Here Are All The Key Claims In Dominic Cummings' Latest Bombshell
Dominic Cummings has made a raft of new allegations about the government's handling of the pandemic
Dominic Cummings has doubled down on his eyebrow-raising claims about the government's handling of the pandemic. PoliticsHome sets out the key details from his latest offering.
After weeks of silence since his evidence session with MPs, Dominic Cummings has published an incendiary document delving further into his claims – including screenshots of messages allegedly sent by the PM and Matt Hancock during the early months of the pandemic.
MPs from the joint parliamentary committee had expressed concerns about lack of evidence handed over from the former aide when they questioned Hancock last week, saying his allegations should be "counted as unproven without it".
During the session, Hancock also dismissed the allegations, saying it was "telling" that Cummings had failed to provide any evidence to the committee.
While the committee chairs are likely to be furious with Cummings' decision to publicly publish the evidence almost a week after their session with Hancock, his latest blog post provides a raft of new allegations and documents which appear to corroborate some of his earlier testimony to MPs.
A Downing Street spokesperson refused to confirm or deny whether Cummings claims and screenshots were legitimate, only adding they were "not going to engage with individual allegations".
Here are the main claims he has made:
Totally F**king Hopeless
The most headline grabbing offering in the blogpost is a screenshot, allegedly sent to Cummings by his former boss Boris Johnson, in which the PM responds to a message about testing capacity and Hancock's performance with: "Totally fucking hopeless".
The message, apparently posted just minutes before the Prime Minister tested positive coronavirus last March, is clearly deeply embarrassing for Downing Street, but crucially for Cummings, it appears to substantiate his earlier claims about the PM's frustration with Hancock's performance.Following his initial evidence session, Downing Street had repeatedly denied the Prime Minister had ever considered sacking Hancock saying instead that he retained Johnson's "full confidence", but further WhatsApp screenshots published today seem to contradict that denial
They include one in which the PM appears to be considering options for dealing with the PPE "disaster", by taking the responsibility of it away from Hancock. "I can't think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting [Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove] on," the message reads.
Another shows a WhatsApp chat in which Cummings claims the government had refused to purchase quantities of ventilators because the price had been "marked up". The reply he claims to be from the PM places the blame on the health secretary. "It's Hancock. He has been hopeless," it reads.
The 100k Testing Target
Cummings also argued that Hancock's evidence session last week "muddied the waters" about his views on the pledge to deliver 100,000 daily tests by the end of April 2020.
He suggested that rather than being opposed to the plan to boost testing, his comments about the "stupid" target had been a criticism of Matt Hancock's personal pledge, arguing the media reporting had wrongly adopted the view he was critical of the wider push on testing.
Looking at his comments from the session, Cummings had indeed claimed officials were told to "hold tests back" ahead of the deadline to ensure he hit Hancock's target, rather than being opposed to the plan entirely.
In today's blog, Cummings argues that he had actually argued for a much stronger testing programme, saying Hancock had "blurted" out the 100,000 target while both he and Johnson were ill with Covid.He further alleged that Hancock's target had prioritised hitting the deadline rather than producing a scalable system which could have delivered a much larger number of tests in subsequent months. He said that "wrenching Whitehall to focus" on his target had "compounded" the "disaster" of PPE procurement and the protection of care homes.
"Hancock is creating a new version of reality in which he came up with the idea to ramp up testing before 14 March, in an inspired and heroic move he announced his 100k target on 2 April to provide leadership, and this was responsible for the change in testing capacity," he wrote.
Cummings insisted the testing plans had been "forced" on Hancock, who he claimed was still following a policy of achieving herd immunity, adding that the health secretary's "behaviour in April distracted attention from testing in care homes and the PPE debacle".
The blog also contains further allegations that Downing Street is attempting to "memory-hole" their initial plans for the UK to work towards herd immunity by protecting those most likely to die or suffer serious illness while letting others potentially catch the virus and build up a natural immunity.
Cummings, who describes the policy as "Plan A" in his blog, claims this strategy was the reason why the government failed to introduce any "serious" border restrictions in the early months of the pandemic and abandoned community Covid testing for several weeks.But his evidence for these claims is thinner than his previous allegations. He includes a tightly cropped image of a graph which shows the impact of various strategies on intensive care beds, but excludes lockdown because, as Cummings claims, "contra Hancock's false claims to MPs last week, DHSC had not developed a plan for it nor asked SAGE to model it".
He also included quotes from a text message (no screenshot) allegedly sent by the Department of Heath's top civil servant in which they point out the flaws of the plans. It reads: "The virus will still exist in 3-4 weeks time and won't we just start again with reinfection and re-spread".
The former No10 aide goes on to share two images of plans jotted down on whiteboards, which include a new plan for tackling the outbreak, with one containing the lines: "To stop NHS collapse, we will probably have to 'lockdown'".
He added: "On 13 March, as I was sketching the whiteboard above, the PM texted me, Hancock, [Chief Scientific Officers Patrick Vallance] and [England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty] asking: 'how do we win the herd immunity argument?'
"On 14th in [Johnson's] study, using those whiteboards, I told him: 'forget winning that argument, we have to switch to Plan B'."
Cummings has claimed he plans to provide further information and messages from his time at the heart of government promising to "publish only ones that further the question of 'what went wrong and how do we learn'.
He added: "I won't publish private messages just to embarrass the PM or others. My goal is to force the system to face reality and change, not to embarrass people for the sake of it."
His extensive blog gives a hint of what might be yet to come, with further attacks on the bureaucracy and civil service process which he alleges hampered efforts to move quickly in the early stages of the pandemic, especially when the government were trying to secure vital stocks of PPE.
It is clear he believes his evidence could prove damaging for the government.
He added: "If No10 is prepared to lie so deeply and widely about such vital issues of life and death last year, it cannot be trusted now either on covid or any other crucial issue of war and peace."
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