UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former top advisor has savaged the government and slammed the PM as “unfit for the job” in an extraordinary day’s testimony about the country’s coronavirus mistakes.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's former top adviser has savaged the government and slammed the PM as "unfit for the job" in an extraordinary day's testimony about the country's coronavirus mistakes.
Dominic Cummings, the controversial figure once considered central to the UK's pandemic response, had been dialling up his criticism of the government he once served even before fronting the science and health committee hearing on Wednesday.
He described the government as chaotic, called Health Secretary Matt Hancock a "serial liar" and said it was "crackers" both he and the Prime Minister had reached such high positions in the government.
In his marathon seven-hour testimony, Mr Cummings lit a match under the government he worked for only months ago. Here are 11 key takeaways from his evidence that is likely to cause unimaginable damage for weeks to come.
READ MORE: Boris Johnson's former top aide Dominic Cummings says UK government failed public over COVID
1. Johnson 'unfit for the job'
In a ferocious attack on the competence and honesty of the Johnson administration, Mr Cummings claimed the arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 plunged the government into chaos.
Mr Johnson, he told lawmakers in the televised testimony, was "unfit for the job".
"The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me, fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this," he said.
As a result "people did not get the treatment they deserved", he said, and "many people were left to die in horrific circumstances."
The UK has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe, and experienced one of the world's deepest recessions in 2020 as three successive lockdowns hobbled the economy.
"When the public needed us most the government failed," Mr Cummings said.
"And I'd like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily that I am sorry."
2. Johnson wanted to be the 'mayor of Jaws'
There were extraordinary references to Hollywood blockbusters Independence Day and Jaws.
Mr Cummings delivered excoriating allegations of bad decisions and false assumptions within government in early 2020, saying "the whole thing just seemed like an out-of-control movie".
It was "like a scene from Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum saying 'The aliens are here and your whole plan is broken'," he said.
Mr Cummings told the committee that by April the PM had decided the first lockdown was a mistake, saying: "I should have been the mayor of Jaws. Now I'm going to be. Open everything up, get on with it."
Mr Johnson had previously said the world needed more politicians like the mayor of Amity Island in Jaws, who famously ordered beaches to stay open with a deadly shark on the loose.
3. 'Let the bodies pile high'
Mr Cummings confirmed a bombshell BBC report that the Prime Minister said he would rather see "bodies pile high" than take the country into what would eventually become a third lockdown.
Mr Johnson had previously described the claims as "total rubbish" but his former advisor, who earlier told the committee he had been in contact with BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg throughout the year, said "the version the BBC reported was accurate".
"I heard that in the Prime Minister's study," he said.
"That was not in September. That was immediately after he finally made the decision to do the lockdown on the 31st of October."https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1397526104475414530
4. Health Secretary should have been sacked
Health Secretary Matt Hancock came in for some of Mr Cummings' most furious criticisms, accused of lying to the public. Without citing evidence, he said Mr Hancock "should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things".
Mr Cummings described Mr Hancock as a serial liar and said his behaviour in trying to meet a self-imposed target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of April was "criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm".
"I said repeatedly from February/March, If we don't fire the secretary of state and if don't get the testing into someone else's hands, we are going to kill people and it's going to be a catastrophe.
"I wasn't the only one telling the Prime Minister that.
"I made lots and lots of mistakes but I honestly don't think I could have been any more explicit."
He said Mr Johnson came close to firing Mr Hancock but "just wouldn't fundamentally do it".
"There's certainly no good reason for keeping him," he said.
Mr Hancock is due to give his own evidence to lawmakers next month.
A spokesman for his office said, "We absolutely reject Mr Cummings' claims about the health secretary."
5. Herd immunity 'was part of the plan'
Near the beginning of the pandemic, the UK government was widely reported to be pursuing "herd immunity" by letting people get infected with the coronavirus. It changed course when it emerged that hundreds of thousands of people would likely die under such a strategy and was later denied to have ever been government policy.
