When Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former chief advisor, gave evidence to the Covid-19 ‘lessons learned’ joint select committee last month (over the course of seven hours) his revelations seemed explosive.
Specifically, Cummings alleged that the health secretary Matt Hancock was guilty of incompetence, interference and repeated lying. He told the committee:
‘The Secretary of State should have been fired for at least 15 to 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly.’
‘In the summer, he [Matt Hancock] said that everyone who needed treatment got the treatment that they required. He knew that that was a lie because he had been briefed by the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer himself about the first peak. We were told explicitly people did not get the treatment that they deserved. Many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.’
‘In mid-April, just before the Prime Minister and I were diagnosed with Covid ourselves, the Secretary of State for Health told us in the Cabinet Room, “Everything is fine on PPE. We have got it all covered,” and so on. When I came back, almost the first meeting I had in the Cabinet Room was about the disaster over PPE and how we were actually completely short and hospitals all over the country were running out. The Secretary of State said in that meeting, “This is the fault of Simon Stevens [the head of the NHS]; it is the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is not my fault—they blocked approvals on all sorts of things.”’
Dominic Cummings told the committee that he’d asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to investigate if Hancock’s statement was true. According to Cummings, the Cabinet Secretary investigated, and concluded that it was not. Cummings then alleged that Sir Mark told him ‘I have lost confidence in the honesty of the Secretary of State.’ He claimed to have a corroborating note on this, and promised to supply it.
As the committee’s co-chair Greg Clark confirmed when questioning Matt Hancock last Thursday, Dominic Cummings had delivered no supporting evidence to the committee as he had promised, and so his allegations were at that point regarded as unproven.
Until, it seemed, Dominic Cummings published his latest blog today, just before Prime Minister’s Questions, which he described as ‘some evidence re. my and Hancock’s evidence to MPs.’
This briefly seemed quite exciting. But Cummings has still not delivered this evidence.
There is not absolutely nothing in the blog. Cummings has substantiated with WhatsApp messages his claims that the PM considered Matt Hancock totally ‘hopeless’, and that Cummings told the PM that ventilators had been turned down by the health department because ‘the price had been marked up.’
But Cummings did not provide any new evidence when it came to Hancock shifting the blame for PPE shortages, or the Cabinet Secretary’s alleged investigation into Matt Hancock’s behaviour.
The PM’s former advisor only writes:
‘The Cabinet Secretary added that he did not have confidence in Hancock’s “grip” or honesty in Cabinet room meetings, neither did other officials and ministers, and this was damaging our response. I strongly agreed. (Our conversation was reinforced in written exchanges.)’
So where is this written exchange, which he’d promised to give the joint select committee?
On the issue of PPE, Dominic Cummings published screenshots of his messages with the PM, where Boris Johnson says ‘on PPE it’s a disaster… I can’t think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting Gove on.’
That’s it. That’s the proof.
Readers may recall an interview Mr Cummings gave to the Times in 2014 (when he had been pushed out as Michael Gove’s special advisor at education), in which he called the then-PM David Cameron ‘a sphinx without a riddle’.
Oh the irony. Unless Dominic Cummings can produce documents or more evidence, his failure to corroborate his most serious allegations means that he has left himself looking very much like a riddle-less sphinx himself.
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