Remember: Extraordinary EDDC Meetings Today at 5.00pm and 5.30pm

These meeting are being recorded by EDDC for subsequent publication on the Council’s
website and will be streamed live to the Council’s Youtube Channel

Agenda for an Extraordinary Virtual meeting of the Council

Thursday, 28th May, 2020, 5.00 pm

Motion: to determine whether to hold a meeting to elect positions

‘Should the Council hold an Extraordinary General Meeting on 8th June 2020 at

6pm to elect the positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council.’

Agenda for an Extraordinary Virtual meeting of the Council

Thursday, 28th May, 2020, 5.30pm

Motion: to elect a Leader and receive the Leader’s appointments

‘Following the resignation of Cllr Ben Ingham as the Leader that the Council elect

a new Leader for the remainder of the civic year and that Council receive the

Leader’s appointments of the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet and their Portfolios’.

Owl is adding as a footnote the comment Angie East made on the recent post concerning Cllr. Mike Davies’ resignation from the Conservatives in West Devon over Boris Johnson’s backing for Dominic Cummings’ “no regrets, no apology”. Cllr. Davies is a former Mayor of West Devon Borough Council.

Her comment reads:

Well done, Cllr MIke Davies.
A man of principle.
What will it take for principles, integrity and responsibility to be recognised and valued by our Prime Minister?

Well, how about if a few of our Conservative Councillors at EDDC took a leaf out of Cllr Davies’ book?

I’m not talking about the ones who will always be self-serving, always be ‘back -your-chums- no-matter-what’ animals.
There ARE some Conservative Councillors at EDDC who are really highly principled, put their public first and don’t always toe the party line.
I’d suggest that now is the time for them to choose to be Independent.

THREE cliff falls in Sidmouth within 24 hours

The cliffs in Sidmouth have yet again toppled into the water, creating a huge cloud of dust. Owl has also received reports that there have been at least two falls seen in Budleigh.

See the devonlive article for photos.

Chloe Parkman 

Three cliff fall’s have occurred within the space of just 24 hours in a Devon town.

The cliffs in Sidmouth have yet again toppled into the water, creating a huge cloud of dust.

Two of the landslides occurred today (May 27), one during the morning at around 8.45am and the other around 2pm.

Residents are remain on the beach, despite being so close to the dangerous crumbling cliffs.

Yesterday (May 26), a key-worker witnessed a landslide during his shift around midday.

Local resident Ray Moseley, 58, said: “I was walking along York Street with my wife this morning.

“We stopped to have a look around and take in the view when we notice a large cloud of dust.”

The 58-year old is unsure as to how much of the cliff face toppled due to being a fair distance away from the scene, but believes that it must have been a substantial amount to create a plume of dust.

There have been several reports of Sidmouth’s cliffs crumbling into the sea this year.

Ray adds: “If you look closely, there are cracks all the way along the cliff face.

“It is ridiculous the amount of people you see walking near to them, they just ignore the signs.  It is extremely dangerous.

“I think it is only a matter of time until something really serious happens.”

Clear signage is displayed near to the cliffs, warning the public of the dangers.

Another resident, Verity Graves-Morris, 37, was on the beach when she witnessed a cliff fall in Sidmouth at around 2pm today (May 27).

Verity said: “I heard a grumbling noise.

“When I turned around there was a large cloud of red dust.

“Other people on the beach also saw it, but they have continued to walk around near to where it fell.”

A spokesperson for East Devon County Council (EDDC), said: “It is not physically possible to stop the public entering East Beach below the cliffs, however to gain access they must pass several warning signs advising them of the danger and lack of an alternate exit point.”

Ian Barlow, Chair of Sidmouth Town Council, said: “At this time of year as the cliff dries out it is very usual to have more falls which we are now experiencing.

“Until EDDC Beach Management Committee are able to put the larger plan into place to protect the cliffs we would, in my opinion, support emergency actions to help slow the natural process.

“However, to date no emergency action plans have been proposed by them.”

A spokesperson for EDDC said: ““Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although periods of heavy rainfall such as the wettest February on record and now a long dry period, can cause an increase rate of falls.

“The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) scheme aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth Beach, and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs to the East of the town (and therefore the rate of exposure of the East side of Sidmouth to coastal conditions).

“It cannot , however, stop cliff falls. In fact, many of the recent cliff falls are beyond the area the BMP will protect, occurring further East on National Trust land.”

A Beach Management Scheme for the town which aims to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is in place.

The scheme which costs somewhere in the region of £8.7million, is now moving to the next stage after the funding gap was bridged earlier this month.

Ian Barlow adds: “For now the simple message is unchanged from previous years keep off east beach it is dangerous .

“We are lucky to have miles of beaches around with the best water quality available for people to enjoy the seaside safely even with social distancing!”

The Conservative MPs calling for Dominic Cummings to go

The number of Conservative MPs calling for Dominic Cummings to resign in recent days has swelled, with the chief aide to the prime minister’s appearance at the press conference on Monday failing to stop more coming out against his actions.

Rowena Mason

The 44 Tory MPs who have said Cummings should resign or be sacked

  • George Freeman Mid Norfolk
  • Douglas Ross Moray
  • Harriett Baldwin West Worcestershire
  • Roger Gale North Thanet
  • Martin Vickers Cleethorpes
  • Peter Bone Wellingborough
  • Robert Goodwill Scarborough and Whitby
  • Paul Maynard Blackpool North and Cleveleys
  • Mark Pawsey Rugby
  • Robert Syms Poole
  • Tim Loughton East Worthing and Shoreham
  • Jason McCartney Colne Valley
  • Peter Aldous Waveney
  • John Stevenson Carlisle
  • Caroline Nokes Romsey and Southampton North
  • Damian Collins Folkestone and Hythe
  • Philip Davies Shipley
  • Julian Sturdy York Outer
  • Alec Shelbrooke Elmet and Rothwell
  • Mark Harper Forest of Dean
  • Stephen Hammond Wimbledon
  • Simon Hoare North Dorset
  • Simon Jupp East Devon
  • David Warburton Somerton and Frome
  • Jeremy Wright Kenilworth and Southam
  • Mark Garnier Wyre Forest
  • Andrew Percy Brigg and Goole
  • Elliot Colburn Carshalton and Wallington
  • Jackie Doyle Price Thurrock
  • Bob Neill Bromley and Chislehurst
  • Laurence Robertson Tewkesbury
  • James Gray North Wiltshire
  • Craig Whittaker Calder Valley
  • Robert Largan High Peak
  • Andrew Selous South West Bedfordshire
  • Duncan Baker North Norfolk
  • Bob Stewart Beckenham
  • Andrew Jones Harrogate and Knaresborough
  • David Simmonds Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
  • Giles Watling Clacton
  • Pauline Latham Mid Derbyshire
  • Henry Smith Crawley
  • Stephen Metcalfe South Basildon and East Thurrock
  • Royston Smith Southampton Itchen

The 17 Tory MPs critical of Cummings, but who stop short of calling for him to go

  • Penny Mordaunt Portsmouth North
  • Sajid Javid Bromsgrove
  • Richard Holden North West Durham
  • Dehenna Davison Bishop Auckland
  • Paul Howell Sedgefield
  • Christian Wakeford Bury South
  • Fiona Bruce Congleton
  • Mike Freer Finchley and Golders Green
  • Tom Tugendhat Tonbridge and Malling
  • Robert Halfon Harlow
  • Craig Mackinlay South Thanet
  • Jeremy Hunt South West Surrey
  • William Wragg Hazel Grove
  • Jonathan Gullis Stoke-on-Trent North
  • Steve Brine Winchester
  • Damian Green Ashford
  • Alicia Kearns Rutland and Melton

“Do it for your loved ones, your community, and the NHS.”

