr Cummings faces the media outside his home

Images of the former Vote Leave campaign director wading through reporters and photographers as he tries to leave his house each morning have dominated media coverage since the Guardian and the Mirror broke the story on Friday.

Many neighbours have been left baffled by the new-found interest in their street.

Nicky Borland, who grew up in the street off Essex Road and moved back in December last year, told the Tribune: “This road at times is busier now than the main roads at the top with people jogging up and down.

“There has always been joggers, but nowhere near as many as there have been in the last week. It’s like Oxford Circus out there at times. Then there’s also increased traffic in the streets.”

He added: “To be honest I didn’t even know Dominic Cummings lived here until I looked on the TV on the weekend and saw my house.”

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “A lot of the paparazzi are not social distancing here and I know they get around, and so potentially you have got a risk of a Covid-19 hotspot in the street if one of them decides to come down here. This whole situation is not good.”

A screen outside Mr Cummings’ home plays footage of coronavirus sufferers

Mr Cummings, who was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Uncivil War, a film about the Brexit campaign, gave a statement on Monday about his actions in late March and early April, in response to the accusations that have been levelled against him.

But his decision to speak out led to further scorn and frustration as many said they did not believe his account, including his claim that he went to Barnard Castle, a popular beauty spot, on his wife’s birthday to test his eyesight.

Members of the Canonbury Mutual Aid group, which has been offering support to families and vulnerable residents in Islington since the lockdown began, said they would have been happy to help Mr Cummings if he and his wife were incapacitated.

Nashira Haston, one of the group’s coordinators, said: “We will always try to help anybody, regardless of immigration status, religion, political party or anything else.

Mr Cummings delivering his statement at Downing Street

“It has been disappointing to see a member of our community break the lockdown rules, especially when we have been supporting their neighbours over the past few months.

“This group, as with other Mutual Aid groups in Islington, was set up to support our neighbours and to limit the spread of the virus.”

The chaotic scenes in the street have also seen protesters park a large screen showing footage of people telling how they rigidly stuck to the lockdown rules to the extent that they had not gone to loved ones’ funerals.

In his statement on Monday, given behind a desk set up in Downing Street’s rose garden, Mr Cummings said: “I believe that in all circumstances I behaved reasonably and legally, balancing the safety of my family and the extreme situation in number 10, and the public interest in effective government to which I could contribute.

“I was involved in decisions affecting millions of people, and I thought that I should try to help as much as I could do. I can understand that some people will argue that I should have stayed at my home in London throughout.

“I understand these views. I know the intense hardship and sacrifice that the entire country has had to go through. However, I respectfully disagree.

“The legal rules inevitably do not cover all circumstances, including those that I found myself in.”

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