Dominic Cummings today lobbed a series of very personal criticisms at his former boss Boris Johnson as he questioned the Prime Minister’s character and ability to lead the country.
The PM’s former top adviser pulled no punches as he repeatedly attacked Mr Johnson during a marathon evidence session with MPs into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The joint session of the health and science select committees was punctuated by a series of astonishing claims which threaten to destabilise Mr Johnson’s premiership.
Mr Cummings stunned Westminster as he said he believed Mr Johnson was ‘unfit for the job’ of PM.
The Vote Leave maverick said it was ‘crackers’ that Mr Johnson ever ended up in Number 10 as he painted a picture of a vain and dithering figure who is obsessed with the media.
Mr Cummings told MPs that Mr Johnson kept changing his mind on what to do ‘every time the Telegraph wrote an editorial’.
He claimed Mr Johnson is ‘about a thousand times too obsessed with the media’ and argued it was no wonder pandemic communications had sometimes resembled a ‘disaster zone’ because the PM ‘changes his mind 10 times a day’.
Mr Cummings also suggested that Mr Johnson had downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic in its initial stages, viewing it as a ‘scare story’.
The former adviser also took aim at Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds who he claimed was a distraction when she allegedly went ‘completely crackers’ about their dog Dilyn on a key early day of the pandemic.
Dominic Cummings today lobbed a series of astounding accusations at the Prime Minister while giving an account of the government’s response to Covid today
Mr Cummings said it was ‘crackers’ that Boris Johnson (pictured) – his former boss – ever got the top job in the first place
It was ‘crackers’ Boris Johnson ever became the Prime Minister
Amid his allegations today, Mr Cummings claimed it was ‘completely crackers’ Mr Johnson was in charge and that thousands of people in the country could provide better leadership than the Prime Minister.
The former-adviser said the fact that the public had to choose between Mr Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 election meant it was clear that the electoral system had ‘gone extremely, extremely badly wrong’.
‘There’s so many thousands and thousands of wonderful people in this country who could provide better leadership than either of those two,’ he said.
‘And there’s obviously something terribly wrong with the political parties if that’s the best that they can do.’
He also said that ‘in any sensible, rational government’ he would have not had the power he did.
‘It is completely crazy that I should have been in such a senior position in my personal opinion,’ he said.
Mr Cummings said the fact that the public had to choose between Mr Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) in the 2019 election meant it was clear that the electoral system had ‘gone extremely, extremely badly wrong’
‘I’m not smart. I’ve not built great things in the world.
‘It’s just 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.
‘It’s also the case that there are wonderful people inside the Civil Service, there are brilliant, brilliant officials all over the place. But the system tends to weed them out from senior management jobs.
‘And the problem in this crisis was very much lions led by donkeys over and over again.’
Cummings (pictured celebrating in Mr Johnson’s study on election night in 2019) was the strategist behind Johnson’s landslide election win in 2019 and the Leave campaign winning the 2016 Brexit campaign
Premier was ‘a thousand times far too obsessed with the media, which undermines him doing his job’
Mr Cummings said his former boss was a ‘thousand-times too obsessed’ with the media.
The former adviser said he did give unauthorised briefings to the press but this was only to rarely speak to journalists without telling the Prime Minister first.
He added: ‘Yes, I did talk to people unauthorised in the sense of actually pretty rarely did I speak to the Prime Minister before I spoke to any journalists.
‘I just got on with things because because my view was the Prime Minister already is about a thousand-times too obsessed with the media.’
Mr Cummings told the committees that after the 2019 election his main media contact was with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and he spoke to her once every three or four weeks.
Boris Johnson was a ‘like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other’
Mr Cummings said he had a ‘centre of gravity’ that agreed with him on Covid policy, but the PM ‘just wouldn’t do’ what he was advised.
He said on many occasions, he, the cabinet secretary Simon Case, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other senior officials agreed on what to do – but Mr Johnson wouldn’t take their advice.
