British Prime Minister Boris Johnson allegedly labelled his health minister Matt Hancock “hopeless” in texts released by his former top aide Dominic Cummings.
- The release of the messages continues a bitter battle between Dominic Cummings and Downing Street
- The former adviser, who left his job in late 2020, has called Boris Johnson “unfit” to be PM
- The opposition has called for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic be brought forward
The release of several WhatsApp messages by Mr Cummings continued his bitter battle against Downing Street and Mr Hancock over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.
Last month Mr Cummings, who left No 10 at the end of last year, told a parliamentary science committee Mr Johnson was “unfit” to be prime minister and that Mr Hancock should have been fired multiple times for lying in government meetings.
He also said the government’s mishandling of the pandemic and delays in implementing lockdowns had led to thousands of avoidable deaths.
Mr Cummings’s latest salvo came in the form of a lengthy blog post uploaded on Wednesday, in which he posted screenshots of conversations he said he had with Mr Johnson.
In one exchange, dated March 27, 2020, Mr Cummings highlighted how the US had ramped up testing for COVID-19 and said “MH” – Matt Hancock – had been sceptical about the UK meeting its own targets.
Mr Johnson allegedly replied: “Totally f****ng hopeless.”
Another conversation, on March 27, showed Mr Cummings complaining to a contact named as “Boris Johnson” that the procurement of ventilators had been going badly, with officials turning down the offer to buy them due to a spike in price.
“It’s Hancock,” the contact replied.
“He has been hopeless.”
Mr Cummings finished the 7,000-plus words blog – which he is asking people to subscribe to – with a list of questions to ask the Prime Minister, including why did he keep Mr Hancock in the job if he thought he was “hopeless”.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson did not deny the authenticity of the WhatsApp messages, but said the Prime Minister still had “full confidence” in Mr Hancock.
“I don’t plan to engage with every allegation made,” he told reporters during a lobby briefing.
“The Prime Minister has set out that we will hold a public inquiry next year, the Health Secretary has given hours of evidence to the parliamentary committee, and I have taken a number of questions on this issue previously.
“Our focus is on recovering from the pandemic, moving through the road map, distributing vaccines and delivering on the public’s priorities.”
Mr Hancock gave evidence in a marathon four-hour session to the joint health and social care and science committee meeting last week.
He told the meeting he did not believe there were shortages of PPE during the height of the pandemic, or that any such shortages caused deaths.
He said he had seen no evidence to suggest any medical staff had died because of a lack of PPE.
The deputy leader of the opposition Labour party, Angela Rayner, said the accusations and evidence presented were “absolutely damning”, and called for the public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, scheduled for next year, to be brought forward.
“We can’t wait until next year for the public inquiry to begin and we can’t allow history to be rewritten,” she tweeted.
“In order to get to the truth that public inquiry must begin now.”