Boris Johnson did dump chief nurse from press briefing amid Dominic Cummings row

Boris Johnson did drop the chief nursing officer of England from a Downing Street briefing because she was critical of Dominic Cumming’s decision to break lockdown rules.

Ruth May, the chief nursing officer, confirmed that she was suddenly pulled from a media briefing at the height of the Cummings controversy.

She was not told why she was dropped from a scheduled appearance at the daily press conference but insisted it was common for experts to be “stepped up and stepped down” at short notice.

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In June it was reported that May had been excluded because in a rehearsal for the press conference she answered that Cummings had broken the rules by taking his family from London to Durham at the height of lockdown.

A few days earlier England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam issued a thinly-veiled criticism of Johnson’s chief adviser when he said the “rules apply to all”.

He then appeared far less frequently at the Downing Street podium.

In her first public appearance since the incident, May told the Commons Public Accounts Committee: “It is indeed true I was dropped from a briefing but that happens to many of my colleagues as well. That is a regular occurrence.”

The top nurse said she did not know why she had been dropped but she added: “People are stepped up and stepped down at short notice.”

When pressed by Labour’s Meg Hillier MP on her view on the lockdown rules and the actions of Cummings, May said: “I believe the rules were clear and they were there for everyone’s safety. They applied to us all.”

At the time Cummings was facing immense pressure to step down and Johnson sparked anger when he appeared to prevent Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance from answering a media question on the row at another press briefing.

The SNP said the Dominic Cummings scandal would continue to erode public trust in the Tory government.

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SNP Westminster Deputy Leader Kirsten Oswald MP said: “This latest revelation, that the Chief Nursing Officer was dropped from a public health briefing, after expressing legitimate concerns that the rules must apply to us all, shows just how far the Tories are willing to go to cover-up concerns and avoid taking any responsibility for their actions.

“If he had a shred of integrity, Boris Johnson would sack Mr Cummings and apologise for treating people with such contempt.”

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