Mr Cummings rubbished those denials on Wednesday, saying the PM advised to publicly compare the plan to "chickenpox parties" and that Mr Hancock was "completely wrong" to deny it was part of the plan.
Mr Cummings said there was a semantic argument about whether herd immunity was the goal or simply an "unavoidable fact".
Mr Cummings said on March 13, he and two other senior aides came to the realisation they would have to ditch the official plan.
Soon after, a senior official entered and said: "I think we are absolutely f---ed. I think this country is heading for a disaster. I think we're going to kill thousands of people".https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1397496252250611713
6. 'It's crackers that Boris Johnson was in there'
Mr Cummings said it was "completely crazy" both that he personally held such a senior role in the government and that the British people had to choose between Mr Johnson and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the last election.
"I'm not smart. I've not built great things in the world," Mr Cummings said.
"It's completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there, just the same as it's crackers that Boris Johnson was in there and that the choice at the last election was Jeremy Corbyn."
He said the system tended to weed out brilliant officials within the government from senior management jobs and described the situation as "lions led by donkeys over and over again".
7. PM described COVID as 'the new swine flu'
In February 2020, Mr Johnson regarded COVID-19 as a "scare story" describing it as the "new swine flu", Mr Cummings said.
"The view of various officials inside Number 10 was was If we have the Prime Minister chairing COBRA meetings and he just tells everyone 'it's swine flu, don't worry about it, I'm going to get (Chief Medical Officer) Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realises it's nothing to be frightened of', that would not help actually serious planning," he said.
The former advisor said he told Mr Johnson it was more serious than that.
8. Why lockdown didn't come sooner
Mr Cummings said that early in the pandemic it was believed within the government that the British public would not accept either a lockdown or a track and trace system.
"Those two assumptions were completely central to the official plan and were both obviously completely wrong," he said, adding that he and others pushed for the assumption to be abandoned.
9. 'Should have been border policy'
Mr Cummings said his depiction as "the second most powerful person in the country" was "massively exaggerated". He played down the influence it was believed he had over Mr Johnson.
"If I could have clicked my fingers and done things, there would have been a serious border policy. Masks would've been compulsory. Hancock would have been fired.
"We'd have done dozens and dozens and dozens of things."
10. 'The chaos isn't that bad'
Mr Cummings said he told the PM he would be leaving Downing Street by September at the latest — he eventually quit in mid-November — because the "whole system is chaos". He accused Mr Johnson of being "more frightened of me having the power to stop the chaos than the chaos" itself.
According to Mr Cummings, the PM replied: "You're right, I am more frightened of you having the power to stop the chaos than the chaos."
"The chaos isn't that bad," the PM was claimed to have said.
"Chaos means that everyone has to look to me to see who's in charge."https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1397526104475414530
11. PM 'distracted by girlfriend's dog'
On March 11 last year, the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic. The next day, according to Mr Cummings, the UK government was dealing with not only the coronavirus but also US calls to join a Middle East bombing campaign and, bizarrely, a newspaper story about Mr Johnson and fiancee Carrie Symonds' dog.
"We had this sort of completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying are we gonna bomb Iraq, part of the building was arguing about whether or not we're going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, (and) the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial."
Prime Minister defends record
Mr Johnson defended the government's response on Wednesday, saying "to deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly difficult."
"We have at every stage tried to minimise loss of life, to save lives, to protect the (health service) and we have followed the best scientific advice that we can," Johnson said in the House of Commons.
The government accused Cummings of glossing over the fact that he was one of the most powerful people in the government when key decisions were being made.
"I'll leave others to determine how reliable a witness to all this he is," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. "He was there at the time — what his motives would be I will leave to others."
Cummings said he began "ringing alarm bells" in early March 2020, and apologised for not doing more to change the government's strategy.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/coronavirus-dominic-cummings-criticises-boris-johnson-uk-government-matt-hancock-in-extraordinary-covid19-testimony/a6c2b21b-2090-411b-a6d6-df8e5d9f0148