Bishops turn on Boris Johnson for defending Dominic Cummings

Church of England bishops have fired a volley of unprecedented criticism at Boris Johnson over his defence of actions taken by his chief aide, Dominic Cummings. One suggested the church could decline to work with the government during the coronavirus crisis “unless we see clear repentance, including the sacking of Cummings”.

More than a dozen bishops questioned the integrity of the prime minister following his press conference on Sunday, in which he refused to acknowledge that Cummings had breached lockdown rules when he travelled with his infected wife and their child to Durham.

The bishops said Johnson’s defence was “risible”, that he had “no respect for the people”, “lacked integrity”, and risked undermining the trust of the public. Pete Broadbent, the bishop of Willesden, tweeted: “Johnson has now gone the full Trump.”

The first bishop to go public in criticising the prime minister was Nick Baines, the bishop of Leeds, who told the Observer: “People across the country have sacrificed hugely in order to obey both the spirit and word of government advice. People have missed being with family members who have died. But, now we learn that there is one rule for the people and another for No 10 and the elite.”

After Johnson’s comments on Sunday, Baines tweeted: “The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs? The moral question is not for Cummings – it is for PM and ministers/MPs who find this behaviour acceptable. What are we to teach our children? (I ask as a responsible father.)”

The Church of England could decide to review its work with the government during the pandemic, said David Walker, the bishop of Manchester. “Unless very soon we see clear repentance, including the sacking of Cummings, I no longer know how we can trust what ministers say sufficiently for @churchofengland to work together with them on the pandemic.”

The bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, whose diocese covers the Cummings family farm, said: “There will be those in Durham who defend #Boris for his standing by #DominicCummngs. But most who have worked so hard to abide by the rules and guidance of the past weeks will feel hurt, angry, & let down. Trust has been broken. For the nation’s sake rebuild it quickly.”

John Inge, the bishop of Worcester, said: “The PM’s risible defence of Cummings is an insult to all those who have made such sacrifices to ensure the safety of others.”

Vivienne Faull, the bishop of Bristol, tweeted: “Day 61 #livingdifferently in a nation where the PM has no respect for the people. The bonds of peace and our common life (which had been wonderfully strengthened during the testing by CV-19) have been dangerously undermined this evening.”

The bishop of Ripon, Helen-Ann Hartley, said: “Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay.

“My parents live in Durham, an hour away from where we live. My father finished radiotherapy treatment just before lockdown. I’ve missed his birthday, Mothering Sunday and countless other catch-ups that would have happened. And that’s a fraction of a story compared with others.”

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, pointed out that millions of people had followed government advice, “stayed at home, coping with difficulty, did the right thing and still do. Vulnerable people are alive today because of the self-discipline of so many. I thank God for their integrity … It is not good enough to treat the people of this country like sheep who can be fooled.”

The bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, said: “I am deeply troubled tonight by the prime minister’s briefing. We can forgive mistakes and poor judgment and can understand and admire loyalty but forgiveness and understanding need openness and we did not see this tonight.”

Pete Wilcox, the bishop of Sheffield, said:I don’t usually tweet politics, and I have carefully steered clear during the pandemic. But tonight I must say: the PM & his cabinet are undermining the trust of the electorate and the risks to life are real.”

The bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham, said she was “deeply worried by the PM’s judgment call on this one. Not from a political perspective but a moral one. His response lacks both integrity and respect and he has just made his task of leading us through this crisis much, much harder.”

Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, said: “In this country, government and the rule of law depend largely and rightly on the principle of consent. But that depends in turn on the consistency, integrity & impartiality of govt and the application of the law. That is now hugely strained. A moment of real and serious concern.”

Emma Ineson, the bishop of Penrith, commented: “Goodness, Dominic Cummings must be really, really valuable to Johnson to be worth what he’s just risked by backing him ie the trust of the British people.

Read More