The Key Evidence Dominic Cummings Needs To Produce To Prove His Bombshell Testimony
PoliticsHome sets out the key claims Boris Johnson's former senior adviser has yet to prove following his dramatic tell-all evidence session.
Dominic Cummings' explosive evidence session before MPs on Wednesday provided a raft of incendiary accusations about operations at the heart of government, but beyond his own verbal testimony, there is currently very little hard evidence to substantiate his claims.
During the marathon session, the former adviser also appeared to give on-the-record confirmations to several explosive stories that have emerged via anonymous 'government sources' throughout the pandemic, including Boris Johnson's "let the bodies pile high comments", his plans to be infected with the virus live on TV, and that herd immunity was the first official government plan.
The problem, unless Cummings can provide substantial proof of the allegations, is that he may very well have been the source of the stories in the first place.
The integrity of his evidence will rest solely on what he can produce to back it up, and despite a series of graphs and images posted on his own Twitter account, there has been little in the way of concrete documentary evidence.
But one early indication that he may possess the receipts came in the borders of his now widely-shared photograph of a whiteboard he was using to produce a "Plan B" approach to the pandemic.
The image, which appeared to be a screenshot from his own phone, shows the image was geo-tagged in No10 and is one of over 5,000 images taken in the same location.
Whether those images will contain bombshell evidence of his claims remains to be seen, but Cummings’ reputation would suggest the rest of the gallery won't be littered with photos of collegiate office parties or memories of Larry the cat.
While the seven hour evidence session produced a lot of headlines regarding Cummings' wider criticism of the government's behaviour during the pandemic, he made a significant number of claims, which if backed up with evidence, could become very damaging for the government.
A statement from committee chairs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark following the session pledged that "relevant documents" submitted by Cummings would be published in "due course".
Here are the most serious claims that Cummings should be urgently seeking to provide evidence for:
The former Downing Street aide levelled his harshest criticism at Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who he claimed should have been fired for "at least 15 to 20 things" in the early stages of the pandemic.
In a sustained attack on both Hancock's professional performance and personal character, he alleged Hancock showed "criminal, disgraceful behaviour" by meddling in the early stages of the testing programme in an effort to hit his target of delivering 100,000 daily tests by April 2020.
While Sage documents from the time do indicate "overall responsibility" for the testing programme lay with the chief medical officer, Cummings will need to produce some clearer proof that Hancock intervened in that process for the explicit reason of hitting what was, essentially, a political target.
His most serious allegation about the Health Secretary was that he had misled senior ministers and officials about a programme to ensure people being discharged from hospital back to care homes were being tested for coronavirus.Describing the pledge to put a "shield" around care homes as "complete nonsense", Cummings said the failure had allowed the virus to spread like "wildfire" among staff and elderly residents.
Committee chair Greg Clark noted during the hearing that these "serious allegations" Hancock lied would need to be proven beyond hearsay from Cummings, but the former aide appeared to baulk at the prospect of sharing WhatsApp messages and emails, telling the committee he didn't want to further "embarrass" the cabinet minister.
Speaking to MPs on Thursday, Hancock categorically denied the "unsubstantiated allegations", putting the ball firmly back into Cummings’ court to prove the claims.
The former Number 10 aide was very critical about the events leading up to the second national lockdown, accusing Boris Johnson of adopting a "hit and hope" attitude in September 2020, which saw him ignore advice from leading medics and advisers who were pleading with him to bring in new restrictions.
While the evidence published by Sage clearly sets out their stance on the risk of delaying or avoiding new lockdown measures at the time, they don't give any indication of how the data was received or interpreted by the PM.
As highlighted frequently by officials during the pandemic, "advisers advise and ministers decide", meaning Boris Johnson would have serious questions to answer about his approach should Cummings’ testimony prove correct.While the PM eventually relented and ordered the second lockdown at the end of October, this delay, according to Cummings, caused "unnecessary deaths", a claim which has drawn criticism from bereaved Covid-19 family groups.
Again, the charges against the PM will only stick if his former adviser can produce documentary evidence for his claims, which also included Johnson's failure to consult his own cabinet about the decision.
Cummings' damning assessment of the PM's performance also focussed heavily on the early weeks of the pandemic, where he issued a mea culpa for his own failure to act decisively in pushing for stronger action to prepare for the arrival of the virus.
But he suggested those failures came against a background of complacency and indecision at the top of government which saw the Prime Minister dismissing the severity of the situation, despite other countries bracing for the first wave of infections.
In a series of detailed allegations, Cummings claimed Johnson had been intentionally steered away from attending meetings of the government's emergency Cobra committee because aides feared he would derail any serious discussions about preparedness.
As evidence of the PM's attitude, he claimed Boris Johnson had even considered asking chief medical officer Chris Whitty to intentionally inject him with the virus on live TV in a bid to reassure the public that the virus was not something to be overly worried about.
The former senior aide added that Johnson had insisted the virus, which had already claimed lives and forced other countries into local lockdown, was "another scare story" and likened it to the "swine flu".
The PM's attitude to the outbreak combined with a lack of meaningful data around the virus had, Cummings claimed, resulted in senior officials backing a "herd immunity" approach to the pandemic.
He said this led to cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill urging the PM to go on TV and explain a "chicken pox party" approach where healthy people would intentionally become infected in an effort to build immunity.
According to his own evidence, Cummings played a major role in persuading the PM that the approach was dangerous, detailing email and WhatsApp messages he sent at the time sounding the alarm over the severity of the pandemic.
Given the government have repeatedly pushed back against claims they had initially championed a "herd immunity" approach, any documentary proof of Cummings' claims could prove incredibly damaging, and put further pressure on them to release further documents and scientific advice which guided them through the critical early months of the pandemic.
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