Covid Inquiry: Dominic Cummings uses harshest language possible as he throws Boris Johnson and Government under the bus
Having heard Dominic Cummings give evidence to the UK Covid inquiry, it is clear these stories weren’t just true, but if anything underestimated the scale of the crisis.
In an evidence session that lasted nearly six hours, Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff called ministers “morons, and c****”, claimed Matt Hancock’s decisions were killing people, and that numerous Government departments were simply not fit for purpose.
He, along with Lee Cain, who was No.10’s director of communications, eviscerated Mr Johnson for his tendency to “oscillate” between decisions delaying the response, and made clear they did not think he was capable of leading the country through a pandemic.
In a session peppered with colourful language, Mr Cummings apologised early for the array of terms he used to rail against the Government he helped elect.
Appearing in an un-ironed shirt, he had to apologise for calling ministers “morons and c****”, but stressed his language only “understated” their competence.
In a sign of how he regarded his former ally, Mr Cummings also claimed he had to sit with Mr Johnson for “two hours just to stop him saying stupid s***”.
The arch-Brexiteer’s coarse language also saw him embroiled in a misogyny row after messages showed he called former top civil servant Helen MacNamara a “c***”.
The inquiry was shown Mr Cummings talked about wanting to “personally handcuff” and eject the-then deputy Cabinet secretary from the premises.
“I don’t care how it’s done, but that woman must be out of our hair – we cannot keep dealing with this horrific meltdown of the British state while dodging stilettos from that c***,” he wrote.
He apologised for his “deplorable” language in the WhatsApp messages, but said he was “not misogynistic”, insisting he was “much ruder about men”.
Turning to the pandemic response, Mr Cummings argued there was an “overall dysfunctional system” in place, suggesting the only part of it he did not fault was the special forces.
He admitted strict border controls on travel from China with a “very, very hardcore” system at the airports and the rapid expansion of testing as soon as the virus was identified could have had a “much better” outcome than the national lockdown. However, he claimed a “fatalistic” approach had gripped the Government, which could not contemplate creating new systems to control the spread of coronavirus.
“No one thought it was really practical to build our way out of the problem,” he said. “The fundamental U-turn that we shifted to, was to try and build our way out of it instead of fatalistically accepting it.”
Mr Cummings argued the considerations about the impact of lockdown on vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities and domestic abuse victims were “entirely appallingly neglected by the entire planning system”.
He said “one of the most appalling things” was the lack of a shielding plan in March 2020 “and the Cabinet Office was trying to block us creating a shielding plan”, describing the Government department as a “bomb site” and a “dumpster fire”.
Mr Cummings also revealed Mr Johnson was widely referred to as “Trolley” because of his tendency to change direction, with his decision making so erratic Mr Cummings would have to hold little meetings immediately after events with the Prime Minister to actually organise things.
In a further sign of his contempt for Mr Johnson, Mr Cummings told the inquiry there was no benefit to the former prime minister dealing with the devolved administrations, and it was better left to senior minister Michael Gove, who could focus on more than one thing.
The former prime minister was also criticised by Mr Cain, a long-term adviser to Mr Johnson who worked with him on the Brexit campaign, but said his former boss’s erratic decision-making was “rather exhausting”.
Messages between him and Mr Cummings showed them venting their frustrations on WhatsApp.
“Get in here he’s melting down,” Mr Cummings wrote on March 19 2020, days before the first lockdown, adding Mr Johnson was “back to Jaws mode w**k”.
Explaining the Jaws reference, Mr Cain told the inquiry Mr Johnson would refer to the mayor from the Steven Spielberg film “who wanted to keep the beaches open”.
“I think he had a routine from previous in his career where he would use that as a joke from one of his after-dinner speeches,” he said.
Mr Cain was more cautious than Mr Cummings by avoiding saying their old ally was not up to the job as prime minister.
“I think at that point – and it’s quite a strong thing to say – what would probably be clear in Covid is it was the wrong crisis for this prime minister’s skillset,” Mr Cain said.
Explaining his wrong crisis theory, Mr Cain said his former boss would “often delay making decisions” and “change his mind on issues” after seeking advice from multiple sources.
Mr Cain was also critical of the-then chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
He said it made “no sense whatsoever” to encourage the public to dine in restaurants and pubs when a future lockdown would come and was a “cause of great frustration”.
Nobody was safe from Mr Cummings ire, with the 51-year old also saying Mr Hancock, the-then health secretary, should have been fired to save lives.
In one WhatsApp message sent in May 2020, Mr Cummings wrote to Mr Johnson: “You need to think through timing of binning Hancock. There’s no way the guy can stay. He’s lied his way through this and killed people and dozens and dozens of people have seen it.
“He will have to go. The question is when and who replaces.”
In another message in August 2020, he said: “I also must stress I think leaving Hancock in post is a big mistake – he is a proven liar who nobody believes or shd (sic) believe on anything, and we face going into autumn crisis with the c*** in charge of NHS still.”
Mr Cummings also told Hugo Keith KC, the lead counsel to the inquiry, that Mr Hancock had “sowed chaos” by continuing to insist in March 2020 that people without symptoms of a dry cough and a temperature were unlikely to be suffering from coronavirus.
There was also a yet another defence of his trip to Barnard Castle, where Mr Cummings took a “short drive” to the town in April 2020, about 25 miles away from where he was isolating, on his wife’s 45th birthday.
Describing the Government response as an “absolute car crash”, Mr Cummings admitted it had impacted confidence in the Government.
He said: “It was certainly a disaster, the whole handling of the situation. But there were other factors involved with it all as well – testing and PPE [personal protective equipment] and many other things were all going haywire at the time.”
Mr Cummings said it was “completely reasonable” for security reasons to move his family out of his house, but on the Barnard Castle disclosures he said the way it was “handled, it was an absolute car crash and disaster and did cause a lot of people pain”.
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