BORIS Johnson has defended his top aide Dominic Cummings despite a growing fury over his 260-mile lockdown trips.
The Prime Minister this evening backed his chief adviser, and refused to ask him to quit despite a growing backlash from his own MPs.
Speaking at his third Downing Street press conference since leaving hospital, Mr Johnson insisted he had taken the allegations extremely seriously.
He said: “It’s because I take this matter so seriously that I’ve had extensive face to face conversations with Dominic Cummings.
“When he had no alternative, I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent.
“Though there have been many other allegations about what happened when he was in self-isolation, thereafter, some of the palpably false.
“I believe that in every respect that he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity and with the overwhelming aim of stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives.”
Mr Cummings has been accused of breaking the lockdown three times after later being spotted in the north east on April 12 and 19.
Furious Tory backbenchers are demanding the controversial aide is booted out of his role immediately.
Tory MP Steve Baker became the first to publicly call for him to resign earlier this morning.
Appearing on Sky News, he said: “If he doesn’t resign we’ll keep burning through Boris’s political capital.
“Mum’s and dad’s who very much care about their children and foregoing child care of their extended family will be wondering why, and understand how he’s been allowed to do this.
“We’re now in a nonsense position, a pantomime position where it seems if you wish to apply a wide common sense interpretation of the rules you can do, at least if you work in Number 10.
“It’s ridiculous and he has to go.”
Others included Sir Roger Gale, Peter Bone, William Wragg, Craig Whittaker and Caroline Nokes.
They were joined in the brewing backlash by popular backbencher Damian Collins, who runs his fact-check site.
He tweeted: “Dominic Cummings has a track record of believing that the rules don’t apply to him and treating the scrutiny that should come to anyone in a position of authority with contempt.
“The government would be better without him.
“The latest bombshell claims call into question Downing Street’s statements backing Cummings after it emerged he travelled 260 miles to the property owned by his parents in late-March.”
The group were the first to openly speak out against Mr Cummings, with many more privately admitting he has to go.
Several have also refused to follow the cabinet in tweeting their support for the aide after being asked.
The Scottish First Minister Nicola also demanded he go, pointing to the resignation of Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood after it was revealed she visited her second home.
She tweeted: “I know it is tough to lose a trusted adviser at the height of crisis, but when it’s a choice of that or integrity of vital public health advice, the latter must come first.
“That’s the judgement I and, to her credit, Catherine Calderwood reached. PM and Cummings should do likewise.”
The scandal even hit the streets of Mr Cummings home, with campaigners today setting up a huge screen blaring clips of Boris Johnson stating “you must stay at home” outside his house.
Led by Donkeys drove to Cummings’ north London home with clips of the PM saying: “You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.”
Earlier Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the claims Mr Cummings broke the rules twice were “not true”.
It comes after a witness claimed he saw Cummings at a beauty spot 30 miles away when he says he was self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms on April 12.
He was then claimed to have been seen walking with his family in Durham a week later.
Walkers said they were shocked when they saw him with his wife in Houghall Woods on April 19, the Sunday Mirror reports.
One resident who was not named claimed the political strategist said as he walked past: “Aren’t the bluebells lovely?”
A second eyewitness told the Observer he also saw Cummings a week earlier on Easter Sunday at Barnard Castle, a popular tourist location 30 miles away from Durham.
Cummings last night told 10 Downing Street reports he made a second trip north were “totally false”.
It came as Durham Constabulary confirmed they did speak to Cummings’ father about his alleged lockdown breach.
The force said: “On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware that Dominic Cummings had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city.
“At the request of Mr Cummings’ father, an officer made contact the following morning by telephone.
“During that conversation, Mr Cummings’ father confirmed that his son had travelled with his family from London to the North-East and was self-isolating in part of the property.
“Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required. However, the officer did provide advice in relation to security issues.”
Earlier No10 had denied that police had spoken to anyone in Cummings’ family.
After being backed by No10, Mr Cummings told reporters outside his home in London: “I behaved reasonably and legally.”
Asked if his trip to Durham during lockdown “looked good”, he added: “Who cares about good looks? It’s a question of doing the right thing. It’s not about what you guys think.”
An official statement from Downing Street said Cummings didn’t break government guidance because he and his wife, journalist Mary Wakefield, stayed in a different building.
Opposition politicians have called for the 48-year-old to resign or be sacked.
His actions go against government advice, which became law on March 26, which stated: “You should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home.”
Only in exceptional circumstances were people allowed to attend relatives’ addresses; for example, to drop off food or medicine to their door.
A YouGov poll found that 68 per cent of voters think Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, while just 18 per cent disagreed.
And a majority of those questioned, 52 per cent, they think the PM’s top aide should resign because of the scandal.