Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser has published a 7,000-word blogpost including a series of claims about the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Here’s a round-up of Dominic Cummings’s most explosive allegations:
PM branded Hancock ‘totally f****** hopeless’
The most eye-catching part of Mr Cummings’s blogpost was his inclusion of screenshots of WhatsApp messages between himself and the prime minister.
These reveal that on two occasions, Mr Johnson described Mr Hancock’s efforts during the government’s initial response to the COVID crisis as “hopeless”.
In one exchange, which Mr Cummings said was part of late-night messages on 26 March 2020, he and Mr Johnson are shown to be discussing actions from “MH” in boosting the UK’s COVID testing capacity.
The screenshot shows a reply from the prime minister stating: “Totally f****** hopeless”.
Other messages, from 27 March, show what Mr Cummings said was him telling the prime minister that the Department for Health had “totally f***** up ventilators”.
The prime minister replied: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”
The PM suggested removing responsibility for PPE from Hancock
In another WhatsApp exchange, said to be from 27 April last year, Mr Johnson is suggested to have openly wondered about taking responsibility for procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) away from Mr Hancock and giving it to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
The prime minister wrote: “On ppe it’s a disaster. I can’t think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting Gove on.”
Mr Cummings also said Mr Hancock “had to be removed from crucial decisions” with Lord Paul Deighton brought in to oversee PPE, Dame Kate Bingham asked to lead the vaccines taskforce, and Baroness Dido Harding taking charge of NHS Test and Trace.
PM wants to quit shortly after the next election to ‘make money and have fun’
Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson has a “clear plan” to leave Downing Street “at the latest a couple of years after the next election”, which is scheduled for 2024.
“He wants to make money and have fun not ‘go on and on’,” Mr Cummings wrote.
The ex-adviser claimed this mattered because a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID crisis had been “designed to punt the tricky parts until after this PM has gone”.
Asked about the claim Mr Johnson had already planned when to quit, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has been asked about this before and described it as utter nonsense.”
The PM ‘pegs it out of the room before anybody can disagree’
Mr Cummings depicted contrasting styles in the handling of key COVID meetings between Mr Johnson and Foreign
Secretary Dominic Raab, who deputised for the prime minister after Mr Johnson fell seriously ill with COVID last year.
The prime minister’s former adviser wrote that meetings under Mr Raab were “less pleasant for everybody but much more productive”.
“Raab can chair meetings properly instead of telling rambling stories and jokes,” Mr Cummings added.
“He let good officials actually question people so we started to get to the truth.
“Unlike the PM who as soon as things get ‘a bit embarrassing’ does the whole ‘let’s take it offline’ shtick before shouting ‘forward to victory’, doing a thumbs-up and pegging it out of the room before anybody can disagree.”
PPE supplies slowed down by officials
Mr Cummings claimed he was told by an official that most of the UK’s PPE supplies would not arrive until after the April 2020 peak in infections.
This was, he said he was told, because of procurement rules requiring goods to be shipped rather than flown in due to cost.
Mr Cummings also claimed he had been told that officials rejected PPE with a 25% markup.
“The cabinet secretary [Mark Sedwill] was investigating why we were refusing a 25% PPE markup when we had NHS staff wearing bin bags and dying for lack of PPE,” he wrote.