According to reports, the former chief advisor to former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a scene of extensive disorder and disarray within the UK government amid the COVID-19 crisis.
During his highly anticipated testimony at the public inquiry on the COVID-19 crisis, Dominic Cummings spoke harshly about several individuals involved in handling the situation, including his ex-boss. He described a toxic environment and a lack of trust, but refuted any accusations of breaking rules.
According to Cummings, there are both widespread failures and pockets of success within a dysfunctional system. He considers himself a political disruptor.
During the inquiry, the lead counsel read out emails and WhatsApp messages in which Cummings strongly criticized numerous members of Johnson’s Cabinet and other high-ranking officials using profanity.
Cummings expressed remorse for his offensive language, which was broadcasted on British media, and defended himself against accusations of being a misogynist. He stated that the conversations occurred during the chaotic atmosphere at Johnson’s Downing Street headquarters.
“I have always used offensive language, but I had a negative opinion of many high-ranking individuals,” stated Cummings, who served as the prime minister’s main advisor during the initial stages of the 2020 pandemic and played a key role in the U.K.’s response.
According to Cummings, Johnson, who was admitted to the hospital for a few days in April 2020 due to the virus, lacked concentration and self-control. This led to frequent changes in his decisions during the pandemic, making it challenging to establish effective policies.
“He was commonly referred to as ‘the trolley’,” he explained, using the British term for a shopping cart.
After being a key strategist in the successful “leave” campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum, Cummings was recruited by Johnson. Cummings then joined Downing Street as Johnson took office as Prime Minister in 2019, taking on a significant and influential position that earned him the nickname “Boris’ brain.”
In May 2020, Cummings received widespread attention during the pandemic for driving 250 miles (400 km) to visit his parents’ house while under a “stay-at-home” order and while infected with coronavirus. He also took another trip to a picturesque town 30 miles (50 km) away.
When Johnson faced pressure to dismiss him, Cummings chose to leave his position in November 2020. Ever since, he has publicly criticized Johnson. During the investigation, he admitted that he departed the government with someone who was not suitable for the role in charge.
In his statement, he criticized various systems of government during the pandemic and pointed out how a lack of preparation hindered the initial reaction to the virus when it was first discovered in China in late 2019.
The Cabinet Office, which coordinates policy around departments, bore the brunt of Cummings’ scorn. Describing it as a “dumpster fire,” he accused it of trying to block a shielding plan for the vulnerable in the days and weeks before Johnson eventually announced a national lockdown on March 23, 2020.
Other advisors have also portrayed Johnson as a distracted and indecisive leader during the largest peacetime crisis in the country.
Also on Tuesday, former top communications director Lee Cain, said Johnson’s erratic decision-making was “rather exhausting” and indicated that the pandemic did not suit his temperament.
Cain criticized Johnson, stating that his skills were not suited for handling the COVID crisis. He also mentioned that Johnson often compared himself to the mayor in the movie “Jaws,” who refused to close the beaches despite the danger of a shark attack.
Cain mentioned that Johnson had considered letting the pandemic run rampant among the elderly in order to preserve the economy and allow younger individuals to continue their daily lives. However, he ultimately chose to take “the ethical and responsible course of action” by implementing lockdown measures, albeit later than ideal.
The United Kingdom has a high number of COVID-19 related deaths in Europe, with approximately 230,000 individuals listed as victims of the virus.
In December of this year, Johnson, who was compelled to resign as prime minister in September 2022 after it was revealed that he hosted parties in violation of pandemic regulations at his official residence, will speak at the inquiry. Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister, is also anticipated to testify this year since he served as Johnson’s Treasury official during the pandemic.
The investigation is partitioned into four modules, each referring to a particular aspect. The current phase is centered on the political choices made regarding significant events, such as the implementation of lockdowns. The initial phase, which ended in July, examined the nation’s readiness for the pandemic.
Overall, the probe, which is being led by retired judge Heather Hallett, is expected to take three years to complete, though it will be publishing interim reports in the meantime in the hope of bolstering Britain’s response in the event of another pandemic.
In late 2021, Johnson gave in to the pressure from grieving families and agreed to conduct a public inquiry into his actions, which have been heavily criticized for their revelations.
Susie Flintham, representative for COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice U.K., stated that the government’s behavior during the pandemic, characterized by cruelty, conceit, and discrimination against women, was the root cause of the disastrous choices that resulted in numerous avoidable deaths and the separation of families, including her own.
She stated, “It is unimaginable how little value these numbers placed on one another, which gives insight into their lack of regard for families like mine.”