He added: ‘Everybody was screaming on quarantine, “have a policy, and set it out clearly and stick to it. You cannot keep changing your mind every time the Telegraph writes an editorial on it”.
‘Everybody agreed with me about that. Regardless almost of what they thought the real policy should be.
‘But nobody could find a way around the problem of: the Prime Minister [was] just like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other.’
Boris Johnson DID say ‘let the bodies pile high’
Mr Cummings said he did overhear Mr Johnson say ‘let the bodies pile high’ amid the PM’s reluctance to thrust the UK into a third lockdown.
During his grilling today, Mr Cummings said the statement was made shortly after the decision to thrust the UK into a second lockdown was finalised.
The PM denied saying this in parliament.
The PM ‘called up the media and contradicted his own policy’
Mr Cummings said the PM contradicted his own policy in phone calls with the media.
When asked if there was a communications failure during the pandemic, Mr Cummings replied: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’ve got great people doing communications.
‘If the Prime Minister changes his mind ten times a day and then calls up the media and contradicts his own policy day after day after day, you’re going to have a communications disaster zone.’
He added: ‘Inevitably there were certainly mistakes made on communications for sure.
‘But all the big things that people think “why did that go wrong”, like for example the whole thing with [Marcus] Rashford.’
‘The director of communications said to the Prime Minister twice, “do not pick a fight with Rashford, obviously we should do this instead”.
‘The Prime Minister decided to pick a fight and then surrendered. Twice.’
The Manchester United star launched a successful campaign to pressure Mr Johnson into an embarrassing U-turn over the Government’s free school meals policy.
‘After that, everyone says “your communications is stupid”. No. What’s stupid is picking a fight with Rashford over school meals. What should have happened is just getting the school meals policy right,’ Cummings added.
‘So it’s easy to blame communications for bad policy and bad decision making.’
Boris Johnson was ‘cross’ with Dominic Cummings and other advisers for advising first lockdown
Mr Cummings claimed that the premier was ‘cross’ with him and others who were in favour of the first lockdown.
He told the committee: ‘There’s a great misunderstanding that because [coronavirus] nearly killed him, therefore he must have taken it seriously.
‘But in fact, after the first lockdown his view was, he was cross with me and the others for what he regarded as basically pushing him into the first lockdown.
‘His argument was after that happened, literally quote: “I should have been the mayor of Jaws and kept the beaches open”. That’s what he said on many many occasions.
When asked if the PM was ‘arrogant’, he said: ‘I don’t know if arrogance is the right thing, but he took the view in January and February that economic harm caused by action against Covid was going to be more damaging for the country than Covid.
‘And we could not persuade him that if you basically took the view of let it rip and not worry about Covid you would get not just all the health disasters, but you would also get a huge economic disaster.’
The PM felt he was ‘gamed’ on Covid stats
Mr Cummings said the PM ‘thought that he’d been gamed on the numbers in the first lockdown’.
He said Mr Johnson thought the ‘NHS would somehow have got through’ without a lockdown.
The Prime Minister brushed off Covid-19 as a ‘scare story’ and ‘the new swine flu’
Mr Cummings also accused the PM of playing down the threat of the pandemic.
He said Mr Johnson regarded Covid-19 as ‘another scare story’.
‘The basic thought was that in February the prime minister regarded this as just a scare story … he described it as the new swine flu,’ the former-adviser said.
Boris Johnson offered to be injected with Covid-19 on live TV
Mr Johnson also offered to be injected with coronavirus on live television to reassure the public, Mr Cummings claimed.
He told the committee: ‘The view of various officials inside No10 was if we have the PM chairing Cobra meetings and he just tells everyone ”it’s swine flu don’t worry about it, I am going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realise it’s nothing to be frightened of”, that would not help actual serious planning.’
Dominic Cummings speaks at a committee hearing in Portcullis House in London today
PM decided the March lockdown was a mistake and he should have been ‘the mayor in Jaws’
Mr Cummings suggested that after March he did not agree with Mr Johnson on any Covid policy.
