Chief nurse confirms she was ‘dropped’ from briefing during Cummings lockdown travel scandal

Support us and go ad-free

Chief nursing officer Ruth May has confirmed she was dropped from a Number 10 press briefing during the lockdown travel storm surrounding Dominic Cummings.

She had been due to appear alongside health secretary Matt Hancock on 1 June, but was cut when she felt unable to defend the prime minister’s chief adviser, according to the Independent.

Ministers had previously denied that May was blocked from taking questions because she refused to defend Cummings after he moved his family 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ farm while strict travel restrictions were in place during the lockdown.

But speaking to MPs on 20 July, May confirmed she had prepared for a press conference in June but was stood down.

She told the Commons Public Accounts Committee she did not know why she was dropped.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

“It is indeed true that I was dropped from a briefing but that happens to many of my colleagues as well,” May told MPs.

“That is a regular occurrence.”

Pushed on why she was not allowed to appear, she said: “I don’t know why I was dropped, chair.”

May, asked whether it was requested that she defend Cummings, she said: “At all press briefings, we talk about a lot of these preparation questions.

Coronavirus Cummings
Dominic Cummings, the PM’s chief aide, took his family from London to Durham during the lockdown (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“And yes, of course, I was asked about lockdown and rules to lockdown, yes.”

May said she thought the stay-at-home lockdown rules applied to everyone in the country.

She said: “I believe that, in my opinion, the rules are clear and they are there for everyone’s safety and they applied to us all.”

Her words echoed those of deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam who, when asked about Cummings’ example at a briefing on 30 May, had said lockdown rules “apply to all”.

In its initial story, the Independent quoted an NHS source saying May was dropped after saying she would follow the example set by Van-Tam, who was also then allegedly blacklisted for a number of weeks.

Coronavirus May
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said at a briefing on May 30 that the lockdown rules ‘apply to all’ (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

A second source reportedly told the media outlet: “Everyone is being asked to support the government positions prior to doing a press conference.

“If they don’t, they get dropped.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps had defended the government against the allegations during a media briefing on 12 June.

When asked about the claims last month, Shapps said: “I don’t think it is true.

“She [May] has attended them many times before.

“I am absolutely sure she has been a regular contributor before and I am sure she will be back here again.”

National medical director of NHS England, said at the time he did not know anything about the row over May.

The government put a stop to the daily press conference on 23 June, instead opting to restate them for announcements on an ad-hoc basis.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. LCD yet again ! LIE CHEAT DECEIVE

      I worked out pretty quickly that the briefings were total bollo*ks and that the experts were doing and saying what they were told. experts at start “heard immunity is definitely the way to go” keep calm and carry on,

      Experts (same ones!) under a week later “don’t go near anyone, stay at home, isolate etc etc” keep calm and don’t carry on !

      Even taking into account the fact that Englands death rate and numbers are probably wrong and too high, the complete handling from every single aspect of this crisis has been abysmal even by this shower of sh*t’s standards. Everything from our world beating track and trace App to testing of key staff, everything from discharging elderly patients with Covid 19 to care homes to you do as you are told we do what we like, its all be a disaster, dangerous and scandalous. I believe that one day there will be a public enquiry into how our government handled the crisis and come to the conclusion ?


    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.