Dominic Cummings: The key questions Boris Johnson's former adviser must answer at the UK Covid Inquiry, amid WhatsApp message row
This Halloween will see the former chief adviser face questions about the decisions made during Covid, as well as his own conduct.
Mr Cummings has been deeply critical of his former colleagues, from former prime minister Boris Johnson to former health secretary Matt Hancock. Ministers are already bracing for his responses, with fears he’ll continue his attacks on the Government.
But given his own role in decision making, here are the key questions Mr Cummings must answer.
How much did Dominic Cummings know about the parties during lockdown?
A key issue will be just how aware Mr Cummings was of the illegal parties taking place in Downing Street, which were not reported until after he had already quit.
In Downing Street when the first alcohol-fuelled events were happening, he may have had awareness not just of what was happening, but who else knew of their existence. Pinning Mr Cummings down on this could expose the extent of the rule breaking.
Does Dominic Cummings regret his trip to Barnard Castle, and what was the reaction in Government?
Mr Cummings was investigated by police over breaking the Government’s own lockdown rules, with the prime minister's chief-of-staff driving more than 250 miles from his London home to his parents’ house in Durham.How much this damaged public trust in the Government, and whether it impacted their understanding of the rules or compliance, will be vital.
How did Boris Johnson handle the pandemic, and did he take advice from Carrie Symonds?
Messages to Mr Cummings from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the country’s top civil servant, have claimed Mr Johnson’s then partner and now wife Carrie Symonds was "the real person in charge", as well as claiming Mr Johnson was incapable of sticking to a plan.
Who was actually making the decisions is vital to understanding the pandemic response, and how joined up the thinking was in Government.
Why was Dominic Cummings trying to get Matt Hancock sacked?
Along with many others he worked with, Mr Cummings has taken a scorched earth approach to Mr Hancock, telling a joint evidence session hosted by two parliamentary committees in May 2021 he had called for the former health secretary to be sacked “almost every day”.He accused Mr Hancock, now a reality TV star, of lying to everybody on “multiple occasions”, and told Mr Johnson to remove him from his position. Specifics as to why he deemed the-then health secretary unfit for office will be vital.
Which Covid policies worked?
More important than anything else is finding out which of the policies used to limit the spread of Covid worked. This inquiry is an insight into the chaos of Government, but its purpose is primarily to ensure Britain is better prepared if something like this happens again.
The rationale behind lockdown, its benefits, how the prime minister made decisions, the impact of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme – all of these would better prepare the country for a future crisis that risks lives and financial ruin. Mr Cummings’ views on transparency and competency are sure to be box office, and already has Tory MPs worried.
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