But by that time the premier had decided lockdown was a mistake and the ‘lesson learned’ was that ‘we should have focused on the economy, it was all a disaster’.
He said the PM felt he ‘should have been the mayor of Jaws’ who kept the beach open despite shark sightings.
Mr Cummings said: ‘After march he thought the lesson to be learnt is: “We shouldn’t have done a lockdown, we should have focused on the economy, it was all a disaster, I should have been the mayor in Jaws”.
‘I had very little influence on Covid stuff. I mean I tried, I made arguments. But as you can see all the major arguments I did not win.
‘What I therefore did in the summer was I brought in Simon Case to be permanent secretary at No10 because I thought, the Prime Minister is not listening to me on this whole subject, our relations are getting worse and worse, his girlfriend is desperate to get rid of me and all my team.
‘If I bring in someone official to kind of take over on Covid, that will A) make things better and B) maybe he will listen better to Simon Case than he did to me, which to some extent did happen.
‘Then I spent a lot of my time in kind of May, June, July not on Covid but on defence, science and technology, procurement form, planning regulations, the economy, productivity, innovation, data.’
The PM did not heed lockdown warnings in March
The maverick said he warned the PM on March 12 that there were ‘big problems coming’ if self-isolation measures were not announced immediately.
He said he told Boris Johnson: ‘We’ve got big problems coming. The Cabinet Office is terrifyingly s***.
‘No plans, totally behind the pace, we must announce today, not next week. We must force the pace. We’re looking at 100,000 to 500,000 deaths between optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.’
And on March 14, Boris Johnson was told that models showing the peak was ‘weeks and weeks and weeks away’ in June were ‘completely wrong’.
He said the PM was warned: ‘The NHS is going to be smashed in weeks, really we’ve got days to act.’
Mr Johnson announced a lockdown on March 23.
Mr Cummings said the situation in Downing Street in mid-March was like ‘a scene from Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum saying the aliens are here and your whole plan is broken and you need a new plan’.
Carrie Symonds was a distraction
Mr Cummings also claimed Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds distracted the Prime Minister.
He said on March 12 – a key day early in the pandemic – Miss Symonds went ‘completely crackers’ about their dog Dilyn.
Mr Cummings also claimed that in February, the PM ‘was distracted by […] finalising his divorce, his girlfriend wanted to announce being pregnant, the engagement, his finances and all of that sort of stuff’.
He said the premier ‘had a very difficult time mid-February in his private life for sure.’
Referencing the March 12, Mr Cummings said Downing Street was trying to deal with the unfolding pandemic and the US wanting the UK to join in with a bombing campaign in the Middle East.
But the PM was distracted that day by his partner Ms Symonds, who was furious about a story in the Times that claimed the couple were considering getting rid of their dog Dilyn.
Mr Cummings said the combination of events ‘sounds so surreal couldn’t possibly be true’.
Carrie Symonds holds the couple’s dog Dilyn in Uxbridge, West London, on December 13, 2019
Carrie Symonds was so incensed by the story in the Times that she took to Twitter to claim it was ‘total c**p’
Boris Johnson would rather have chaos than let Dominic Cummings fix the ‘system’
Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson had told him he liked the ‘chaos’ because it meant ‘everyone has to look to me to see who is in charge’.
Giving evidence, Mr Cummings claimed he told the Prime Minister in July he was going to leave by December 18 at the latest.
He added: ‘He [Mr Johnson] asked why and I said because this whole system is chaos, this building is chaos, you know perfectly well that from having worked with me I can get great teams together and manage them, but you are more frightened of me having the power to stop the chaos than you are of the chaos, and this is a completely unsustainable position for us both to be in.
‘I am not prepared to work with people like Hancock any more, I have told you umpteen times you have got to remove him, you won’t, it’s going to be a disaster in the autumn and therefore it’s time that I should go.
‘He laughed and said “you’re right, I am more frightened of you having the power to stop the chaos, chaos isn’t that bad, chaos means that everyone has to look to me to see who’s in charge”.’