Maitlis, 49, opened the BBC current affairs programme by saying: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot.
"He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, who tagged the lazy label of elite on those who disagreed. He should understand that public mood one now: one of fury, contempt and anguish.
"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.
"The prime minister knows all this, but despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it."
She added: “Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10. We do not expect to be joined by a government minister, but it won’t stop us asking the questions.”
“One Cabinet minister has been heard to say that unless this is dealt with - that means the departure of Dominic Cummings - this could cost lives.”— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) May 26, 2020
Political Editor @nicholaswatt reports on the growing Tory revolt over the PM’s decision to stand by Mr Cummings👇#Newsnight pic.twitter.com/y916GxVbTY
Maitlis won praise on social media for her scathing critique of the government response to the Cumming scandal.
Labour MP David Lammy described Maitlis’s opening as: “Public service broadcasting.”
Cummings, a senior aide to Johnson, has been under increasing public scrutiny after it emerged he drove 260 miles from London to his parents’ home in Durham during lockdown.
He also claimed a 30-mile trip from Durham to local beauty spot Barnard Castle was in order to test his eyesight before he made the long drive back to London.
During lockdown the government initially asked people not to leave their homes except for essential food shopping, medical treatment, to go to work if they were unable to work from home, and once a day for exercise.
However, if anyone was showing symptoms then everyone in their household was asked to stay at home for 14 days’ isolation, to prevent spread of the disease.