Matt Hancock has just tweeted this message in advance of tomorrow’s launch of a “Test, Track and Trace” system. A central part of this will be an “instruction” that those who are informed that have been in contact with anyone showing signs of Covid-19 must go home immediately and self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms.

This is identical to the “instruction” in force when Dominic Cummings chose: to race home; check on his wife who he thought was showing symptoms (thereby becoming a contact himself); return to the office; go back home then drive his sick wife and son to Durham. The only difference, then, was that the self-isolation period was only 7 days.

Dominic Cummings told us on Monday that what he did was justified because he was protecting his loved ones. He didn’t seem to care much about the community or the NHS . He has no regrets and has made no apology.

Are they all mocking us?

Nothing to see here – Time to move on.


We were promised 100,000 tests by end April, rising to 200,000 by the end of May

These targets are arbitrary but of the Government’s making.

A correspondent has taken great trouble in providing Owl with the following article on how the figures on Coronavirus test are being “massaged” to fit a political narrative. The number of tests should be a straightforward matter of fact. Unfortunately they are not.

This is particularly relevant tonight, as Boris Johnson “surprises” the nation with an earlier than expected announcement of the start of a “test, track, trace and isolate” system. Owl believes this is to distract us from Dominic Cummings – “nothing to see here, time to move on”.

The launch looks to be premature: the NHSX phone app is still under development; testing capacity cannot possibly meet Boris’ new target of 200,000 by June 1, and the results are taking far too long to process. And there are accounts of those recruited to track and trace having little or no training.

Regrettably, It is yet another example of the Government launching new initiatives by megaphone then failing to deliver, when what we need is a Government we can believe in and trust.

People might react to messaging and spin but a virus is completely unaffected.

The correspondent writes:

I regard More or Less as one of the best programmes on Radio 4 because it’s devoted to an accurate analysis of various statistical claims. However, there is one that is  particularly interesting at the moment because it takes apart the government’s claims to have reached the declared target of 100,000 Coronavirus tests per day. (All the material included below was taken from More or Less BBC Radio 4 20 May 2020.)

On 15 May the government claimed that 136,486 Coronavirus tests were completed. I think most of us would read that as meaning that 136,486 people were tested. Unfortunately that is not the case: only 43,298 people were tested for diagnostic reasons. The other 93,188 claimed tests included home testing kits sent out, whether or not they were completed;  tests done for research purposes; and multiple tests done on the same patients – multiple tests done for very good reasons but nevertheless carried out on one patient. In fact, each person tested at a drive-in centre was counted twice in the government’s daily figures because each of those tests involved spitting into a container (one test) and taking a swab from inside the same person’s nose (one test). So these represent two tests within the government’s figures.

The programme shows that the real figure of tests done is less than one third of what the government was suggesting with its figure.

It’s a 30 minute programme which deals with other statistical claims but if you’re only interested in the conclusions relating to the number of tests claimed to have been done each day, they are around the 16 minute mark. The reporter explains some of the key points.

Why are non-diagnostic tests a source of distortion? “While these tests are potentially giving vital information about the prevalence of the disease, the Department of Health and Social care say they aren’t being used to diagnose cases. The government itself doesn’t count people who receive these tests as people who have been tested. Nevertheless, these non-diagnostic tests are being added to the figures and they’re what’s making it possible for the government to keep claiming that the target has been hit. […] If you remove the posted kits because we don’t know how many were actually carried out and the research kits because the government itself doesn’t count those as people tested, then on the fifteenth of May we go from the government’s figure of 136,486 tests to only 69,900 which we know were actually carried out for diagnostic purposes.” What about the number of people tested? “Of the 69,900 tests we know were done on the fifteenth of May, they were done on 43,298 people.”

So the government’s figures are a combination of sleight of hand (including testing kits sent out whether or not they were used and multiple tests on individuals) combined with straightforward misdirection (including in the reported figure tests which the government itself does not regard as people tested).

The full programme is available here:

Why are Clinton Devon Estates felling trees during the bird nesting season?

A correspondent has sent this “letter” to Owl, but asks to remain anonymous.

“It will probably come as no surprise, but I have just witnessed Clinton Devon Estates felling diseased ash trees on Dotton Lane between Newton Poppleford and Colaton Raleigh.

I appreciate these trees have to be felled to control the problem, in fact I believe the estate has allocated a seven figure sum to deal with this over the next few years.

What I don’t approve of is the fact it is in the middle of the bird nesting season. The reason the work is being undertaken now is probably for easier identification, wonder why they cannot just mark the diseased trees and fell them when they are dormant in the Winter.

It is not the first time they have shown scant regard for wildlife is it!

I have been very pro the estate over the years, sadly not so much now.”

(Owl will never forget the sagas of the Estate’s past cavalier attitude to bats and slow-worms)


Decision-making delays leave seafront regeneration plans in limbo

“At Thursday’s scrutiny committee meeting, Cllr Cathy Gardner, chairman of the committee, confirmed the marketing exercise remains on hold until full council and cabinet have met.

Any decision over the future of the Queen’s Drive site is, under the constitution of the council, one for the cabinet to make.

They will have the option of accepting the recommendation of scrutiny and full council, or if they chose, are entitled to stick with their original decision.”

That there is no Cabinet is down to an indefensible decision made by EDDC ‘s Conservative Chairman, Stuart Hughes.

Owl reminds readers that Chairman Stuart Hughes cancelled the May Annual Meeting after Ben Ingham’s coalition with the Conservatives lost its majority. This is the meeting at which a new administration could have taken over in a smooth transition. Clearly a political decision.

The powerless Leader, Ben Ingham, subsequently “resigned” the Cabinet on 18th May. This week, in a bizarre choreography, a series of extraordinary meetings will be held, some to decide whether to have another meeting to decide, on electing a new administration.

The future of Exmouth seafront will remain in limbo for several more months following delays over decision-making as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is now more than eight years since East Devon District Council (EDDC) released its plans for an ambitious redevelopment scheme for the seafront.

The current plans to redevelop Exmouth seafront include a high-quality waterfront restaurant, an 80-bedroom hotel, as well as an area for play and leisure uses.

But those plans have faced delays – the latest following the council’s scrutiny committee in March agreeing that a panel ratifying the selection criteria for marketing it to developers was not properly balanced.

The scrutiny committee sent its recommendation over the constitution of the panel to full council to debate, before it will go back to the cabinet for a final decision.

At Thursday’s scrutiny committee meeting, Cllr Cathy Gardner, chairman of the committee, confirmed the marketing exercise remains on hold until full council and cabinet have met.

Any decision over the future of the Queen’s Drive site is, under the constitution of the council, one for the cabinet to make.

They will have the option of accepting the recommendation of scrutiny and full council, or if they chose, are entitled to stick with their original decision.

Initially it had been hoped that bids would be received and reviewed this month, with a recommendation on a preferred developer/operator in July, but that timescale will now be delayed.

It means that the earliest that the marketing exercise can begin, subject to cabinet approval to continue with the project, is not likely to be until the end of June.

But following the resignation of Cllr Ben Ingham as the leader of the council, a new administration will be in charge for the council following Thursday’s extraordinary full council meeting, and they may take a different view on how the seafront should be developed.

