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Johnson faces revolt for backing top aide

Johnson faces revolt for backing top aide
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been hit with a ministerial resignation and faces mounting backbench anger over the actions of his senior adviser, Dominic Cummings.
The parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland Douglas Ross says he is quitting after hearing Cummings' efforts to defend his trip from London to County Durham County Durham in northern England despite the coronavirus lockdown.
"I have constituents who didn't get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn't visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government," Ross said.
Dominic Cummings, senior aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, makes a statement inside 10 Downing Street, London. (AP)
"I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right."
Ross's resignation on Tuesday came as cabinet minister Michael Gove sought to defend Cummings as having acted in an "entirely reasonable" way, and within the law.
Downing Street insisted Johnson had not split the government by backing Cummings amid concerns over how the decision will affect the public, police and health workers during the pandemic.
But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio his own postbag showed many people disagree with Cummings' actions, and he could not rule out further ministerial resignations.
There was fury on the Conservative Party benches as MPs reflected on correspondence from constituents.
Tory MP Simon Jupp suggested Cummings should consider his position, saying he has felt "anger, disappointment and frustration" during the "deeply unhelpful distraction".
Former chief whip Mark Harper said Cummings "should have offered to resign, and the prime minister should have accepted his resignation".
Ex-minister Stephen Hammond was also critical of the decision to back Cummings.
"Public adherence to the rules is achieved by consent in this country and that is made much harder if people feel it is one rule for them and another for senior government advisers," he said.
William Wragg, Tory chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said it was "humiliating" to see ministers defending Cummings.
"We cannot throw away valuable public and political goodwill any longer," he said.
Boris Johnson. (Getty)
In an extraordinary press conference in Downing Street's garden on Monday, Cummings argued his journey to Durham in March was justified as he sought to protect his family's health.
But many questions remained unanswered, including over his subsequent drive to local beauty spot Barnard Castle, which he said was to test his eyesight after it was affected by COVID-19.
Gove said the trip was completely appropriate but former Greater Manchester Police chief constable Sir Peter Fahy said officers had become frustrated by the fiasco, which may hinder policing, with the rules "now very confused".
Experts at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and Moorfields Eye Hospital said there was little evidence to link COVID-19 to eyesight problems.
Some 71 per cent of Britons believe Cummings broke the lockdown and 59 per cent think he should resign, according to a snap poll of 1160 adults by YouGov.
© AAP 2020