Dominic Cummings dropped another “Dom bomb” yesterday in the form of a message in which Boris Johnson appears to call Health Secretary Matt Hancock “totally f***ing hopeless”.
The former No. 10 aide published a series of “incendiary revelations” on the Substack blogging platform and in a 92-post Twitter thread “just minutes” before Prime Minister’s Questions, says the Daily Mail. Cummings backed up his claims with screenshots of WhatsApp messages and pictures of whiteboards in the PM’s study.
And pundits have suggested that Johnson’s former right-hand man is just getting started on a “prolonged campaign” to damage the government.
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What is Cummings claiming now?
In what the Mail calls a “7,000-word diatribe alleging a series of failures”, Cummings lays out why he thought Hancock had made “false” claims about Covid-19 testing, PPE and care homes.
A WhatsApp screenshot from March 2020 appears to show Johnson’s verdict that Hancock’s performance on testing was “f***ing hopeless” - a verdict that the PM apparently repeated in another exchange. Commenting on the UK’s failure to buy ventilators, Johnson replies: “It’s Hancock. He’s been hopeless.”
But Cummings writes that “although the PM whinged to me and others, he would never say to him, despite dozens of requests from two cabinet secretaries, me and other ministers and officials: stop this routine or you’re fired”.
The former chief advisor also argues that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab did a better job than Johnson when he covered for the PM, as he can “chair meetings properly instead of telling rambling stories and jokes”. Raab let “good officials actually question people”, unlike Johnson, who shouts “forward to victory”, gives a “thumbs-up” and is then seen “pegging it out of the room” when things get “a bit embarrassing”, Cummings continues.
The “Dom bomb” disclosures are “acutely embarrassing for Johnson as well as Hancock”, says The Independent’s Andrew Grice, who contends that the decision to retain a “useless” health secretary during the Covid crisis “raises very serious questions” about the PM’s judgement.
What are Hancock and Johnson saying?
Downing Street has not denied that the WhatsApp messages are genuine, with the PM’s press secretary saying: “We are not going to get into engaging with individual allegations, so we will leave it there.”
Johnson’s spokesperson insisted yesterday that the Tory leader continued to have “full confidence” in Hancock. And Jeremy Hunt, chair of the joint parliamentary inquiry that heard evidence from Cummings last month, said the claim that the health secretary had lied was yet to be substantiated.
Meanwhile, Hancock gave his response to Cummings’ latest claims. Asked through a car window if he was “hopeless” by Sky News yesterday, he shouted back: “I don’t think so.”
What is Cummings’ long-term plan?
“Cummings has hinted that the messages are the start of a prolonged campaign to damage the government,” says The Times.
In his blog, the former adviser insists that he just wants to answer “what went wrong and how do we learn”, and that he will not publish further messages “just to embarrass the PM or others” but rather “to force the system to face reality and change”.
He has also claimed that Johnson has a “clear plan” to quit No. 10 by 2026 - a suggestion that the PM’s press secretary dismissed as “utter nonsense”.
According to Cummings, his former boss delayed the public inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic so that the “tricky parts” won’t come up until he has left Downing Street, which at the latest will be “a couple of years after the next election”.
“He wants to make money and have fun not ‘go on and on’,” the ex-aide continues. So in the meantime, “we either live with chronic dysfunction for another ~5 years or some force intervenes”.
Whether Cummings himself will be the “force” remains to be seen.
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