Time though is running out for a final decision to be made as the attractions for the Queen’s Drive space – the replacement for the former Fun Park – only have permission to stay on the site until March 2022.

Three more Covid-19 deaths recorded in East Devon – with none in Exeter for second week running

The latest ONS statistic show a total of 41 Covid-19-related deaths have now been recorded in East Devon. Thirteen of them have been in hospital, 26 in care homes, and two at home.

East Devon Reporter 

Three further coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in East Devon from May 9 -15 – with none in Exeter for the second week running.

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures published today (Tuesday, May 26) show one of the fatalities was in a care home, one in hospital, and one at home.

Figures relate to deaths that occurred in the seven-day period, but were registered up to May 23.

The latest ONS statistic show a total of 41 Covid-19-related deaths have now been recorded in East Devon. Thirteen of them have been in hospital, 26 in care homes, and two at home.

In Exeter, the total remains at 37. These include 15 in hospital, 20 in care homes, and two at home.

The total number of people who have died across Devon due to the virus now stands at 317.

The ONS figures include people who have died at home, in hospital, in care homes, hospices, ‘other’ communal places, or ‘elsewhere’.

They are broken down by the local authority area in which the deaths were registered.

A total of 15 people have now died in Mid Devon due to the virus, 23 in North Devon, and 15 in West Devon.

Elsewhere in the county, a total of 72 deaths have been recorded in Plymouth, 54 in Torbay, 12 in the South Hams, 30 in Teignbridge and 18 in Torridge.

One-hundred-and-ninety deaths have been recorded in Cornwall.

As Covid-19 decimates our confidence in care homes, what are the alternatives? 

“No one questions the extraordinary dedication and bravery of care home workers, or overlooks the majority of homes that have remained virus-free. But the sector will clearly struggle to fill the beds left empty by, so far more than 12,000 virus-related deaths of residents in England and Wales. That’s the official number, other calculations put the figure at possibly twice that in reality – on top of the usual pre-crisis number of daily deaths of almost 400.”

David Brindle, public services editor 

What is the outlook for care homes? Polling suggests 31% of us are less likely to seek residential care for an older relative in light of coronavirus. Among people aged 65 or over, 40% are less likely to consider it for themselves.

No one questions the extraordinary dedication and bravery of care home workers, or overlooks the majority of homes that have remained virus-free. But the sector will clearly struggle to fill the beds left empty by, so far more than 12,000 virus-related deaths of residents in England and Wales. That’s the official number, other calculations put the figure at possibly twice that in reality – on top of the usual pre-crisis number of daily deaths of almost 400.

Many staff have performed miracles to try to sustain the vibrant, warm culture that can be found in the best homes. But no amount of reassuring video contact with family, or whooping drive-bys, can obscure the truth that more than 400,000 older or disabled people are isolated indefinitely in environments ideal for a virus to let rip if it gains a foothold.

Some families have been making efforts to extricate relatives from residential settings – far from easy, especially if the individual is subject to safeguarding measures – but few are calling to inquire about admission. Home managers are watching anxiously as occupancy rates slip further below the 87% reported in January, which is reckoned to be around the minimum for profitability. Homes with greater reliance on state-funded residents, for whom fees are relatively low, need a still higher numbers of residents.

Sector analysts Carterwood calculates that average occupancy will drift down to 79% by April next year. Not until October 2022, or possibly September 2023 depending on any second or third waves of the virus, will the rate return to 87%. The forecasts assume, perhaps optimistically, availability of a vaccine by May 2021.

While a drop of eight percentage points may not seem dramatic, operating surpluses lie mainly in that margin. More than eight in 10 of the UK’s 477,000 care home beds are provided by for-profit companies but, contrary to popular belief, most homes are not run by large operators with controversial financial practices: a study in 2018 showed that while the then nine leading companies accounted for less than 13% of all beds, some 5,000 small businesses accounted for almost 50%.

Property advisers Knight Frank told a recent Health Investor magazine webinar that they considered 27,000 homes with fewer than 20 beds “highly vulnerable” and expected widespread closures over the next two years – especially among the many needing modernisation and lacking en-suite facilities. Some “temporary” closures are already occurring.

For homes that can survive to 2022, however, the long-term picture may be much rosier. Carterwood is projecting occupancy rates at or exceeding 90% by the end of 2024 and Knight Frank believe the market will be at full capacity by 2029. Investors behind the big providers will be tempted to hold their nerve and soak up short-term losses. One reason for this is simple demographics – the number of people aged 85 or over is set to double over the next 25 years – but another is lack of alternatives to residential care.

That is not to say there are no alternatives. Despite periodic ministerial exhortations, experts agree that the UK is not about to undergo a cultural revolution and resume large-scale caring for older people within the extended family home. But there are other care models more commonly found in other countries.

One such model is live-in care, where a full-time care worker moves in to share the home of the older or disabled person. Promedica24, Europe’s leading provider of the service, claims its popularity in Germany has been a key factor in that country’s relatively low level of Covid-19 infection. But with charges of £700 a week for the most basic package, in addition to living costs and accommodating the care worker, it is hard to see it as anything other than a niche solution.

More promising is “extra care”, also known as “retirement communities”, in which older people have their own flat – either leasehold or rental – with communal facilities and on-site care support. These schemes went early into lockdown, with communal areas closed but extra services such as food delivery and daily check calls introduced. Arco, the sector’s trade body, says Covid-19 infection rates among its members have been very low, with the “vast majority” having only isolated cases and no outbreaks. The total number of deaths reported is “in the low double figures”.

Operators say word has spread: people have been buying flats unseen during the virus crisis and one company, Rangeford, is so confident of prospects that it has signed off a new scheme in Gloucestershire in recent weeks and started groundwork. But the sector remains small: according to Arco, just 75,000 people or 0.6% of all those aged 65 or over in the UK live in extra-care housing, compared to 6.1% in the US, 5.4% in New Zealand and 4.9% in Australia. Finding sites and getting planning consent is difficult and it can take seven years to get a scheme from conception to completion.

There are other options, from co-housing to intensive community support, which offer alternatives to life in a care home for people seeking more than drop-in domiciliary help. In the chastening aftermath of Covid-19, or at least its first wave, all should be thoroughly evaluated and, where proven, given central and local government backing to grow. Residential care will rise again, but it should not remain an automatic default.

Dust cloud over Sidmouth after latest cliff fall

Another cliff fall has taken place in Sidmouth, and an eyewitness predicts another will happen at any moment.

The cliff fall which took place today (May 26), follows a number of landslides in Sidmouth over the last few months. See devonlive for images.

Chloe Parkman 

Key worker Stu White, 37, was on shift when he noticed the large cloud of dust over the town.

Stu said: “I was at work when I just looked over and noticed it.

“I didn’t hear a noise or anything.”

Stu, who describes himself as a “cliff geek”, noticed another large slab of rock which looks as if it could fall at any moment.

Given the history of Sidmouth cliff’s recent landslides, Stu’s prediction is not a surprise.

Last month pedestrians in Sidmouth witnessed a large cliff fall which created a huge plume of dust over the town.

A further two landslides in Sidmouth took place in March.

A Beach Management Scheme for the town which aims to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is in place. The preferred option of the plan would see a new rock groyne placed on East Beach, shingle imported, and the height of the seafront splash wall increased.

The scheme which costs somewhere in the region of £8.7million, is now moving to the next stage after the funding gap was bridged earlier this month.

