D-Day is finally here. Like the rest of SW1, Mr S will be tuning into Dominic Cummings’ appearance at a Commons joint committee later today. Kick off is 9:30 a.m with four hours of theatrics expected to focus on his criticisms of the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic. The political editor of ITV Robert Peston revealed yesterday that the former chief special adviser will ‘not pull his punches’ and claim Johnson said ‘Covid is only killing 80-year-olds’ when justifying a delayed lockdown in the autumn.
Now the impeccably connected Simon Walters goes further in previewing what Cummings will say this morning. Walters – whose reporting on the Downing Street renovation has caused Johnson many headaches in recent months – writes in the Daily Mail that Cummings has a number of fresh revelations to make. These include the claim that Boris Johnson said repeatedly he would be willing to be infected with Covid on live TV in order to reassure the public, saying on multiple occasions ‘I’m going to get Chris Whitty to inject me with it live on national TV so everyone can see it’s nothing to be scared of.’ He also echoed his transatlantic counterpart Donald Trump in calling the virus ‘Kung-Flu.’
These two claims are unlikely to trouble Downing Street much. More disconcerting is Walters’ disclosure that Johnson was slow to act because he was on holiday with his fiancée Carrie Symonds. Cummings will tell MPs Johnson was late in reacting to Covid as he and his partner were enjoying a ‘prolonged holiday’ at the PM’s grace and favour home Chevening in Kent in February 2020. The pair were allegedly ‘planning to announce their engagement and Carrie’s pregnancy’ – an announcement that was made on February 29, just five days before the first Covid death was reported in Britain.
According to the Daily Mail’s preview, as the first wave engulfed the country the government pursued a ‘Plan A’ in the early months of a ‘herd immunity’ strategy’ – an initial response that was ‘total and utter chaos’ and only ditched after Number 10 was warned it would lead to a ‘catastrophe’. Cummings is expected to take aim at health secretary Matt Hancock, with a ‘key document’ expected to be released which he says upholds his claim that Hancock’s initial plan could have led to 250,000 deaths and ‘no NHS for months’.
He is also expected to accuse the Prime Minister of being responsible for ‘thousands of deaths’ by delaying a second lockdown when a second wave of the virus hit the UK in the winter. Other claims include Johnson arguing for ‘no more fucking lockdowns, let the bodies pile high in their thousands’ and – most controversially of all – that each of the three country-wide lockdowns could have been entirely avoided if there were ‘competent people in charge’ and ministers had ‘the right preparations’.
And just in case No. 10 were hoping that all this could be dismissed as the rhetoric of an embittered former employee, Walters also adds that Cummings still retains ‘a large quantity of WhatsApp and text messages from senior Downing Street figures’ to substantiate his claims. Should make for an eventful morning…
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.