Most people recall Dominic Cummings as Boris Johnson’s right-hand man who broke lockdown rules in March 2020, resulting in a historic public relations nightmare. Cummings has proved himself as the puppet behind the strings of Johnson’s policy and campaign in 2019. However, since he left Westminster in November 2020, he has vowed to expose the wrong doings and poor decisions of Johnson and his colleagues amid the pandemic. The former Chief Advisor to Johnson, in a 4-hour joint Health and Technology select committee interview delved into government decisions regarding the first and second lockdown. Chaired by Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, Cummings called out Whitehall and Johnson for their “failures”, sharing intimate details of his time in Number 10 during the pandemic.
In an extraordinary interview on Wednesday morning, Cummings exposed the incompetency of the government for the pandemic. He claimed that Johnson considered COVID-19 to be “swine-flu” like, hence not even chairing COBRA meetings at first and prioritising other matters such as Middle Eastern bomb campaigns with Trump instead of creating a concrete emergency plan. He emphasises that there was “no plan”, and delays in announcements in March 2020 were due to the lack of execution and decisiveness from Johnson. Borders were not shut due to fears of racism towards China, leading to a rapid increase of infections. The Prime Minister would change his mind “10 times a day”, making it extremely difficult for ministers to navigate around.
Personal attacks were directed specifically towards Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, insinuating that Johnson and top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill wanted to fire him in April but “just couldn’t do it”. It is expressed that there were 15-20 matters Hancock “should be fired for”, including “lying to the government” and the public. The coming days will reveal the bleak next steps for Hancock, who has been Health Secretary since July 2018.
More controversially, Cummings called the Prime Minister “unfit to lead” the country, leading to questions of the intentions to slander his former partner. Having resigned from Downing Street in November, rumours spread that Johnson became heavily influenced by his fiancée Carrie Symonds which Cummings called “unethical”. However, the true reason for his resignation is unknown. The once dynamic duo worked together through the Brexit and election campaigns, with Cummings acting as a ‘spin doctor’ pulling the strings behind the scenes. Antithetically, in the interview on Wednesday Cummings exposed Johnson for the unsuccessful track and trace system and tier system which was “chaotically organised”. Furthermore, bold statements slandered Johnson’s image when he stated Johnson was more worried about the economy than the number of deaths, thus avoiding advice for a second lockdown.
Fairly recognising that being Prime Minister amid a pandemic is not ideal for the best of leaders, Cummings questioned the leadership battle in 2019 arguing that there are “thousands” of intelligent citizens in Great Britain; Corbyn and Johnson were not sufficient choices. The select committee interview exposed crucial flaws about government leadership that has led to tens of thousands of deaths in the UK. Cummings accepts that he was part of the problem, admitting the “whole system failed us”. It is therefore important that these points are followed up by further select committee hearings of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock to hold Westminster accountable and prevent further turmoil.