Cllr Geoff Jung, earlier this month, when he was still the Environment portfolio holder for East Devon District Council, said: “Now the Sidmouth and East Beach BMP is most likely to be fully funded, the East Devon team can concentrate on finalising the details of the project, such as accommodating an attractive new splash defence along the esplanade, improved slipway access and a recharged beach, which are all part of the preferred option, which is estimated to cost £8.7m.

“It is planned that as soon as is possible an exhibition and a chance to “meet the team” session will be held in Sidmouth (subject to Coronavirus emergency measures) providing local people the opportunity to see and understand the final designs.

“The project team will also have to apply for planning permission which will be subject to further period of public consultation, and agreement from strategy consultees which will include the Town Council, Natural England, and Historic England. Final assurance checks by the Environment Agency must also be passed to confirm the eligibility of the central Government Grant.”

The council is planning to host a public exhibition, when circumstances allow, in order to gather feedback on the details of the proposals, including the glass splash panel, prior to submitting a planning application.

Devon councillor quits Conservative Party over Cummings furore

A Devon councillor has resigned from the Conservative Party over the Dominic Cummings furore.

As a result, Conservatives loose control of West Devon Borough Council.

Composition now: 13 Indys, 2 Greens and 1 Libdem ; vs 15 Cons.

Lee Trewhela
Rev Mike Davies’ resignation means that West Devon Borough Council – on which he sits as councillor for Okehampton North –  is no longer a Conservative-controlled authority.

The former Mayor of West Devon said: “The lack of a resignation from Mr Cummings, a government advisor, undermines public trust and will now encourage people to break current and future rules.

“Following Mr Cummings’ lack of foresight to resign because of the impact of his actions, the Prime Minister should now terminate Mr Cummings’ employment.”

Mr Davies, who is a part-time church pastor, added: “Covid-19 needs to be controlled and as we have been constantly reminded ‘Staying at home saves lives’.

“NHS staff, care workers, school teachers and others have been under tremendous pressure to meet the consequences and challenges of this virus. Examples must be set at the highest levels of Government.

“Can you imagine the consequences if everyone decided, at the start of lockdown, to drive to the most convenient place in the country if they thought they might have some of the symptoms?

“Locally, Devon & Cornwall Police fined over 800 people for breaking lockdown rules. In England and Wales over 13,000 fines were issued. Lockdown surely meant lockdown. We are now being told it was ‘guidance’.”

Mr Davies is suspected to have had Covid-19 himself and was seen by two GPs, but this has yet to be tested or confirmed.

He discussed his resignation with Mel Stride MP before making his decision.

He has been a West Devon Borough councillor since 2015 and prior to that was an Okehampton town councillor since 2003. As well as Mayor of West Devon, Mr Davies was Mayor of Okehampton twice.

“I appreciate that many Conservatives may not sympathise with me or share my convictions,” he added. “However, from the concerns raised to me, as association chairman for Central Devon, in the days prior to my resignation I know that many do.”


Owl’s vigilance has slipped a bit. The Independent Sage Report on: “should schools reopen?” nearly got away. A draft was published on Friday with online discussion, there is then a one week period for public consultation before it is submitted to Government.

Owl has just spotted it in time.

The findings of the draft report of the scientific evidence is introduced below with a link to it.


Independent SAGE committee of leading scientists says conditions have not been met to re-open schools safely on June 1

  • Draft report reveals new modelling that shows delaying school re-opening by two weeks halves risk to children
  • Local authorities must establish low levels of infection in community and ability to track, trace, and isolate new infections before re-opening schools
  • Alternative arrangements for educating children must be considered including summer camps and outdoor schools
  • Proposals include requisitioning playing fields and facilities of independent schools and football stadiums
  • Public consultation vital part of process with decision to re-open schools made at local level based on local data
  • Lack of publicly available local data is ‘critical gap’ in current management of pandemic

SCHOOLS should not re-open on June 1, Independent SAGE reports today, because there is ‘no clear evidence’ that it is safe to do so.

The committee of independent scientists chaired by Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Advisor, has released a ‘draft consultation report’ which says that schools should not re-open until local ‘test, track, and isolate’ systems are in place. ‘There is no clear evidence that these conditions are met. Until they are it is not safe to open schools on June 1,’ the report says.

New modelling shows delaying school re-opening by two week approximately halves the risk to children, and that delaying the re-opening until September is less risky still – reducing the risk to children to below road traffic accident level. The report notes that further modelling is needed to show regional risks and that it intends to do so before issuing its final recommendations to the government next week.

The report notes the harm to children from schools remaining closed and the disproportionate impact on certain groups, including economically disadvantaged children and those from BAME communities. Proposals made by the committee include summer camps and open-air schools and suggests requisitioning independent school buildings and playing fields to ‘provide a better infection control environment’. It suggests football stadiums and other sports facilities could also be used.

The report says that decisions to re-open schools must be taken at a local level with full public consultation.

Locality-based COVID-19 infection and death rates are the best indicator of risk from any future school-based outbreaks, the report says, and that it intends to model these effects before releasing its full report next week. Real-time data about test, track and isolate is essential, it says, noting that, ‘it is inevitable in a pandemic that new outbreaks will occur’ and that ‘planning for such re-closure is essential’.

The lack of publicly available local data is ‘a critical gap in the current management of the pandemic’, the report says and that without it local communities cannot be sure about the level of local infections and whether the numbers of new infections is decreasing.

‘The crucial factor allowing school re-opening around the world has been the presence of well-functioning local test, trace, and isolate protocols—something that is now accepted will not be in place in England by early June,’ the report says. It also notes that school opening in other countries, such as Denmark, ‘has been preceded by substantial investment in measures such as additional washing facilities to promote safety.’

Sir David King said: “It is clear from the evidence we have collected that June 1st is simply too early to go back. By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike. ”

“However we also recognise that the decision of when to re-open our schools is a careful balance and that it is vital for our young people to get back into the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so. The current climate is likely to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged in society; therefore it is vital that the government also considers innovative ways to help those who need it most.”

Devon MP, Simon Jupp, says Dominic Cummings should ‘consider his position’

All the other conservatives mentioned in this devonlive article think it’s OK, to take one example, to drive 30 miles during lockdown to a beauty spot just to “test your eyesight” – Owl

Daniel Clark

A Devon MP has called for Dominic Cummings to ‘consider his position’ following allegations he broke lockdown rules.

East Devon MP Simon Jupp, who worked as Special Advisor to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab before last year’s General Election, said that if placed in the same situation, he would not have made the same decisions that Mr Cummings made.

The MP said that while his actions were motivated by a father’s desire to do what he felt was necessary to protect his family in exceptional circumstances, those actions were wrong and said if it was him, he would have considered resigning from his role.

In a statement, Mr Jupp said: “Like you, I have felt a mixture of anger, disappointment and frustration in recent days. We are all making significant sacrifices and coping with situations we couldn’t imagine just a few months ago. Many of us, including myself, have lost people in our lives and haven’t been able to see family and friends. It’s been incredibly tough for everyone.

“Hundreds of people have contacted me regarding Dominic Cummings. I have read each and every email sent to me on this topic. I wanted to know the facts before responding to you. I have raised questions which I felt needed answering and made the strength of feeling in East Devon clear to the party leadership.

“Although I believe his actions were motivated by a father’s desire to do what he felt was necessary to protect his family in exceptional circumstances, if placed in the same situation I wouldn’t have made the same decisions and would have since considered my position.

“I will continue to share my views and those of my constituents with the party leadership. This has been a deeply unhelpful distraction we could do without as a nation dealing with a pandemic.

