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Is 10 exercising censorship over what scientific advisers are able to say' ?

June 14, 2020 11:36 AM

bbdq (Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash)If Boris Johnson and his advisors think that they have ridden out the Dominic Cummings affair then they need to think again. Not only has the Special Advisor, his wife and child to Durham made it more difficult to enforce the lockdown, but many people are using it as an excuse to make similar journeys of their own.

And then there are the Prime Minister's scientific advisors, who appear to becoming more and more disillusioned with the government's approach to tackling COVID-19 and the one-rule-for-you-another-rule-for us approach of the inner circle.

As the Independent reports, England's chief nurse was dropped from one of Downing Street's daily coronavirus briefings after refusing to publicly back Dominic Cummings:

As Boris Johnson's chief aide was engulfed in scandal over his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during lockdown, Ruth May had been due to appear alongside the health secretary Matt Hancock in the press conference.

But, in practice questions hours before the briefing, she was asked about Mr Cummings and, after failing to give support to the prime minister's chief adviser, she was immediately dropped from the press conference, according to senior NHS sources.

Instead the health secretary had to present the slides on Covid-19 himself for the first time, alongside Professor John Newton from Public Health England. The incident, on 1 June, was two days after England's deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam sparked headlines by saying that lockdown rules "apply to all" when asked about Mr Cummings. He has not appeared at the press conferences since 30 May.

A senior NHS source said: "A No 10 spad [special adviser] asked her directly how she would answer the Dominic Cummings question and she refused to play along and told them she would answer the same way as Jonathan Van-Tam. She was dropped immediately from the press briefing."

Another added: "Van Tam was the first to publicly push back on TV. Everyone is being asked to support the government positions prior to doing a press conference. If they don't, they get dropped.

"First it was Dominic Cummings, then easing lockdown and now the R-rate and the two-metre rule."

The paper says that Whitehall officials are critical of what they see as No 10's grip on the daily briefings and the way the science and health advice is being used. The idea that the UK Government is 'following the science' is becoming increasingly under question.