Two of Boris Johnson’s closest advisers and strongest allies have eviscerated the disgraced former prime minister in testimony to the Covid Inquiry.
Dominic Cummings was a staunch cheerleader for Johnson and architect of the 2019 general election “to get Brexit done” campaign that secured a 80 seat majority for the Tories. Lee Cain was Johnson’s director of communications until his resignation in November 2020
Both men appeared before the the ongoing UK Covid-19 Inquiry today (October 31) with Cain up first and giving his insider opinion that Johnson was the “wrong” prime minister to deal with the pandemic as he lacked the skills to do so.
“He would often delay making decisions – he would often seek counsel from multiple sources and change his mind on issues,” Cain said, adding the PM “oscillated” between one extreme and another when considering lockdown and other major polices.
Cummings was Johnson’s chief adviser in Downing Street until he was sacked just days after Cain’s departure.
In WhatsApp messages revealed to the inquiry, Cummings told Cain that Johnson was “melting down” and had gone “back to Jaws mode wank”, referring to the 1975 film where a mayor keeps a beach open despite shark attacks.
Cummings said the structure of Number 10 was “hopeless” in dealing with a crisis like the virus and that a proper test and trace system from the outset would have helped avoid lockdown.
In his lengthy testimony Cummings said he called Johnson a “shopping trolley” because of his inconsistency and that “pretty much everyone” in the cabinet agreed with him.
The former chief adviser was also highly critical of other cabinet ministers who, he said, acked the calibre to do their jobs effectively.
In a WhatsApp message to Johnson in August 2020, Cummings called then health secretary Matt Hancock a “proven liar” and a “cunt” who should not be charge of the NHS.
Cummings called other cabinet ministers “useless fuckpigs”, blaming them for leaks to the press and for acting “feral”.
Cummings conceded his language was “appalling” and apologised for it to the Covid inquiry but added: “I think I was reflecting a widespread view amongst competent people at the centre of power at the time about the calibre of a lot of senior people who were dealing with this crisis extremely badly.”
Johnson announced the Covid inquiry in May 2021 saying it would scrutinise and learn lessons from “all key aspects of the UK response” to the pandemic.
The inquiry is examining the decision making during the pandemic by the UK government and devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and investigating “the UK’s response to and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Baroness Heather Hallett, a retired judge and cross bench peer was announced as the inquiry chair in December 2021. Hallett has the power to compel documents and call witnesses to give evidence under oath. The inquiry formally commenced with the publication of its terms of reference on June 28, 2022. Hearings are expected to continue until 2026.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are due to appear before the Inquiry in December.