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At the heart of the ongoing furore over Dominic Cummings is a very simple question: did he break lockdown rules when he drove 260 miles to Durham with his wife and child so he could be closer to his family?
Judging by the fact the row is now in its fourth day and a junior Tory minister has resigned from the government over it, it appears a sizeable majority of people think, yes, he did.
Despite this, ministers are lining up to defend Cummings, an unelected bureaucrat with massive influence on government policy most famous for leading the Vote Leave campaign to rid the UK of unelected bureaucrats with massive influence on government policy.
On Tuesday, William Wragg, Tory chair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said it was “humiliating” to see ministers defending Cummings.
“We cannot throw away valuable public and political goodwill any longer,” he said.
So in the spirit of keeping an accurate historical record of humiliating government comments, here is a choice selection of Tory defences of Cummings ranked from bad to bloody awful.
10) Michael Gove
First up is Michael Gove’s first intervention on Saturday, in which he simply stated: “Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.”
In all fairness, there is nothing to fault when taken at face value – it is indeed not a crime to look after your wife and child.
But it makes our list for the simple fact that most members of the public didn’t deny themselves a chance to see their families because it was a crime, they did it because the government itself said we shouldn’t.
One very simple sentence in the lockdown guidance states people “should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home”.
9) Rishi Sunak
The chancellor took a similar tack to Gove on Saturday, but for good measure accused anyone criticising Cummings as “trying to score political points”.
Unfortunately for Sunak, this argument almost immediately fell apart in hours as a number of his own backbenchers have called for Cummings to go.
8) Matt Hancock
The health secretary has a bit more capital to spend when it comes to coronavirus as he fell ill with the disease himself earlier in the year, a fact he was quick to flaunt in his effort on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Hancock loses points for not acknowledging that “to find childcare” meant a car journey across England in a vehicle literally filled with virus.
And there were some big names who thought otherwise. The former head of the Police Federation in England and Wales said it was “most unwise” for the No.10 adviser to have travelled when “known to be infected”.
7) Downing Street
The official line from Downing Street on Saturday was straightforward enough: “His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”
But again, this suffers from the same flaws as Gove’s earlier attempt – why did no one else interpret the guidelines in the same way?
Also, if you commit a crime and in court you tell the judge: “Your honour, I do not believe I committed a crime,” it will not have much of an impact.
6) Grant Shapps
If there’s an under appreciated victim of this whole saga, it is Grant Shapps.
Shapps was almost certainly looking forward to standing up at Saturday’s Downing Street briefing and informing the nation that his department had a slew of exciting new projects to make our lives that little bit brighter.
Ironically, given he is transport secretary, he was in fact being thrown under a bus.
No one gave two hoots about the expansion of the A66 and a visibly upset Shapps was instead forced to defend Cummings. Over and over again.
The transport secretary also said restrictions put in place by the government on March 23 should only be followed “to the best of your ability” and that it was “up to the individual” to make decisions on how best to follow them.
So, anyone fancy a pint then?
5) Suella Braverman
At this stage in the list we cross from “insulting the public’s intelligence” to just outrightly “insulting the public”.
Attorney general Suella Braverman on Saturday tweeted: “Protecting one’s family is what any good parent does”.
Which, when you think about it, isn’t really on given that it’s essentially saying that anyone who didn’t visit their family during lockdown must be a bad parent.
A number of people on social media also wondered if the same reasoning also applies to migrants risking their lives by crossing the channel to come to the UK.
4) Boris Johnson
As if the implication of the attorney general’s tweet wasn’t bad enough, on Sunday the PM himself stood in front of the nation and basically said the same thing.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing, Boris Johnson said Cummings had “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity” and that “any parent would frankly understand what he did”.
Which, predictably, didn’t go down too well with parents across the country.
3) Downing Street (again)
In the midst of the row and before Johnson had taken the stage on Sunday, Downing Street was refusing to even answer questions on the matter.
Instead, it blamed the media, saying: “We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers.”
The very next day a copy of the Daily Mail landed inside the door of No.10 with the headline: “What planet are they on?”.
2) Dominic Cummings
On Monday evening an unprecedented scene unfolded as Cummings himself gave a speech and answered questions in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street.
There, in front of the entire nation, he said he drove his car 30 miles to a local beauty spot with his wife and child to see if his eyes worked properly, because apparently we now live in a world where the head of the Police Federation has to tweet things like this:
1) Michael Gove (again)
You’d be forgiven for thinking number two on our list was the most ridiculous moment of this whole saga, but then you mustn’t have seen Michael Gove on Tuesday morning attempting to justify driving a car while possibly blind.
Gove, appearing on radio station LBC, begins by saying: “I have on occasions in the past driven with my wife in order to make sure that errrr... what’s the right way of putting it?”
Host Nick Ferrari interjects: “I’m staggered, I don’t know how you’re going to get out of this one but it’s going to be fun.”
At this point Gove basically gives up and informs us that he “is not an authority on driving” which is a bloody good job bearing in mind what he nearly said.
And a special mention...
Shout out to Oliver Dowden and his ability to spot the “end of a story” (tweet posted on Saturday).