THE Bishop of Manchester has joined a chorus of criticism from religious figures over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's defence of the actions taken by his chief aide, Dominic Cummings.

More than a dozen bishops questioned the integrity of the prime minister following his press conference on Sunday, in which he refused to acknowledge that Cummings had breached lockdown rules when he travelled with his infected wife and their child to Durham.

The PM has been the subject of stinging criticism from bishops, who accused him of treating people "as mugs" and with "no respect" after he opted to stick by his chief aide.

The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, tweeted: "The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?"

The Rt Rvd Baines, told the Observer: “People across the country have sacrificed hugely in order to obey both the spirit and word of government advice. People have missed being with family members who have died. But, now we learn that there is one rule for the people and another for No 10 and the elite.”

Bishop of Manchester Dr David Walker has now also joined calls for Mr Cummings to be sacked saying his actions increased the "sense of deception that we are being either lied to".

Talking to the BBC, Dr Walker, said: "I was stunned at the press conference from Downing Street.

"Religions have been saying for thousands of years that human instinct on its own is not good enough - we need rules, we need virtues, we need values and we need guidelines and then the Prime Minister says actually you can trust your instincts.

"If we all do that then we are not going to get out of this Covid-19 crisis."

The Diocese of Manchester represents the Church of England in Bolton, Bury, Leigh, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford. It is one of the largest in the country serving 2.1m people.

"There is a rule in public life that when a story gets as big as this is that you get out all the news whether it is good or bad and then you have a position you can defend," said Dr Walker. "What we are struggling with at the moment is that we are being told that some of the things being told about Mr Cummings are palpable lies and we are not being told which things are true and which things are false. It is very hard to understand what is going on and it is that sense of deception that we are being either lied to or at the very least things are being hidden from us.

"We need to know as a country that we really are all in it together and that sense of being in it together is absolutely essential to our coping with the crisis - if we feel it is one rule for some and a different one for others then we will all go our own way and find there will be another peak of the disease and more unacceptable deaths."

Dr Walker said he now hoped the Prime Minister would reconsider his decision and sack Mr Cummings.

"I am hoping that having had a night's sleep and perhaps a restful morning before his cabinet meeting that they come out and say 'we are sorry, we got this wrong and we have let down the British people'.

"I think that probably does mean that Mr Cummings' position is untenable at the heart of Government and I think that if we can have that sense of 'yes we did get this wrong and we are sorry but we have learnt' that will enable us to rebuild the trust we need to get through this crisis."

Dr Walker also suggested that Mr Johnson's behaviour maybe clouded by his earlier contraction of coronavirus.

"He does not look a well man," he added. "We know people who have had Covid-19 are quite ill for quite some time afterwards and it affects the body, the mind and the whole of the person.

"He really didn't look well and I cut him some slack for that but the other advisors around him need to say to him 'Boris, you got that wrong'. Everybody can forgive a sinner who is repentant so say you got it wrong and we can move on.

"Let's get on with the real job of tracking and tracing and making sure we cut this disease out of our society."