Boris Johnson's top scientists accuse him of trashing their efforts

Three of Boris Johnson’s top scientists accuse him of trashing their efforts to get public to obey lockdown after he gives under-fire Dominic Cummings his backing over trips to Durham

  • Stephen Reicher said PM’s defence threatened the UK’s coronavirus fight 
  • Professor Reicher serves on the SAGE committee advising Government
  • Shortly after comment shared, two other Government advisers echoed his anger
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Boris Johnson has ‘trashed’ public trust and adherence to lockdown, Government advisers warned last night.

Psychology professor Stephen Reicher said the Prime Minister’s defence of Dominic Cummings had threatened the UK’s fight against coronavirus.

The University of St Andrews academic, who serves on the SAGE committee advising the Government on behavioural science, tweeted: ‘I can say that in a few short minutes tonight, Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control Covid-19.

‘Be open and honest, we said. Trashed. Respect the public, we said. Trashed. Ensure equity, so everyone is treated the same, we said. Trashed. Be consistent we said. Trashed. Make clear “we are all in it together”. Trashed.’

Shortly after the comment was shared, two other Government advisers, also on the committee, echoed Professor Reicher’s anger.

Boris Johnson has ‘trashed’ public trust and adherence to lockdown, Government advisers warned last night. Pictured: Mr Johnson during tonight’s Dowing Street press briefing

Psychology professor Stephen Reicher (pictured) said the Prime Minister’s defence of Dominic Cummings had threatened the UK’s fight against coronavirus

On Saturday, the Government said Mr Cummings had acted ‘reasonably and legally’ in response to claims he had driven 270 miles from London to Durham with his wife amid the nationwide lockdown.

Retired chemistry teacher Robin Lees then claimed he saw Mr Cummings and his family on April 12 walking in the town of Barnard Castle, according to The Guardian and The Mirror. 

The town is 30 miles from Durham, where the aide had been self-isolating. Mr Lees has reportedly made a complaint to the police. 

Mr Cummings was photographed back in Downing Street on April 14 before a passerby claimed to have seen him in Durham again on April 19. 

But despite ten Tory backbenchers demanding Mr Cummings’s head, Mr Johnson refused to bow to public and political pressure to sack his top aide.

He claimed Mr Cummings had ‘no alternative’ but to make the journey when both he and his wife Mary Wakefield were ‘about to be incapacitated by coronavirus.’  

On Saturday, the Government said Mr Cummings had acted ‘reasonably and legally’ in response to claims he had driven 270 miles from London to Durham with his wife amid the nationwide lockdown. Pictured: Mr Cummings leaving No. 10 today


Shortly after the comment was shared, two other Government advisers also on the committee, Professor Susan Michie (left) and Professor Robert West (right), echoed Professor Reicher’s anger

The prime minister said he had ‘extensive face-to-face’ talks with Mr Cummings today, claiming his close associate had ‘acted responsibly, legally and with integrity’. 

Following Professor Reicher’s Tweet, Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, called for scientific chiefs to deliver separate briefings from ministers from now on, adding: ‘Never thought I’d say this but I don’t want science to be dragged down by association with dishonesty.

‘My fear is that science, which is key to getting through this pandemic, will be diminished in the eyes of the public by association with this Government. Independent scientific communication key.’

Robert West, also part of the advisory group, backed his colleagues as he shared Professor Michie’s post.

Professor West, also a health psychology professor at UCL, had earlier tweeted: ‘Conservative MPs and supporters must be feeling alarmed at what is going on in Government. It is nothing short of a shambles with Trumpian levels of deceit. The people of this country are being treated like idiots and I doubt that they will stand for it.’

Last night, Professor Reicher’s tweets had been shared thousands of times – with other members of the scientific community adding their voices to his criticism.

In further posts Professor Reicher said it was ‘very hard to provide scientific advice to a Government which doesn’t want to listen to science.’

He appealed for the public to continue sticking to the lockdown rules and ‘to make up for this bad government with their own good sense’.

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