Black Country bishops condemn Government 'betrayal' of public
The Bishop of Wolverhampton has described Boris Johnson's backing of Dominic Cummings as a "betrayal" of those who have obeyed the strict lockdown laws during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bishops of Dudley, Lichfield, Wolverhampton and Worcester have all voiced concerns about the conduct of Mr Johnson's chief advisor and the Prime Minister's refusal to criticise him.
Mr Cummings travelled to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family – apparently because he feared that he and his wife would be left unable to care for their son – while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys.
Further reports also suggested he took a second trip to the North East in April, having already returned to London following his recovery from Covid-19.
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Bishop of Wolverhampton Clive Gregory called on Mr Cummings to resign to restore the public's faith in the Prime Minister and his Government.
He said: "I think it's a betrayal of all the people who, for the last 10 weeks, were told that we have to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and to save lives.
"That has been the instruction that we received from our prime minister in a state of the nation address, in the most solemn possible terms and backed up by a letter that we all received through the post.
"We received it as an instruction and it wasn't 'use common sense where you think it's appropriate and use your parental instinct', it was an instruction that we all received.
"The response from the community has been widespread anger and I think people are more angry about this than I might have imagined earlier."
Bishop of Dudley Martin Gorick has experienced loss during the lockdown period, with his mother-in-law recently becoming a widow.
He and his wife have not been able to visit her during the lockdown and Bishop Martin said he felt for the people who had been following the guidelines at great cost to themselves and their families.
"There's much more serious cases where people have died and they've not been able to go and people have cared for children at home and they've been very sick themselves," he said.
"There have been huge examples of sacrifices and I am concerned at how those people are left feeling at a time like this, so they're very much on my heart.
"I'm very well aware of how difficult it is for many people and I think it's crucial at times like this that we work together, so anything that seems to undermine that is a grave difficulty."
Bishop John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, added: “I don’t normally comment on politics, certainly not on party politics, but this matter is not party political. Great concern has been expressed across the spectrum.
“This is actually a matter life and death. If senior government officials do not appear to follow their own instructions then we shall all be at greater risk.
"Trust will be eroded and people will not feel inclined to follow Government instructions at all. That will mean more deaths from this horrible virus.”
Bishop of Lichfield Dr. Michael Ipgrave endorsed these comments, saying: "I know how costly the decisions have been that people have been making during the period of restriction, as they have conscientiously kept themselves away from family and friends despite their instincts.
"It is quite wrong that they should now feel themselves undermined by any special pleading.
"That said, I believe that the overwhelming majority of people have been following the government guidance carefully because they know it is the right thing to do for the good of others.
"I hope that they will continue to do so for as long as regulations remain in place."
Mr Johnson said he could “not mark down” Mr Cummings for the way he acted, and told the Downing Street press conference on Sunday that, following “extensive” talks with his aide, he concluded “he followed the instincts of every father and every parent”.
He said Mr Cummings had “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity”.