Dominic Cummings’ wife was this morning afforded BBC Radio 4 airtime to say how ‘extremely kind’ the maverick Downing Street adviser is, sparking fury amid allegations of over-stepping his brief.
Mary Wakefield, the commissioning editor of The Spectator, used an available slot to recall the couple’s recent battle against coronavirus.
The decision to allow the journalist to wax lyrical about her husband while he is under fire for attending the government’s SAGE group of scientists raised eyebrows on social media.
Commenting on the broadcast LBC’s James O’Brien said: ‘What on earth where they thinking.’
Mary Wakefield, pictured left, wife of Boris Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings, right, spoke on BBC Radio 4 to defend her husband this morning
LBC presenter James O’Brien questioned whether the BBC should have had her on the show today when her husband was the centre of a political storm
It was last night revealed Boris Johnson’s chief aide had attended meetings of the secretive group steering the government’s coronavirus response, with rivals suggesting he had no businesses doing so.
The article in the Guardian prompted a fiery response by Number 10, who denied he was ‘on’ the group but had attended meetings, dismissing the implications of scandal as ‘ludicrious’.
In her radio slot Ms Wakefield said: ‘Uncertainty is the hallmark of the coronavirus, when you’ve got it the sense of medieval unknowing only deepens. Is this definitely it? Will it get worse? Will it come back? My version of the virus began with a nasty headache and a grubby feeling of unease. After which I threw up on the bathroom floor. “That’s disgusting mum” said my four year old son, handing me a towel with a look of patronising distaste.
‘I’ve never known a bug treat its victims so differently. My friends have reported stabbing sore throats, a loss of taste and smell and a numbness in their fingertips.
‘One slight but sad effect of this is that it makes phoning friends to share coronavirus stories particularly unsatisfying. “Weren’t the muscle aches awful? Oh you didn’t get it. No, no sore throats for me. Oh well.”
‘That evening as I lay on the sofa a happy thought occurred to me. If this was the virus then my husband who works 16 hour days as a rule, would have to come home.
‘I let myself imagine a fortnight in bed with mild symptoms, more fool me. My husband did rush home to look after me, he’s an extremely kind man whatever people assume to the contrary.
Commenting on her husband, pictured, Ms Wakefield said: ‘My husband did rush home to look after me, he’s an extremely kind man whatever people assume to the contrary’
‘But 24 hours later he said “I feel weird” and collapsed. I felt breathless, sometimes achy, but Dom couldn’t get out of bed.
‘Day in day out for ten days he had a high fever, with spasms that made the muscles lump and twitch in his legs.
‘He could breathe but only in a limited shallow way. After a week we reached peak corona uncertainty, day six is a turning point I was told, when you either get better or head for ICU. Was Dom fighting off the bug or was he heading for a ventilator, who knew?
‘I sat on his bed staring at his chest trying to count his breaths per minute. The little oxygen reader we’d bought on Amazon indicated he should be in hospital, but his lips weren’t blue and he could talk in full sentences.
‘Such as “please stop staring at my chest sweet heart”. My son in his doctor’s uniform administered Ribena.’
‘Just as Dom was beginning to feel better it was reported that Boris was heading in the other direction into hospital. I’ve been a slack Christian during this era of biblical plague, churches are shut, even Catholic churches.
‘One of the reasons I converted is that Catholic churches are always open – and now they are closed it feels like someone has turned off the spiritual stopcock.
‘But what is there to do for the sick now except pray? I got to my knees for Boris and found to my surprise that my prayers flowed easily. As if carried along in a current of others.’
The decision to allow the journalist (left) to wax lyrical about her husband (right) while he is under fire for attending the government’s SAGE group of scientists raised eyebrows on social media
This twitter user expressed disbelief that Cummings’ wife was given such a platform
Twitter users said they were not amused by Ms Wakefield’s appearance on the show
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We are running a series of short essays by people who have had different experiences of the covid virus.
‘Mary Wakefield’s essay was based on a column she has written for the Spectator.’
Downing Street angrily dismissed claims its scientific advice could be politicised following the disclosure that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings had been attending meetings of a key scientific group.
Opposition parties, however, said political advisers had no business attending the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and called for its deliberations to be opened to wider scrutiny.
The controversy over Sage – which will advise ministers on the lifting of restrictions – came after The Guardian reported that Mr Cummings and Ben Warner, a data scientist who worked with him on the Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, had been present at Sage meetings.
Downing Street denied they were members of the group and said they were simply seeking to better understand the science involved and how it could inform Government decision-making.
Sage is intended to provide technical and scientific advice and remain strictly politically neutral during national crises.
It does not disclose the names of the scientists involved beyond that of its chairman – currently chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
A list of names leaked to the Guardian revealed Mr Cummings – already a controversial figure for his role in the Vote Leave campaign – had attended a Sage meeting on March 23.
This table shows who is sitting on SAGE, the body advising the Government in the pandemic
His presence and that of data scientist Ben Warner, who also worked on the Vote Leave campaign, caused outrage in many quarters for fear politics could be affecting the quality of the resulting advice.
Dr Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the university of East Anglia, said the fact of Mr Cummings’ attendance without the public knowing his level of involvement could taint the advice Sage has given so far.
Senior civil servants invited to attend, including the Government’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, are permitted to ask questions but must submit them in writing in advance.
Dr Hunter, who also sits on a number of World Health Organisation (WHO) committees, said it was not clear if Mr Cummings was subject to the same restraints.
He said: ‘If he wasn’t and he was contributing to the discussion, then that means we need to be very cautious about the conclusions of Sage.
‘Because whether or not he did influence the outcomes we can’t know for certain, and therefore the validity of the advice coming out of the committee might be flawed.
‘It has been pointed out quite a lot in the press that a lot of the advice and policies that we have had over Covid-19 has differed quite markedly from advice from international agencies.
‘We need to be sure there wasn’t undue political influence at the point those decisions were being taken.’
Alex Thomas, programme director at governance think tank The Institute for Government, also thinks it is the lack of transparency around Sage rather than Mr Cummings’ presence that is the biggest problem.
He said it would be unusual for a representative for Number 10 to have full membership at a meeting but added: ‘It is okay for an adviser to a minister or the Prime Minister to attend meetings like that, but – and it is an important but – we need more transparency about how all of these meetings are working in terms of the advice that is generated.
‘(It would mean) we spend less time debating and commenting about who is at these meetings and focusing on process and more time focusing on the substances.’
One of the reasons given for not publishing the names of those involved is to protect them from lobbying and other forms of unwanted influence.
Mr Thomas, who spent 17 years with the civil service, thinks the risk of lobbyists clouding the judgement of those involved is overblown.
‘As ever with things like this you are balancing different pros and cons and, on balance, my view, given the importance and the public interest attached to those decisions, it is better to be open,’ he said.
Courtesy DAILY MAIL