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Earlier this week, the corporation ruled that the current affairs show breached its impartiality guidelines after Emily opened Tuesday’s programme by saying that the prime minister’s aide had “broken the rules” amid controversy about his 260-mile lockdown trip to his parents’ house in Durham.
An official investigation by Durham Police has now said Cummings could have been guilty of a “a minor breach” of the coronavirus lockdown rules when he visited Barnard Castle with his wife and son to test his “eyesight”. However, they added that no further action would be taken.
Following the development, many have called for the BBC to retract its statement, which ruled that Emily’s opening monologue “did not meet our standards of due impartiality” adding that staff had “been reminded of the guidelines”.
The BBC’s decision to publicly reprimand Emily and the show sparked criticism, most notably from Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan, who said the corporation was “chucking one of its best journalists under the bus for telling the truth”.
His words were echoed by journalist and former Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason, who said the decision made him “sick”.
The National Union of Journalists also criticised the BBC over its handling of the row, with general secretary Michelle Stanistreet saying: “At a time of national crisis, frank and fearless journalism that scrutinises and holds this Government to account is more necessary than ever.”
Emily did not front Wednesday night’s broadcast as expected, after the BBC published their statement, leading many to wrongly conclude she’d been temporarily stood down.
She later tweeted that she’d “asked for the night off” and thanked fans for their support.
In her introduction to Tuesday’s show, Emily said “Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot.
“The longer ministers and the prime minister tell us he worked within them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.”
She added: “He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can now flout them.”
In response to Durham Police’s findings, a No 10 spokesperson said: “The police have made clear they are taking no action against Mr Cummings over his self-isolation and that going to Durham did not breach the regulations.
“The prime minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and legally given all the circumstances and he regards this issue as closed.”