“As your MP, I will continue to focus my efforts on the hundreds of emails I continue to receive daily from constituents requiring my help and support. I would be doing a disservice to you and those who need support during this difficult time if I acted in any other way.”

On Tuesday, a government junior minister resigned over the issue. Douglas Ross, Under Secretary of State for Scotland, said Mr Cummings’ view of the government guidance was “not shared by the vast majority of people”, the BBC reported.

Mr Cummings said at his press conference he believed he had acted reasonably and within the law when he drove his family 260 miles from London to County Durham after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms in March.

He said he and his wife had self-isolated at a property on his father’s farm to be close to relatives in case they needed help with care for their young son, and had no regrets about his decision.

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby, who is also still a North Devon councillor for Instow, did not condemn the actions of Mr Cummings but stopped short of throwing her backing behind him.

She said “I do not personally know Mr Cummings. All I know of his behaviour in recent weeks is the frank and open statement he gave to national media yesterday afternoon, where he explained why he took the decisions he did as a father and a husband.

“I prefer not to jump to a judgement unless I am aware of all the facts, particularly as there seems to be a lot of misinformation in the media these days often generated by social media assaults on individuals.

“The Prime Minister knows far more of what has happened throughout the pandemic than you or I. He has taken his decision to retain the services of his advisor who is an employee and not an elected representative.

“We have all had to take difficult decisions in the last couple of months and do our best to look after ourselves, our families and those we are responsible for within the guidelines. I am a big believer in taking responsibility for one’s self and the decisions we each take.

“I understand residents’ anger at this situation but I very much hope the Government can move on from this as there are so many other pressing matters associated with Covid-19 that need attention.”

Gary Streeter, the MP South West Devon, initially told the prime minister that Mr Cummings should go for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules.

But the MP then decided that after watching the press conference given by the prime minister’s chief adviser on Monday that he had “just about” kept within the rules.

He added: “I strongly agree that there must not be one rule for Government insiders and another for everybody else. I have therefore followed the Cummings story very closely.

“Over the weekend I formed the view that there had, on balance, been a breach of the lockdown rules and fed into Downing Street my recommendation that Mr Cummings be sacked.

“However, I then watched the extraordinary press conference in the rose garden yesterday and reached the conclusion that the actions of Mr Cummings just about kept him within the rules, given the clear exemption for looking after vulnerable people which obviously includes a four-year-old child.

“There is no doubt that this media storm has blurred the government message and hurt the government politically. It is now important that we move on and focus on leading the country back to some kind of normality. Schools and shops will start to re-open next month and we must ensure that happens safely.

“For us in the south west a much bigger challenge lies around the corner: namely how do we gradually start to re-open our hospitality and tourism sector without causing a second wave of the virus. That will be my focus for the next challenging few weeks.”

Cllr Phil Bullivant, Chairman of Newton Abbot Conservative Association and leader of the Conservative group on Teignbridge District Council, said that many important questions have been raised about the very difficult decision in which there is no correct response.

He said: “What does a person do to protect their autistic child if both parents become ill and their London home is the location for aggressive attacks from political opponents?

“The government guidelines recognised that there are circumstances which will require alternative solutions. If we believe that it is right that as a person in government should sacrifice the health and wellbeing of their family because of their position then Dominic Cummings was wrong.

“A charitable view would be that as he maintained an appropriate degree of separation and sought to put his autistic child into the hands of his family he stretched the guidelines for reasons he thought acceptable.

“I think the choice we would all make if we were confronted with a similar situation would require the Wisdom of Solomon.”

John Gray, Chairman of the Torridge & West Devon Conservative Association, said that he was satisfied that Mr Cummings’ actions were within the rules and that he should remain in his post.

He said: “Having watched the full statement and the subsequent questions I’m satisfied he was within the list of exceptional circumstances and that justified his actions.

“He continues to have a great deal to offer the country and even if some disagree with the decisions he made, his reasoning is clear and sensible.”

Asked what the feeling locally was, he added: “Things improved after his statement. It seems much of the public anger was caused by earlier press reports. Once the full situation was known it became difficult to criticise the guy. He clearly went through a horrendous time, under massive pressure, yet managed to make sensible decisions.”

As of time of writing on Tuesday afternoon, 32 Conservative MPs had broken party ranks to condemn Dominic Cummings

Tourists blamed for new virus spike which closed Somerset hospital

“A message sent to NHS workers in the South West, who may usually use the hospital [Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare], revealed it had at least 64 coronavirus patients and that 40% of staff who had been tested had also tested positive for the virus, as Somerset Live reported at the weekend.”

Tourists and VE Day parties could be to blame for a new spike in coronavirus cases which forced a Somerset hospital to close, according to a NHS worker.

Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare stopped accepting new patients at 8am on Monday (May 25) because of a ‘high number of patients with coronavirus’. The hospital appears to still be closed to newcomers this morning (Tuesday, May 26).

A message sent to NHS workers in the South West, who may usually use the hospital, revealed it had at least 64 coronavirus patients and that 40% of staff who had been tested had also tested positive for the virus, as Somerset Live reported at the weekend.

The NHS worker who shared that message says VE Day parties and a surge in tourists visiting Weston’s seaside could be to blame for the new wave of virus.

The NHS worker told Somerset Live : “VE Day parties made it rise in London, I reckon.

“People starting off socially distancing then getting drunk and then ignoring.

“Areas which are not tourist destinations have had very few cases, so maybe there is something in that being a factor, too.

“The visitors have probably spread it around the country now.”

New figures show an alarming rise in the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Weston area.

A total of 55 new cases were confirmed in North Somerset in the past week, the latest figures showed.

John Penrose, the MP for Weston, referred to the rise as a ‘spike’.

The local NHS worker’s warning about the surge in cases followed calls from doctors to stay home – even as the government looked to relax lockdown further.

Boris Johnson announced plans to reopen non-essential shops in June on Monday (May 25).

That process will begin next week, with outdoor markets and car showrooms getting the green light to trade again.

But doctor Dominic Pimenta said the infection ‘R’ rate of the virus, which has to stay below ‘1’ for the number of infections to keep falling, was on the up again.

He suggested hospitals like Weston struggling was a bad sign, pleading with people to continue to stay at home.

He said : “The R is likely rising again. Hospitals are struggling with coronavirus in Weston-super-Mare.

“YOU did the right thing. The lockdown DOES save lives.


‘Day trippers’ and VE Day parties to blame?

People across the country, as well as in Weston itself, seemed to blame a combination of VE Day parties, tourists and the apparent bad example set by Downing Street adviser, Dominic Cummings, for the worrying virus figures in the town.

Sam Trego, a Weston resident, blamed ‘day trippers’ for the new wave of virus and the hospital closure in an angry post on Twitter.

The Weston cricket club coach wrote: “We must thank all the ‘day trippers’ for popping in and out of our town.”

Later on Monday (May 25) he quoted a tweet from the health secretary, Matt Hancock, which had said the country must ‘move on’ from the Dominic Cummings controversy.

Sam wrote: “Why don’t you pop down to Weston-super-Mare where we have no hospital open for a town with over 76,000 people living in it because we have had a surge of coronavirus cases!”

Rhiannon, another Weston local, also feared people gathering on the beaches had led to the hospital closure.

“Two weeks ago for VE day weekend people piled onto the beach. It felt like lockdown had stopped,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Now our hospital has had to stop admissions as there are so many cases of covid.”

She also shared an image taken by her brother showing the busy beach and seafront promenade on Monday (May 25).

