Dominic Cummings has admitted that he did not “tell the full story” about his lockdown trip to Durham, saying that security threats against his family were the reason they left London.
Last May he explained in a statement in Downing Street’s rose garden that he made the trip to stay at his father’s property on 27 March after his wife fell ill, concerned that he might soon fall ill himself.
Mr Cummings added that he then drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight after experiencing loss of vision due to coronavirus before making the journey to London to return to work.
Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, he stuck to his Barnard Castle explanation, saying that if he wanted to lie about it “I would have come up with a better story”.
But he also expanded on his reasons for the trip to Durham and said he was “extremely sorry” about the episode and that it was “definitely a major disaster for the government and for the COVID policy”.
Mr Cummings said in last February his wife had told him there was a gang outside the family home “saying they’re going to break into the house and kill everybody inside”.
It was decided with the Cabinet Office after that – combined with press coverage which prompted more threats – that he would move his family out of London to his parents’ home in County Durham regardless of lockdown rules.
He said that after his trip was reported by newspapers, “the prime minister and I agreed that because of the security things, we would basically just stonewall the story and not say anything about it”.
He added: “I was extremely mindful of the problem that when you talk about these things, you cause more trouble for yourself, and I’d already put my wife and child in the firing line on it.
“So I said, I’m not talking about this, we should shut our mouths about it.”
However, he said the PM came under pressure to explain and it was agreed the press conference would be called, but Mr Cummings said he made the “terrible, terrible, terrible mistake” of not sending his family out of London again and telling the whole truth.
“I ended up giving the whole rose garden thing where what I said was true, but we left out a kind of crucial part of it all,” he said.
“And it just… the whole thing was a complete disaster and the truth is – and then it undermined public confidence in the whole thing – the truth is, if I just, when the prime minister said on a Monday, ‘we can’t hold this line, we’re going to have to explain things’, if I just basically sent my family back out of London and said here’s the truth to the public, I think people would have understood the situation.
“It was a terrible misjudgement not to do that. So I take … the prime minister got that wrong, I got that wrong.”