BORIS Johnson is “not a fit and proper person” to steer the UK through the pandemic, MPs have heard.
The claim was made by the Prime Minister’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings in a dramatic hearing of a joint committee set up to examine the Conservative Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Asked if he regarded Johnson as “a fit and proper person to get us through this pandemic, Cummings said simply “no”.
And MPs heard he had reached the conclusion by October last year Johnson was “unfit” for the job of PM.
He also told the hearing that tens of thousands of people died needlessly during the pandemic and that he could not imagine why Johnson has not met bereaved families.
“Tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die,” he told MPs as he insisted a public inquiry into the crisis should not be delayed.
During a marathon seven-hour session with the Commons health and science committees, Cummings claimed Johnson saw Covid as a “scare story” and was more concerned about the impact on the economy than the need to curb the spread of coronavirus in the weeks leading up to the first lockdown.
He was scathing too about the response of the Department of Health and Social Care, claiming Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired “for at least 15-20 things”.
The former adviser, who left Downing Street last year after a behind-the-scenes power struggle, told the MPs: “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.
“When the public needed us most, the Government failed.
“I would like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes at that.”
In a series of explosive claims, Cummings said:
- The Government was not operating on a “war footing” in February 2020 as the global crisis mounted, with the Prime Minister on holiday and “lots of key people were literally skiing”.
- It was suggested chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty should inject Johnson with the virus on live TV to show it was nothing to be scared of.
- Herd immunity from people catching the disease was thought to be inevitable because there was no plan to try to suppress the spread of the virus.
- Then cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill told the Prime Minister to go on TV and explain the herd immunity plan by saying “it’s like the old chickenpox parties, we need people to get this disease because that’s how we get herd immunity by September”.
Cummings said that by the end of October 2020 his relationship with Johnson had deteriorated to the extent that “fundamentally I regarded him as unfit for the job and I was trying to create a structure around him to try and stop what I thought were extremely bad decisions”.
The former aide described his mounting panic about the situation in March 2020, with no plan in place for a lockdown or measures to protect the most vulnerable.
He said the country should have locked down in the first week of March 2020 at the latest but the “official logic” even on March 17 was that this would only cause a peak of the virus later on, potentially in the winter when the NHS would already be under pressure.
Cummings said that on the evening of March 13 it was realised a meeting would need to be held with Johnson to explain “we’re going to have to ditch the whole official plan, we’re heading for the biggest disaster this country has seen since 1914”.
He praised deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara, who also voiced concerns about the lack of a plan, claiming she told him “I think we are absolutely f*****, I think this country is headed for disaster, I think we’re going to kill thousands of people”.
He said on March 14, the Prime Minister was told: “You are going to have to lock down.” The first lockdown was implemented on March 23, but Cummings said the Prime Minister later regretted the move and repeated the same mistake over the timing of the second lockdown in England. Asked if he had heard Johnson say he would rather see “bodies pile high” than impose another lockdown on the nation, Cummings said: “I heard that in the Prime Minister’s study. That was not in September though, that was immediately after he finally made the decision to do the lockdown on October 31.”
Some 127,739 people in the UK have lost their lives in the pandemic, the highest number in Europe.