LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson confronted a torrent of calls on Saturday to dismiss his most influential adviser, Dominic Cummings, after experiences that Mr. Cummings had visited family members in northern England whereas he was ailing with the coronavirus — a violation of Britain’s lockdown guidelines.
Mr. Johnson appeared decided to face by Mr. Cummings, an enigmatic determine who helped mastermind his election victory final 12 months and the Brexit marketing campaign that resulted in Britain’s departure from the European Union.
But the experiences that Mr. Cummings had pushed to his dad and mom’ home in Durham in April when the federal government was urging folks to remain dwelling — notably these with signs of the virus — set off a political tempest, with critics accusing him of flouting the foundations that apply to everyone else.
“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings,” mentioned a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, who added that he had “breached the lockdown rules.”
Leaders of two different opposition events, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, demanded that he resign or be fired.
Confronted by reporters outdoors his dwelling on Saturday, Mr. Cummings mentioned, “I behaved reasonably and legally.” Asked whether or not his resolution had been “a good look,” he replied: “Who cares about good looks? It’s a question of doing the right thing. It is not about what you guys think.”
The livid reactions to his journey attested to the polarizing function Mr. Cummings has performed in British politics since earlier than the 2016 Brexit referendum. He has gathered a protracted record of enemies, together with some within the Conservative Party, like Iain Duncan Smith, a former celebration chief, whom he has ridiculed or sidelined.
But it additionally confirmed Mr. Johnson’s deep reliance on Mr. Cummings. The prime minister dug in his heels on Saturday, releasing an announcement, by means of a spokesman, that defended Mr. Cummings and his spouse for making the 260-mile drive to Durham. It mentioned that they had been making an attempt to line up care for his or her younger little one after he contracted the virus and anticipated he would fall ailing.
The adviser went to a home “near to but separate from his extended family,” the assertion mentioned, after his sister and nieces had provided to assist.
“His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines,” the assertion mentioned.
If so, nonetheless, Mr. Cummings appeared keen to not disclose the journey. His spouse, the journalist Mary Wakefield, wrote an account of her husband’s sickness in The Spectator that made no point out of their drive and instructed he had been bedridden for 10 days at dwelling with a “high fever and spasms that made the muscles lump and twitch in his legs.”
Mr. Cummings himself described being shut in with Ms. Wakefield, who additionally had signs, for greater than two weeks, starting on the finish of March, when he contracted the virus quickly after Mr. Johnson.
Violations of the lockdown by outstanding figures have change into a recurring theme in Britain, with the penalties falling more durable on non-public residents and scientific specialists than on authorities officers.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and adviser to the federal government, stepped down from a key scientific panel after acknowledging he had invited a lady with whom he was reported to be romantically concerned into his residence in the course of the lockdown. Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, resigned in April after experiences she had traveled twice to a trip dwelling.
But Robert Jenrick, the secretary for housing, communities and native authorities, held on to his job after admitting he had pushed an hour outdoors London to go to his dad and mom. And Stephen Kinnock, a outstanding Labour member of Parliament, brushed apart criticism from the police after he visited his father, Neil Kinnock, for his birthday in March.
Though an adviser and never an elected politician, Mr. Cummings has twice been essential to Mr. Johnson’s political success. Not solely is he an accomplished campaigner, the person behind the pro-Brexit slogan “take back control,” however he additionally impressed Mr. Johnson’s agenda to unfold prosperity to uncared for areas of the nation, together with the north.
His public profile rose when he was portrayed by the actor Benedict Cumberbatch in a drama in regards to the Brexit marketing campaign, as a kind of tortured genius decided to destroy the political elite. Since the election, he has reveled in his picture as an eccentric, raveled iconoclast, intent on reinventing authorities — Downing Street’s reply to Stephen Ok. Bannon, President Trump’s former strategist.
Cabinet ministers and different Conservative lawmakers confirmed help for Mr. Cummings on Saturday, together with the overseas secretary, Dominic Raab; the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak; and the well being secretary, Matt Hancock.
“I know how ill coronavirus makes you,” Mr. Hancock tweeted. “It was entirely right for Dom Cummings to find childcare for his toddler, when both he and his wife were getting ill.”
Others stayed silent, nonetheless, maybe ready to see whether or not Mr. Cummings may journey out the storm.
While the Labour Party demanded solutions, it stopped wanting demanding his resignation. That appeared to replicate a tactical judgment by the celebration chief, Keir Starmer, that the episode would do extra harm to the federal government, which is already on the defensive for its dealing with of the virus, if it had been dragged out over a number of days.
And criticism flowed not simply from opposition politicians.
Julia Hartley-Brewer, a broadcaster and journalist who usually leans to the best politically, described how she had been separated from her 77-year-old mom, who lives on her personal and suffered a coronary heart assault in December.