There were a number of large gatherings in the sunny weather across our region over the Bank Holiday weekend – including a busy car meet in Cheddar.

Christine Murray also drew the link to VE Day, pointing out Weston’s hospital had closed a few weeks after the Bank Holiday celebration – enough time for new virus cases to be noticed in hospitals.

Despite the concern of many locals, experts have urged caution when linking virus spikes to specific causes.

Following concerns that events like the Bath Half Marathon and Cheltenham Festival had allowed coronavirus to spread, analysis suggested it was too soon and very difficult to tell.

But a maths lecturer from the University of Bath said it was ‘possible’ big gatherings played a role and said it might be possible to work out a link from the data ‘when the dust settles’ on the crisis.

Dominic Cummings row fuels local anger at new virus spike

Another Twitter user was also unhappy that ‘more people travelling’ had contributed to the Weston closure – and feared the actions of Dominic Cummings would make things worse.

He wrote : “Given Mr Cummings actions it’s only going to get worse when people now start doing what they want when they want.”

Kit McCarthy was another to fear the actions of the Prime Minister’s adviser could make things worse, referring on Twitter to the views of Durham police’s former chief constable, who said Mr Cummings’ behaviour would make lockdown harder to enforce for police.

Dominic Cummings – a man credited with masterminding the Leave vote in the 2016 EU referendum and Boris Johnson’s majority in the 2019 general election – is a key adviser to the Prime Minister.

He has admitted driving 260 miles from his London home to his parents’ estate in Durham, during the coronavirus lockdown – when the government had changed the law saying people must stay at home, unless there is an extreme risk to life.

Reports by the Mirror and Guardian newspapers suggested Mr Cummings did not stay isolated after travelling to Durham, after he was seen in public.

On Monday, May 25, he answered questions from the media in the Downing Street Rose Garden.

He admitted the breach of lockdown but said he acted ‘reasonably and legally’ to care for his young son – for fear both he and his wife would be unable to care for him due to illness.

But once in Durham Mr Cummings did not receive any childcare help from his family there.

He also excused a day trip away from the family home in Durham by saying he was testing his eyesight before driving back to London.

He also admitted returning to work when discovering his wife was sick – a breach of the rules in itself.

Boris Johnson and his government have stood by Mr Cummings – despite demanding the dismissal of two advisers earlier in the crisis for their own breaches of lockdown rules.

But Jodi Owens was fed up with the media focus on Mr Cummings, when the issue of Weston’s hospital closing and a possible second wave of virus was getting much less coverage.

She said on Twitter, tagging in Sky and ITV during Boris Johnson’s press conference on Monday evening: “Reports today hospital in Weston has had to close is doors yet your journalists are just repeating the questions they asked Dominic Cummings 2 hours ago.”

What Weston hospital said

Dr William Oldfield, medical director at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, explained the reasons for the hospital’s closure on Monday (May 25).

He did not suggest why the number of cases had gone up locally.

He said: “As with any hospital, the number of patients with COVID-19 will frequently change as people are admitted and discharged.

“We currently have a high number of patients with COVID-19 in Weston General Hospital.

“While the vast majority will have come into the hospital with COVID-19, as an extra precaution we have taken the proactive step to temporarily stop accepting new patients to maintain patient and staff safety.

“This is a clinically-led decision and we are being supported by our system partners to ensure that new patients receive the care and treatment they need in the appropriate setting, and we are continuing to provide high quality care to existing patients who are being treated in the hospital.”

“We have a robust coronavirus testing programme in place for patients and staff to identify cases quickly, with appropriate measures taken by clinical teams as required.

“We will keep the situation under constant review.”

Have you e-mailed your MP? The questions Dominic Cummings has yet to clarify

It is becoming clear that No 10 intends to brazen out his flouting of the rules, and by so doing, show contempt for the way the long suffering public have so admirably behaved.

MPs will most likely be judging the success of his explanation/pathetic excuse from what they read in their in-boxes .

Owl recommends followers e-mail their respective MPs: Simon Jupp or Neil Parish, expressing their view one way or the other.

Here is a list of questions still lacking clarity to which Owl would add was he at Barnard Castle on April 12, his wife’s birthday, or was that when he “did an eye test”, or is it all “false news”?

The lockdown breach questions Dominic Cummings has yet to clarify

Guardian staff 

Dominic Cummings’ strident defence of his own behaviour was designed to draw a line under an affair that has rocked the government and caused fury across the UK. But his press conference left questions unanswered – and also caused a degree of bafflement.

1 Why not try other options?

Dominic Cummings and his wife, Mary Wakefield, have family in London. But he said that they explored no other options before settling on their trip to Durham. Why not?

2 The Durham hospital trip

Did Cummings consider whether there was any risk that his wife’s trip to hospital in Durham with the couple’s son could take Covid-19 on to the site? Did he consider whether the difficulty of getting an immediate taxi was sufficient reason for him to drive to the hospital when he could “barely stand up” the night before?

3 The eyesight problem

If Cummings had concerns over whether his eyesight was good enough to drive to London, why was he confident enough to drive 30 miles to Barnard Castle, with his wife and son in the vehicle?

4 How extreme was the risk?

The deputy chief medical officer for England, Jenny Harries, said that the only reason to travel with coronavirus in search of childcare was if there was an extreme risk to life. Did the family’s situation constitute such a risk?

5 Why not talk to the media earlier?

Cummings said that the media had been told things were wrong but “repeatedly reported them anyway”. How does he reconcile this account with Downing Street’s refusal to engage with attempts by the Guardian and Daily Mirror to seek comment for more than six weeks? Why did Downing Street only issue comments after the publication of key articles by the two newspapers?

6 When was the walk in Durham?

Cummings said that he took a walk in the second week of his stay in Durham “after I started to recover”. That would suggest he still had some symptoms. The Public Health England guidance on outdoor exercise changed that week and by 9 April all outdoor exercise was prohibited for those with symptoms. So when exactly did the walk take place?

Phrase of the day: “That’s Barney Castle!”

Politico London Playbook



Phrase of the day: “That’s Barney Castle!” An old Durham dialect term from the middle ages, coined during the Northern Rebellion when cowardly Sir George Bowes refused to leave his fortified position in Barnard Castle to engage in battle. “Hence the expression ‘come, come, that’s Barney Castle‘ — meaning, ‘that’s a pathetic excuse.’” Read more.


WE FOUND GOVE IN A HOPELESS PLACE: Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove goes out to bat for his under-fire protégé Dominic Cummings this morning as Downing Street tries to draw a line under a bruising bank holiday weekend. The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be touring (virtual) broadcast studios to insist Cummings has now given a full explanation of his various lockdown-busting trips, and that it’s time for the country to move on. Allies said last night they believe Cummings “did enough” at that extraordinary rose garden press conference to survive the scandal, but in truth it’s the ongoing anger of Tory MPs and Tory voters that will now decide his fate. So it’s all eyes on the opinion polls, the focus groups and — crucially — MPs’ mailboxes, as Downing Street nervously awaits the public verdict.

Mirror image: The media verdict is already in, and there’s not much around for Cummings to enjoy. He’ll be unsurprised to find himself on almost every front page this morning for the fourth successive day, and — ever the messaging genius — somehow unites the Labour-loving Daily Mirror and arch-Tory Daily Mail with near-identical “No apologies, no regrets” headlines. The apolitical Metro goes in even harder with a wince-inducing “Stay elite” front page, mocking up Cummings’ own coronavirus slogan to label him the very thing he’s accused his opponents of for years. Only the Telegraph, the Sun and the Express are in any way helpful, dutifully splashing on Boris Johnson’s announcement that “non-essential” shops can reopen in three weeks’ time.

