TRADITIONALLY bank holidays are the quietest weekends of the year on the news front. It can be a battle to fill pages – especially when all the events that we rely upon for bright and breezy pictures have been called off.

As my phone buzzed last Friday night with the breaking news about Dominic Cummings, it was clear any plans for a steady weekend would have to be put on the back burner.

It proved too late to carry any of the allegation’s from the Mirror and Guardian stories in Saturday’s Northern Echo, but as we followed them up on our website, and made our own inquiries over the weekend, it became clear the level of interest was huge.

Our online and social media comments sections exploded, with every view under the sun, from those who believe it is a non-story, to those furious that Mr Cummings had seemingly gone against the very restrictions he helped develop, to those who felt it was a Remainer witch hunt.

Some readers have contacted me to ask why we gave this story more prominence in Monday and Tuesday’s papers than lockdown transgressions by others, such as the disgraceful scenes at Richmond Falls over that same weekend, and those in the public eye, such as Labour MP Stephen Kinnock.

My answer is that what Mr Cummings did or did not do – and how our Prime Minister responded to it – has huge repercussions for public trust in both the Government and its health messaging.

One of its slogans during the “stay at home” period was “all in, all together”. Mr Cummings must have missed that one, when he decided to take his ill advised, and now infamous, drive to Barnard Castle.

The Northern Echo:

The fake blue plaque which appeared in Barnard Castle

No matter how Boris Johnson chooses to deflect the blame onto the press – and yes, there were inaccuracies in some of the original stories – it is worth remembering that Number 10 had several opportunities to provide some of the details given in that Rose Garden press conference in the weeks prior to publication. And if trust in the media is low, then he should look closer to home – Mr Cummings’ wife was responsible for what now appears to be a wildly inaccurate article about their coronavirus experiences in the Spectator magazine. If the couple honestly believed they did nothing wrong by travelling to isolate in Durham, then why not mention the fact in her column instead of describing how they emerged from quarantine “into the almost comical uncertainty of London lockdown”?

And then there is the issue of Durham Police. This is a police force consistently rated as the best in the country, and while it is right that they should justify their decision-making around the case, they were put in a very difficult position by Number 10’s initial statements.

The force’s position on Mr Cummings’ movements, announced on Thursday, is that the London to Durham journey was not a breach of regulations, but the Barnard Castle trip might have been a minor one. Had an officer stopped him, he would have been given advice and sent home, rather than fined. This is entirely consistent with the force’s previous stance – it has not been handing out fines on the scale of neighbouring North Yorkshire, for example.

The focus should now switch back to the politicians. This episode, and all it revealed about morality of those running our country, should not be swept under the carpet.