Dominic Cummings: Church of England bishops condemn Boris Johnson for treating public like 'mugs'

Boris Johnson has been criticised by bishops for his public defence of Dominic Cummings. (PA)

Church of England bishops say Boris Johnson is treating the British public like “mugs” by backing Dominic Cummings.

A number of bishops attacked the prime minister’s decision to stand by his senior adviser, who made a 260-mile trip from London to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.

On Sunday, Johnson publicly backed his chief aide, saying Cummings “acted responsibly and with integrity” – despite calls for the adviser to resign and his own neighbours heckling him as he returned home.

But within minutes of his statement, leading figures from the church criticised the prime minister.

Writing on Twitter near the end of the briefing, Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines said: "The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?”

Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, the Bishop of Ripon, wrote on Twitter: "Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay."

Dr Hartley also shared some details of her experience of being unable to see her parents during lockdown.

She tweeted: "My parents live in Durham, an hour away from where we live. My father finished radiotherapy treatment just before lockdown.

"I've missed his birthday, Mothering Sunday and countless other catch-ups that would have happened. And that's a fraction of a story compared with others."

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John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, called Johnson’s defence of Cummings “risible” and “an insult to all those who have made such sacrifices to ensure the safety of others”.

Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, tweeted that “the PM has no respect for the people”.

She said: "The bonds of peace and our common life (which had been wonderfully strengthened during the testing by CV-19) have been dangerously undermined this evening."

The prime minister's senior aide, Dominic Cummings, arriving at his north London home on Sunday evening (PA)

In an apparent reference to US president Donald Trump, who has been criticised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, tweeted: "Johnson has now gone the full Trump."

Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, said Johnson and his Cabinet are “undermining the trust of the electorate and the risks to life are real”.

Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, appeared to question how the Church of England could work with the government during the coronavirus crisis.

He wrote: "Unless very soon we see clear repentance, including the sacking of Cummings, I no longer know how we can trust what ministers say sufficiently for @churchofengland to work together with them on the pandemic."

Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, tweeted that Johnson’s “response lacks both integrity and respect”.

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