But but but: That’s not to say the Telegraph is in any way impressed. Associate Editor Camilla Tominey is scathing in her verdict on the prime minister’s decision to stand by his man. “It is extraordinary that a politician with Mr Johnson’s unique understanding of what it means to be British could have been so reckless with the public’s trust,” she rages. “Far from being a Westminster ‘bubble’ story, news of Mr Cummings’ behavior during lockdown has gone well beyond SW1A and the Twittersphere. Disgust at the double standards on display is being expressed at the breakfast table, on the WhatsApp groups and over garden fences the length and breadth of the land … People aren’t seeing it as a debate between left and right, but right and wrong.”

Even more damningly … The Telegraph — Boris Johnson’s former employer — runs a big feature all about “the families who have stuck to lockdown rules despite it going against their instinct.” This is clearly a missile aimed directly at the prime minister, who on Sunday tried to blur the government’s crystal-clear messaging by suggesting it was fine for Cummings to act “on instinct” in the middle of a public health crisis. Reader after reader tells heart-rending stories about caring for children alone while sick; giving birth alone; facing hospital surgery alone; grieving alone. None of them acted “on instinct.” None of them broke lockdown rules.

You got Mail: It’s worth pausing too on the Daily Mail, a newspaper which gets triggered like no other at the sight of hypocrisy in high office, and which doesn’t take kindly to its readers being played for mugs. For the second successive day it gives over 12 furious pages to Cummings’ behavior, with one double-page spread blaming him for England’s crowded beaches and another asking incredulously: “Why drive 30 miles to a beauty spot with your child in the back to test your eyesight?” Columnist Jan Moir says her sympathy for Cummings “fizzled out like damp charcoal” the longer he spoke. Sketchwriter Henry Deedes dubs the Dom-BoJo double-act “a political tragedy in two parts.” And even Richard Littlejohn finds himself raging at the “shifty Northern bloke” whose “credibility began to fall apart” under fierce interrogation. These are all voices you’d expect to hear on Downing Street’s side in a serious crisis.

Losing the grassroots: Any lingering claims that this is purely a left/right or Remain/Leave issue are put firmly to bed by ConservativeHome’s Chief Executive Mark Wallace, a writer arguably more closely in touch with the Tory grassroots than any other. He uses his regular i column to set out why, as a Brexit-supporting Tory activist, he believes Cummings must resign immediately. “Voters’ fury is real, justified and widespread,” Wallace concludes, after explaining how much he likes and respects Dominic Cummings. “The political damage is serious and lasting … For the sake of his own cause, he should resign.” Ooft.

Still fighting: The Sun is left almost alone to fight Cummings’ corner, declaring his account of events “convincing, detailed and verifiable.” Associate Editor Trevor Kavanagh says his friend of 20 years is a “profoundly decent man” who left his “critics floundering” yesterday. The Sun’s leader column even blames the “hysteria” of recent days on “Remainer cultists” and “defeated Labour tribalists” — though it’s unclear quite where the scores of furious Tory MPs, the Daily Mail, the boss of ConservativeHome and the, erm, Scottish edition of the Sun, fit into those categories. Interestingly, if you make it all the way back to the Sun readers’ letters page on page 39, you suddenly find the headline: “Boris must sack Dom.”

Away from the nationals: The big regional papers are equally unimpressed, with a Yorkshire Post editorial condemning Cummings’ arrogance as “unforgivable” and the Eastern Daily Press worrying that people are already bringing up his name to explain lockdown evasion. In Scotland, the closest thing to positive reading for Cummings is in a letter in the National from a reader who hopes Cummings will remain in position — but only because the scandal is helping make the case for Scottish independence.


CABINET SPLITS: Cummings’ performance yesterday has divided the Cabinet, with some senior ministers outraged he’s still in place but others keen to move swiftly on. “My jaw continues to drop,” one tells the Times. “He’s saying he’s so much more important than us plebs. I think we’re in big trouble, we can’t campaign our way out of this. We’re losing trust and confidence — it’s draining away before our eyes.” Another is terrified evidence may emerge that Cummings’ actions have caused a decline in lockdown compliance. “If people really start to think that senior people in government aren’t following their own rules, that will be catastrophic,” the minister says. The paper says ministers pressed into voicing support on social media “privately admit to feeling demeaned.”

Not sure this helped: The Times’ Francis Elliott also notes ministers were not even told at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that Cummings would be making his rose garden address, which appears not to have gone down well. And instead of a  broad discussion they merely sat and listened to Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Attorney General Suella Braverman speak out in support of Cummings, the Times reports. “One seething minister texted a colleague a “vomit” emoji,” the paper says.

But but but: Another Cabinet minister tells the Times they think the press conference has won Cummings some “breathing space” and adds: “There’s a chance enough people will see it as the PM sees it — as a father taking care of his family and staying within the rules.” And another tells the FT that “deciding to take his family to a place of safety — and clearly maintaining social distancing with family nearby for their little one — is understandable and within the law.” Another member of the Cabinet tells the same paper: “I think Friday’s response bad and misjudged. He will still get grief, but I think the judgment made by the PM will be more understood by constituents that are normally sympathetic to the PM but had been very irritated.”

What about Tory MPs? Many of those being vocally critical on Sunday were keeping their heads down last night as they waited to see whether the tone of the the angry emails they’ve been receiving starts to change. “Time will tell,” one former minister tells Playbook. “Fortunately for the boss there’s no PMQs this week.” The Telegraph has a good write-up of the scale of the anger on the Tory benches, which is beyond anything we’ve seen before in this parliament. One former minister tells the paper: “This could be an ‘ERM‘ moment, where the public turn against us.” Another says it “feels more poll tax than ERM, actually.”

So what happens next? The vehement hope inside Downing Street is that with all the facts apparently now out in the open, attention will slowly start to move away from Cummings over the next few days. The prime minister has a whole week’s worth of big lockdown announcements up his sleeve to distract attention with, and assuming there are no further revelations to come about Cummings’ activities during lockdown then inevitably the story will start to lose its head of steam. No. 10 knows Boris Johnson will take a pounding from senior MPs at tomorrow’s Commons liaison committee hearing, but hopes that once that’s done and dusted, this whole thing starts to go away.

But but but: There are still multiple dangers ahead for Cummings in these crucial next few days. Questions still swirl around his account of events — top of the list being the dubious claim to have embarked on a 90-minute round trip to a beauty spot on his wife’s birthday (with his child in the car!) to “test his eyesight.” This police force tweeted last night that — guess what? — taking a drive to test your eyesight is a really stupid idea, and not even Dominic Cummings’ worst enemies accuse him of being stupid. It’s far from clear why Cummings and the PM believe this road trip was somehow within the rules, and police are investigating whether a breach was committed. Would a fixed penalty notice be a resigning matter?

And there’s more: It also remains unclear why Cummings and the PM believe having a young child at home represented an exceptional circumstance that permitted a 260-mile drive across the country while Cummings’ wife was symptomatic, given thousands and thousands of parents have been placed in that exact same position over recent weeks yet believed they’d been instructed to stay home. It’s also unclear why Cummings didn’t try to find childcare cover from a friend or family member in London; or indeed — given his sudden eyesight problems — why Cummings’ wife Mary Wakefield didn’t drive them back from Durham.

