A piece in today’s Times about Matt “this is what a feminist looks like” Hancock, Health Secretary. How much longer before BoJo fires the lying slimeball? Not long, hopefully.
Boris Johnson described Matt Hancock’s performance during the height of the Covid-19 crisis as “totally f***ing hopeless” and discussed replacing him with Michael Gove, according to messages leaked by Dominic Cummings.
The prime minister’s messages, released today by Johnson’s former chief adviser, contradict claims by Johnson that he had full confidence in the health secretary.
In one message, sent by Johnson to Cummings last April, the prime minister refers to the failure to procure enough PPE as a “disaster”, adding: “I can’t think of anything but taking Hancock off and putting Gove on”.
Cummings then replies that the Cabinet Office, of which Gove was in charge, was also a “shitshow” and would have “severe risk of making things worse not better”.
Johnson then replies: “Wtf do we do? Another meeting with Matt [Hancock], [Simon] Stevens and co?”
Cummings then tells Johnson that the problem is that the “government does not control the government” and suggests No 10 needs to have more control over the Cabinet Office.
Johnson replies: “OK. Brill. Am all ears!”
The release of the messages comes after Cummings told a seven-hour joint meeting of the Commons health and social care committee and the science and technology committee last month that the health secretary had lied repeatedly, failed to protect care homes and was guilty of “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” on testing.
Hancock has denied the claims, insisting he has been “straight” with people during the pandemic.
In March 2020, the WhatsApp messages show Cummings highlighting America’s success at rolling out mass testing from 2,200 to 100,000 a day in just two weeks. He says that the UK is stuck on 5,000-7,000 tests, with Hancock sceptical about getting to 10,000 by the following week.
Johnson replies: “Totally f***ing hopeless.”
Downing Street has insisted that Johnson has full confidence in Health Secretary Matt Hancock but did not dispute the authenticity of messages in which he apparently called him “hopeless”.
In another exchange, Cummings bemoaned decisions to turn down the offer of ventilators because the “price has been marked up”, to which Johnson replied: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”
Cummings writes that he agreed with the Cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, that “we had to ‘divvy up’ Hancock’s job to deal with the problem”, with responsibility for testing and procurement of PPE and ventilators handed to other ministers.
The revelations heap political pressure on Johnson, who has previously claimed that Cummings’s claims to MPs last month did not bear “any relation to reality”.
The messages show that the prime minister and senior advisers had a WhatsApp group called “Numberten action” to discuss key policy decisions.
Cummings also claimed Johnson was preparing to step down after the next election — suggesting that this would avoid him still being in office when the planned public inquiry into the pandemic reports.
“The public inquiry … is designed to punt the tricky parts until after this PM has gone,” he said. “Unlike other PMs, this one has a clear plan to leave at the latest a couple of years after the next election, he wants to make money and have fun not ‘go on and on’.
Downing Street described this as “utter nonsense” but declined to comment on other aspects of Cummings’s claims.
“We are not going to engage with every allegation put forward,” said the prime minister’s spokesman. “Our focus is on recovery from the pandemic.”
Johnson did not respond to the publication of the messages when asked today at prime minister’s questions.
Cummings argues that the quality of decision-making in government improved while Johnson was in hospital with Covid-19 because his stand-in, Dominic Raab, could “chair meetings properly instead of telling rambling stories and jokes”.
Raab let officials probe for the truth, “unlike the PM who as soon as things get ‘a bit embarrassing’ does the whole ‘let’s take it offline’ shtick before shouting ‘forward to victory’, doing a thumbs-up and pegging it out of the room before anybody can disagree”, Cummings wrote.
Cummings said that his revelations were “important” because: “If No 10 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.” He writes that keeping Hancock in post is “a guaranteed disaster” and that it is “urgent for public safety that he is removed”.
At the end of his blog, Cummings poses a series of “simple questions to ask the PM”, including: “Given his failures on testing, care homes and PPE why did you keep in post a secretary of state you described yourself as ‘f***ing hopeless’ and how many more people died as a result of your failure to remove him?”, and: “Do you now agree with Hancock that there was no shortage of PPE or do you agree with yourself in April 2020 that PPE supply was ‘a disaster’ that required moving Hancock?”
During his appearance before MPs, Cummings described a panicked weekend in No 10 in March during which a “plan B” for lockdown was hastily improvised on a whiteboard, which included the question “Who do we not save?”.
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