MANY DORSET Tory politicians have been reluctant to comment on the Dominic Cummings’ bank holiday explanation of his excursion to the North East.

Most councillors only offered a curt ‘no comment’ and only one of more than thirty returned the call where a message was left. Cllr David Shortell was the only one of only two councillors contacted who was prepared to comment when asked. “It was a bad example and he didn’t give a good account of himself. He was one of the instigators of self-isolation yet he failed to give a strong enough case, I felt, to justify his own action…”

“My thoughts is that this won’t encourage people to stay at home.” The West Moors and Three Legged Cross councillor said he had only spoken to one other person about the issue and they had taken the same view.

Marshwood Vale councillor Simon Christopher took a different view and said he doubted if people would be swayed one way or another about isolation at home, if the need arose: “I though his behaviour was not unreasonable for a concerned parent. It is not un-common for parents not to be able to draw on local child care, but it’s incredibly common for people to seek out assistance from family,” he said.

Weymouth councillor Louie O’Leary was not prepared to be drawn on the subject: “I’m always happy to talk about local issues but I don’t want to be drawn into national politics,” he said, adding his criticism of press photographers outside the home of the Prime Minister’s aide: “You could see they weren’t exactly social distancing,” he quipped.

“I don’t think a lot of people will be bothered by this,” said the Littlemoor councillor.

Cabinet member Cllr Andrew Parry (West Parley) said he too would rather not comment on national issues: “It’s not something I want to be drawn into, although I am sure a lot of people do have views,” he said.

Cllr Mary Penfold was also happy to talk about local issues, but declined the opportunity to comment on Mr Cummings. “We’ve had a virtual open gardens event at the weekend in place of our usual open gardens. You could report on that instead, if you like. It went very well,” said the Sydling St Nicholas resident.

Cllr Mike Parkes (Ferndown North) was one of the few councillors to return the call – but only to apologise for being out of touch with what was going on nationally. “I’m a retained fireman and have spent pretty much all of the last nine days at Wareham Forest. I think we’ve at last got control of it now, thank goodness,” he said.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax refused to comment.

Meanwhile, West Dorset MP Chris Loder issud a lengthy statement last night which said: "Many constituents have written to me over the last few days; sharing their frustration, support or sadness and asking for my view on the current situation with Dominic Cummings.

"I don’t know him personally and we have never met. So, I have no affiliation, but I did want to get to the full facts; which is why I am making a considered response now and chose not to rush into making one before.

"We have all been asked to make enormous sacrifices. Our response to this in West Dorset has contributed to the South West having one of the lowest numbers of Coronavirus cases in the country and for that I am very grateful.

"Should Dominic Cummings have driven with his family to County Durham? In my opinion, no. However, his action has not broken any law (the statement from Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, on 24th March sets out the reasons why this is the case). Equally, I do not think that he should have driven to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, and I believe his decision to do so is much more questionable.

"Not everything that was initially reported has transpired to be accurate and, in my opinion, these inaccuracies have played a part in fuelling a very angry public response. Some press stories have since been proven totally false, indeed even Durham Police gave an incorrect statement which was put right just before the press conference on Monday.

"The real issue here is that the message to all of us, at that time, was to ‘Stay at Home and Save Lives’ - regardless. While we have made that sacrifice, often at great personal and emotional expense, the point has not nearly been well enough communicated that provision was always there, within the rules, for exceptional circumstances - especially where vulnerable people and young children are concerned.

"Following on from the ‘Kindness Matters’ message I was promoting last week during Mental Health Awareness week, I want to also share with you my thoughts on bullying and intimidation.

"Whatever our individual opinion of Dominic Cummings, is it right that he – or indeed anybody, public figure or not – should be targeted with threats of violence, even death, and be subjected to an orchestrated campaign of harassment towards their young family at their home? I don’t especially warm to Mr Cummings but I have been asking myself how I would react if I was faced with a similar situation. It is, in my view, completely unacceptable to be on the receiving end of violent threats, which I do believe has played a part in this sorry state of affairs.

"My role is to represent the views of my constituents; and I have indeed called the Government this morning to convey the strong, although not universal, views I have received. For me, the most important issue now is the moral responsibility of the Government to ensure that its guidance continues to be followed, for the protection of public health and the future of our communities – and it is this single point that I have asked Government to consider when it comes to Dominic Cummings’ future.

"My focus now, as it has been throughout, is to support local people, families and businesses of West Dorset through this crisis. Recovery is on the horizon, but so too is the probability of the worst recession for a very long time; so, finding a balance and working towards a safe recovery transition, must be our absolute priority."