The Guardian has won “scoop of the year” at the London Press Club awards, after the reporter Matthew Weaver broke the story of Dominic Cummings’ lockdown-breaking dash to Durham during the first coronavirus wave.
The resulting scandal led to a Downing Street press conference in which Cummings, then the prime minister’s chief of staff, defended his actions. He infamously said he had decided to drive from his parents’ house on the outskirts of Durham to the town of Barnard Castle in order to check his eyesight.
The award was shared with the Daily Mirror on Wednesday, after the outlets agreed to work together to stand up the story when it had initially been denied by Downing Street. The two outlets combined resources and sources until they got to the point where they could definitely establish the facts and publish the story.
“I wrote a post saying that Cummings wasn’t at work in Downing Street, but was in contact with officials,” recalled Weaver. “A person called me up and said: ‘I can tell you why he’s not in Downing Street. I’ve just seen him in Durham’.”
He added: “At first I thought they must have been mistaken. But they were very detailed in their description of Cummings, and very clear. And of course, they had that incredible detail about Abba being played from the house.”
The Daily Mirror political editor, Pippa Crerar, has said the claim was so extraordinary it justified the decision to pool resources: “It’s unusual to put aside the normal rivalry between publications, but both Matt and I had reached a place where we couldn’t go any further on our own. I felt that this story was so strongly in the public interest that we needed to get it over the line.”