And then there’s this: It’s small beans in the context of all the rest, but Playbook feels obliged to draw your attention to a truly surreal story on social media last night about precisely what Cummings may or may not have got up to after his 260-mile drive back to London. A data scientist on Twitter called Jens Wiechers was hunting out the old blogpost about coronaviruses which Cummings mentioned at last night’s press conference as proof he’d been worried about this type of pandemic for a while. Wiechers says he put the only Cummings blogpost he could find which mentions coronavirus through the Way Back Machine — an internet archive engine — and discovered that, erm, the relevant paragraphs on coronavirus had been *added* in mid-April.

Huh? Other archive checks apparently verify the Cummings blog has indeed been added to by person or persons unknown during the current crisis. The episode has triggered some amusement on social media, with people wondering idly if Cummings might have added these lines to his blog after the fact, purely to look smart later on. The BBC’s Faisal Islam has more.

Opposition positions: All the main opposition leaders are to hold a conference call this morning to discuss their approach to the Cummings crisis. Sky News’ Joe Pike got the scoop last night, and multiple sources confirm the call will go ahead at 11 a.m. “All MPs know that the Cummings story has cut through,” one of those involved tells Playbook. “The public is angry. Opposition leaders want to work together to show the government that anger is real, and simply cannot be ignored.” Quite what they’re planning to do against a prime minister with a majority of 80 is anyone’s guess … Presumably some sort of angry joint letter is on the cards.


Breaking News – First minister to resign

(Oooops Owl left out the “s” in resign – slightly changes the meaning!)

Dominic Cummings: Minister Douglas Ross quits over senior aide’s lockdown actions

Junior minister Douglas Ross has resigned over Dominic Cummings’ trip to County Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Ross, Under Secretary of State for Scotland, said the senior aide’s view of the government guidance was “not shared by the vast majority of people”.
Mr Cummings has defended driving driving 260 miles in March from his home to County Durham.
He said he acted reasonably and legally in going to stay on his parents’ farm.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Mr Ross, MP for Moray, said: “While the intentions may have been well meaning, the reaction to this news shows that Mr Cummings interpretation of the government advice was not shared by the vast majority of people who have done as the government asked.”
“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.
“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

Douglas Ross backed Boris Johnson to be Tory leader and is not one of those in the party seen as hostile to his style of government.
So this resignation is a blow – and could point to wider discontent.
There is a Scottish subplot – the Scottish Tories have been accused of hypocrisy for demanding Scotland’s chief medical officer resign then staying quiet about Dominic Cummings.
But Mr Ross’s reasons for resigning are scathing.
He says he cannot tell his constituents in good faith that they were wrong to miss funerals and other family events, but Mr Cummings was right.
He says he has listened to his constituents and resigned. The question now is whether other Tory MPs are continuing to get the same feedback.

The Daily Mail on last night’s Dominic and Boris double bill:

No Regrets: A Tragedy in Two Parts.

Owl thinks followers might enjoy reading this article from the Daily Mail:

 Dominic Cummings had come to snarl not schmooze

A double bill of Westminster drama yesterday. Statements from both Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson.

Contrition in short supply from both players. Were it a play we could have called it No Regrets: A Tragedy in Two Parts.

For Act One we were treated to Dominic Cummings’ statement on his recent lockdown controversy. News that Mr Cummings was to appear in front of the media had driven Westminster into a state of apoplexy.

The eyes did lots of distracted darting around. There were unnecessarily lengthy pauses as he spoke. Every now and again he would emit a breathy sigh of contempt.

For geeky politicos, this was a pass the popcorn moment like no other. England v Germany times one hundred. Captain Kirk wrestles Jean Luc Picard.

That the PM had decided to unleash Cummings on a baying Press pack was a high risk strategy. One might sooner place a spitting cobra in a cage full of mongooses. Sure enough, it was an indelicate affair.

A theatre reviewer with a bit of venom in his quill would have labelled Cummings’ performance a 90-minute sulky shrug of the shoulders.

The Prime Minister’s most trusted aide had come to snarl not to schmooze. The eyes did lots of distracted darting around. There were unnecessarily lengthy pauses as he spoke. Every now and again he would emit a breathy sigh of contempt.

Despite the late arrival, it was not a well-rehearsed statement. He rattled through as though he were reeling off a dictation to one of the Downing Street garden girls. Oratory was largely non-existent

Dominic Cummings: ‘I do not regret what I did’

The bucolic charms of the Downing Street rose garden was where we laid our scene. Naturally Cummings arrived late. Around half an hour he kept us all waiting.

Nothing like keeping your detractors roasting on one of the hottest days of the year. Having ditched the peculiar Rumpelstiltskin clobber, he managed to don something resembling a smart shirt.

He sat at a table opposite the waiting media as though he was there to interview them rather than the other way around. ‘Sorry I’m late…thank you for coming,’ he fibbed as he shuffled forward in his seat.

Cummings made it clear he was there under duress. The PM had forced him to come apparently. It was then we heard his story unfold.

His wife’s illness, their inability to secure childcare, how he had not wished to leave his family at home alone.

A theatre reviewer with a bit of venom in his quill would have labelled Cummings’ performance a 90-minute sulky shrug of the shoulders. The Prime Minister’s most trusted aide had come to snarl not to schmooze

Despite the late arrival, it was not a well-rehearsed statement. He rattled through as though he were reeling off a dictation to one of the Downing Street garden girls. Oratory was largely non-existent.

Throughout, we heard repeated little justifications for his behaviour. ‘I believe I made the right judgment’, ‘I behaved safely and legally’, ‘I tried to exercise caution’ etc.

Strangest moment came when he explained his visit to Barnard Castle, where a witness had spotted him strolling by the riverbank. He claimed he and his family had driven there to check his eyesight was up to driving back to London.

Not many defending silks worth their salt would feel uber-confident about entering a courtroom with that alibi under their wig.

Members of the media were momentarily summoned to a microphone as though auditioning for X Factor. ‘Hello Laura from the BBC what are you going to ask me today?’

Best grilling came from Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon who suggested members of the public would be staggered by Cummings’ refusal to acknowledge he’d broken any of the rules.

Cummings was non-plussed. Bovvered. Wrapping things up, he bade journalists goodbye, urging them all to take care. Another barefaced whopper of course.

For Act Two we were transported to where Boris Johnson was delivering the daily Press briefing.

Judging by the Spirograph twirls under his eyes, our hero did not bear the look of a man who had enjoyed a relaxing weekend by the barbecue.

Predictably, he pushed his precious boosterism button straight up and discussed plans to reopen schools in June.

For Act Two we were transported to where Boris Johnson was delivering the daily Press briefing. Judging by the Spirograph twirls under his eyes, our hero did not bear the look of a man who had enjoyed a relaxing weekend by the barbecue

There were proposals too for retail outlets to be allowed to open their doors. ‘We’re making progress,’ he insisted.

No one, of course, was interested in any of that. The BBC asked if the PM had any regrets on the Cummings affair. Boris said he regretted the confusion. ‘People can make up their own minds,’ he shrugged.

Robert Peston queried Cummings’ peculiar story about why he visited Barnard Castle.

Boris said his aide had given ‘chunkable biography’ of what had happened already. Translation: ‘Please, please ask me about something else’.

By now the PM had turned an uncomfortable shade of magenta. Yet still the Cummings questions kept coming.

Queries did at least yield one interesting fact: Boris is now wearing glasses. We look forward to seeing those.

At just after 7.30pm, the PM finally shuffled off and the curtain came down on this day of high political drama. Whether that was the end of the Cummings saga is another matter.