MANY Conservative councillors across the region which Dominic Cummings visited during coronavirus lockdown have declined to voice unqualified support for the Prime Minister’s aide, despite him receiving the backing of Tory MPs in the area.

After describing Mr Cummings’ version of events that led him to drive 260 miles to his parents home in Durham as “detailed and fair”, Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake received thousands of messages in response, while Richmond MP and Chancellor Rishi Sunak faced criticism for stating Mr Cummings had provided an adequate explanation.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said Mr Cummings had given a full, frank and transparent explanation, but wished “that this had come earlier”.

As junior minister Douglas Ross resigned and 30 Conservative MPs called for Mr Cummings to step aside for making the trip and later driving with his wife and child to Barnard Castle, numerous elected Tories said they did not wish to comment on the row.

In an indication of how divisive and politically charged the situation has become, some high-profile Conservatives said they did not even want to be named as not commenting.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said Mr Cummings had answered questions and his continuance in the job was a matter for the Prime Minister to decide upon.

The authority’s deputy leader, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said he “did not want to get involved in Westminster issues”.

However, Darlington Borough Council leader Councillor Heather Scott said it was clear Mr Cummings’ four-year-old son needed support and stability and that he had not put anyone else at risk by the trip, whereas teenagers in Darlington had done so by gathering to swim in the River Tees.

She added: “When he went on his visit [to Barnard Castle] that’s the area I’m not so sure about, but his medics had given him the clearance. I think he is being honest and above board, but it would have been better if the statement had been made last week. He didn’t flout the rules.”

The authority’s chairman of planning, Councillor Doris Jones, said she and her councillor husband Brian believed people were trying to make “political gain” out of the situation. She added: “If my child was in the slightest bit of danger I would go to the ends of the earth. He did things very tactfully and has been very honest about it. There are a lot more serious things going on. I would rather appreciate all that’s going on in hospitals rather than slinging mud. The criticism has got out of hand.”