The Covid public inquiry has revealed a toxic culture of government incompetence, backstabbing, and misogyny, exposing messages that showcase Boris Johnson’s dismissive attitude towards the elderly population at risk from the virus.
Dominic Cummings, former prime minister Johnson’s top aide, faced accusations of “aggressive, foul-mouthed and misogynistic” behavior, as revealed in messages where he attempted to remove senior civil servant Helen MacNamara, referring to No 10 as “dodging stilettos from that individual”.
The inquiry heard that Johnson’s indecisiveness contributed to delays in implementing crucial lockdown measures. Shockingly, he had expressed views that the Covid virus was simply “nature’s way of dealing with old people” and he was skeptical about the NHS being overwhelmed during the pandemic.
Bereaved families were deeply disturbed by this new evidence, with Cummings and Lee Cain, former No 10 director of communications, raising serious questions about Johnson’s suitability to lead the country during the pandemic.
Susie Flintham, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, highlighted the callousness, arrogance, and misogyny within the government during the pandemic, attributing it to the decision-making that led to unnecessary loss and family distress. She emphasized the lack of regard for families like hers.
In his testimony, Cummings portrayed the cabinet as “largely irrelevant” to Covid policy in 2020, using strong language to describe ministers. WhatsApp messages and documents demonstrated his harsh criticism of key figures, including former cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, MacNamara, and former health secretary Matt Hancock.
Cummings did not mince words about Hancock, deeming him unfit for the role due to incompetence, dishonesty, and an excessive focus on media distractions, especially in the absence of adequate testing in care homes.
Regarding Sedwill, Cummings portrayed him as uninformed and characterized the Cabinet Office as “terrifyingly ineffective.” The inquiry’s lead counsel criticized Cummings for demeaning and insulting the former cabinet secretary.
However, it was Cummings’ comments about MacNamara that drew the most condemnation, as he expressed a desire to remove her from her position, using offensive language and suggesting he would physically escort her out if necessary. Cummings later apologized for his language but denied it was misogynistic.
In a final WhatsApp message, Johnson condemned the infighting surrounding Cummings’ departure as a “disgusting orgy of narcissism.”
The government’s handling of the pandemic remains a topic of scrutiny, with former prime minister Johnson and other senior figures expected to provide evidence. However, it was reported that Rishi Sunak failed to release his WhatsApp messages from his time as chancellor, despite a court ruling in favor of transparency.
Cain, the former communications director, criticized Johnson’s tendency to vacillate in decision-making, asserting that the prime minister lacked the appropriate skill set to lead the country through the pandemic.
Evidence from Sir Patrick Vallance’s diaries revealed Johnson’s fixation on older people accepting their fate, indicating a reluctance to take strong measures to protect them.
Cummings highlighted the dysfunctional response of the British state to the crisis and criticized the neglect of vulnerable populations at the pandemic’s outset.
Despite acknowledging Johnson’s shortcomings, Cummings expressed no regrets about his decision to support Johnson for office. He defended the choice, citing the unfavorable alternatives in the political landscape.
In a candid admission, Cummings expressed regret over the handling of his controversial trip to Durham in Spring 2020, acknowledging the pain it caused to many. Messages released to the inquiry showed a dispute between Johnson and Cummings regarding the trip.
Cummings also criticized Johnson’s focus on media relations during the pandemic, deeming it detrimental to the government’s response. He raised concerns about Johnson’s associations with specific media outlets, suggesting potential impropriety.