A war of words fought by the then PM and top aide Dominic Cummings was exposed in WhatsApp messages at the Covid inquiry. Mr Johnson hit out at suggestions that his now wife Carrie was responsible for briefing against his former senior aide, who had left No 10 two days earlier.
His message said: “She hasn’t briefed anyone and my instructions to all were to shut the f*** up. How is any of us supposed to know where these briefings come from?”
He accused Mr Cummings and ex-press secretary Lee Cain, who both appeared at the inquiry yesterday, of briefing against him.
Mr Johnson wrote: “Look at the claims made on behalf of allies of Lee and Dom, that I’m out in six months, that I can’t take decisions, that Carrie is secretly forging lockdown policy, and about a billion equally demented claims.
“Are you responsible for all that c***? No. This is a totally disgusting orgy of narcissism by a government that should be solving a national crisis. We must end this. ”
Asked if he agreed there was an “orgy of narcissism” Mr Cummings told the inquiry: “Certainly.”
He accused Mr Johnson of badly handling the pandemic and of overseeing a “dysfunctional” Government, claiming the administration had no plan to shield the vulnerable during the outbreak.
But as he tried to get revenge on Mr Johnson he managed to paint a foul picture of his own personality.
Mr Cummings, who was axed in November 2020, could not hide his bitterness and rage. He tried to defend disgusting messages he had sent which described ministers as “f***pigs, morons and c****”.
He told the London hearing: “If anything, [the messages] understated the position. It was often more true than not.”
Mr Cummings called then Health Secretary Matt Hancock a “liar” who cost lives and was “useless”.
He said of Mr Johnson: “Pretty much everyone called him the trolley” – the nickname he gave the Premier after accusing him of constantly changing direction – and said the Cabinet Office was a “bomb site” and “dumpster fire”.
Mr Cummings said inquiry evidence suggested that Mr Johnson believed Covid was “Nature’s way” of dealing with old people and they should “accept their fate”.
He claimed that Mr Johnson was unable to chair Cabinet which was “not a place for serious discussion”, that big decisions were made “elsewhere” in No 10 and that politicians including the PM had handled the pandemic “badly”.
The ex-adviser said widespread chaos under Mr Johnson’s premiership cost hundreds of thousands of lives: “The senior people themselves didn’t even know who was in charge.” Mr Cummings was in no doubt who was at fault: “The Prime Minister obviously had responsibility for appointing the Cabinet.”
He said the administration was a mix of “wrong people in the wrong jobs” and the whole system was “completely dysfunctional”.
A message from Mr Cummings sent on March 3, 2020 said Mr Johnson did not believe Covid was a “big deal and he doesn’t think anything can be done”.
He said he received “despairing messages” from staff who had been at meetings with Mr Johnson as the crisis worsened.
Mr Cummings told the hearing he wanted Michael Gove to replace Mr Johnson in charge of emergency Cobra meetings with the devolved administrations as he would handle them “10 times better”.
He added that the PM did not like going to COBRA meetings anyway and “preferred to be in his study”.
In a message sent to Mr Johnson by Mr Cummings in May 2020, the top adviser told the Prime Minister that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had “killed people”.
In the WhatsApp missive shared with the inquiry, he said: “You need to think through the 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,” Mr Cummings told the inquiry there had overall been a ‘critical failure’ to plan for such a pandemic.
And he said there was also no plan to protect the vulnerable from Covid. “There was effectively no plan [for shielding the vulnerable],” he said.
And he said the system was totally out of control and at one stage, they even began discussing if they might have to use ice rinks to store bodies.
At another stage in the crisis, there was a whiteboard erected in one planning room with the title “Who to save” written on it.
With respect to misogyny within the government, the Covid-19 inquiry showed disgusting and disparaging messages Mr Cummings himself sent about deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara in 2020, in which he said he would “handcuff her and escort her” from Downing Street.
The shocking message led to gasps at the hearing as it was read out.
READ MORE Nigel Farage’s scathing three-word tirade at Dominic Cummings
Mr Cummings wrote: “If I have to come back to Helen’s bull**** with PET – designed to waste huge amounts of my time so I can’t spend it on other stuff – I will personally handcuff her and escort her from the building.
“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***.”
Despite this, he denied adding to the already existing toxic atmosphere in the government at the time. Mr Cummings was also asked about his infamous breaking of national lockdown rules to drive to Barnard Castle ‘to test his eyesight’ on Easter Sunday.
The former adviser floundered under questioning on the issue, but admitted the handling of his breach of the rules had also been ‘a disaster’.
“It did cause a lot of people pain,” he said. But he refused to condemn his own actions for driving and claimed he had acted ‘entirely legally and did not break any rules’.
Mr Cummings claimed Mark Sedwill losing his job as cabinet secretary in June 2020 “set off a kind of bomb across the whole system”.
Mr Cummings told the inquiry that his exit “was one of the most disastrous moments of the entire 2020 because it set off a kind of bomb across the whole system. “I begged the PM not to do it, I knew what would happen – the same as every single HR conversation you’ve ever had with anybody. “It was a total disaster.”
As the pandemic deepened, Mr Cummings agreed that without a scaled-up test and trace system, shutting the borders would not have sufficed in combating the spread of coronavirus.
However, if both had been instigated earlier, the initial lockdown may have been avoided, Mr Cummings claimed. And he added: “It’s half of the nub of the issue, but the other half of the nub is that if you regard the whole thing in a fatalistic way anyway – which DH (the Department of Health), the Cabinet Office and Sage did at the beginning – and you think that there is no effective alternative to herd immunity.
“If you say that, at an overall conceptual level, there’s either A: shape a curve towards herd immunity, or B: try to build your way out of the problem, the entire system in January, February, early March thought that the only plausible approach to this was to shape the curve of herd immunity.
“No one thought it was really practical to build our way out of the problem. “The fundamental U-turn that we shifted to, was to try and build our way out of it instead of fatalistically accepting it.”
He told how Mr Johnson after recovering from covid himself was thankful they had ‘changed course’ to scale up test and trace and lockdowns.
Mr Cummings concluded his evidence by saying: “I apologise again for my terrible language.” Earlier, Lee Cain, the former Downing Street director of communications at that time of the pandemic, told the Inquiry the government had had a strategy but lacked a proper plan to deal with a pandemic like Covid.
Mr Cain, one of Mr Johnson’s closest and longest-serving aides, resigned in November 2020 amid anger at the government’s handling of the pandemic.
But he told the inquiry the pandemic had been the “wrong crisis” for Mr Johnson’s ‘skillset’. And Mr Cain repeatedly cited Mr Johnson’s tendency to “oscillate” between decisions as delaying the crisis response.
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