Does Dom want Rishi to be PM? Ex-No10 aide gives Sunak an easy ride

Does Dom want Rishi to be PM? Cummings gives the Chancellor an easy ride but denies angling for job in a Sunak No10 as he hurls grenades at Boris and Hancock

  • Dominic Cummings today fuelled rumours he wants Chancellor Rishi Sunak to become prime minister
  • Ex-No10 adviser claimed Mr Sunak was ‘supportive’ of his drive to lock-down the country in March last year
  • He rubbished reports in September that circuit-breaker was delayed over fears Mr Sunak would resign
  • But he denied angling for a job in a Sunak administration – while hurling grenades at Boris Johnson 

Dominic Cummings today fuelled rumours he wants Rishi Sunak to become prime minister after claiming the Chancellor was ‘supportive’ of his drive to lock-down the country in March last year – while launching blistering attacks on Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock’s early handling of the pandemic. 

In his epic seven-hour evidence session with MPs, the ex-No10 adviser said Mr Sunak did not try to block the first shutdown despite ‘powerful voices’ in the Treasury warning against the dangers of restrictions on the economy.

He rubbished reports in September that a circuit-breaker lockdown was delayed over fears Mr Sunak would resign, calling them ‘100 per cent’ false and telling the Commons committee: ‘The Chancellor never threatened to quit.’

The Prime Minister’s former chief aide also appeared to dodge questions on whether he had advised against Mr Sunak’s controversial Eat Out To Help Out scheme last summer, which was blamed for a second virus surge.  

Meanwhile, he launched a blistering attack on the Prime Minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, who he described as ‘unfit for the job’ and ‘about a thousand times too obsessed with media’.

Mr Cummings also accused the Health Secretary of being a serial liar whose ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’ over the care homes scandal led directly to needless deaths as he revealed he urged Mr Johnson to sack him.

And he laid into Carrie Symonds, Mr Johnson’s fiancee, who he accused of ‘unethical and clearly illegal behaviour’ when trying to get Downing Street jobs for her friends and of distracting the Prime Minister during key moments of the pandemic. Mr Cummings was fired by No10 after losing a power struggle with Ms Symonds.   

However, the former adviser denied that he was angling for a position in a Sunak administration, telling MPs that everybody in Whitehall and even his wife believe that ‘the less everybody hears from me in the future, the better’.

He also made no mention of Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who he advised as Education Secretary under David Cameron and with whom he organised the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum. 

In his epic seven-hour evidence session with MPs, Dominic Cummings claimed Rishi Sunak did not try to block the first shutdown despite ‘powerful voices’ in the Treasury warning against the dangers of restrictions on the economy 


Dominic Cummings fuelled rumours he wants Rishi Sunak to become prime minister while launching blistering attacks on Boris Johnson’s early handling of the pandemic

Former No10 advisor Dominic Cummings leaves Parliament after giving evidence to MPs

The initial apology: ‘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.’

On the lack of preparation in February 2020: ‘We didn’t act like it was important in February, let alone January…. No10 and the government were not working on a war footing in February, it wasn’t until the last week of February there was any sense of urgency.’ 

On Boris Johnson’s attitude to Covid: ‘In February the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story. He described it as the new swine flu… The view of various officials inside No10 was if we have the PM chairing Cobra meetings and he just tells everyone ”it’s swine flu don’t worry about it, I am going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realise it’s nothing to be frightened of”, that would not help actual serious planning.’

On the first lockdown timing: ‘In retrospect it is clear that the official plan was wrong, it is clear that the whole advice was wrong, and I think it is clear that we obviously should have locked down essentially the first week of March at the latest. We certainly should have been doing all of these things weeks before we did, I think it’s unarguable that that is the case.’

On his role in the lockdown delay: ‘There’s no doubt in retrospect that yes, it was a huge failure of mine and I bitterly regret that I didn’t hit the emergency panic button earlier then I did. In retrospect there’s no doubt I was wrong not to.’

On No10 in March 2020: ‘It was like a scene from Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum saying the aliens are here and your whole plan is broken and you need a new plan.’

On Boris being distracted by Carrie and Trump: ‘It sounds so surreal couldn’t possibly be true … that day, the Times had run a huge story about the Prime Minister and his girlfriend and their dog. The Prime Minister’s girlfriend was going completely crackers about this story and demanding that the press office deal with that. So we had this sort of completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying are we going to bomb Iraq? Part of the building was arguing about whether or not we’re going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial.’

On the PM missing Cobra meetings: ‘Lots of Cobra meetings are just going through PowerPoint slides and are not massively useful.’ 

On Health Secretary Matt Hancock: ‘I think the Secretary of State for Health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly. There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the Secretary of State for Health is certainly one of those people. I said repeatedly to the Prime Minister that he should be fired, so did the Cabinet Secretary, so did many other senior people.’

On herd immunity: ‘It is not that people are thinking this is a good thing, it is that it is a complete inevitability, the only real question is one of timing. It’s either going to be by September or it’s herd immunity by January (2021) after a second peak.’

On not cancelling mass sports events like Cheltenham Festival: ‘The official advice at the time (March 2020)  was that that a) won’t make much difference to transmission, which seems absolutely bizarre in retrospect, the idea that we would keep mass events going on through this whole thing. But also secondly, it could be actively bad because you’d push people into pubs. Of course no one in the official system in the Department of Health drew the obvious logical conclusion which was well, shouldn’t we be shutting all the pubs as well?’

On Government secrecy: ‘There is no doubt at all that the process by which Sage was secret and overall the whole thinking around the strategy was secret was an absolutely catastrophic mistake, because it meant that there wasn’t proper scrutiny of the assumptions, the underlying logic. Actually Sage agreed with this, when I said on March 11 we are going to have to make all these models public and whatnot, there wasn’t pushback from sage or Patrick Vallance either. Patrick actually agreed with me.’ 

On Boris v Jeremy Corbyn at the 2019 election: ‘There’s so many thousands and thousands of wonderful people in this country who could provide better leadership than either of those two. And there’s obviously something terribly wrong with the political parties if that’s the best that they can do.’

Giving evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees, Mr Cummings said: ‘There have been stories that he was a kind of block and tried to throw mud in the gears and him and the Treasury were trying to stop the first lockdown.

‘What I would say was there were powerful voices in the Treasury saying the real danger is economic but in meetings that I had the Chancellor never tried to stop that happening.’

He went on: ‘Now, there have been lots of reports and accusations that the Chancellor was the person who was kind of trying to delay in March. That is completely, completely wrong. The Chancellor was totally supportive of me and of other people as we tried to make this transition from plan A to plan B.’

When asked if reports in September that a new lockdown was delayed over fears Mr Sunak would quit were false, Mr Cummings added: ‘Completely, 100 per cent. The Chancellor never threatened to quit.’  

But he said he could not remember whether he was opposed to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. ‘I was opposed to the general strategy the Prime Minister set out,’ Mr Cummings told MPs.

But pushed by chairman of the Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt whether he – or anyone – advised against it, he said: ‘I can’t really remember conversations, to be honest, about Eat Out to Help Out out specifically.’

When Mr Hunt suggested it was ‘quite a big initiative’, Mr Cummings said: ‘I suppose in the grand scheme of things it didn’t seem like that at the time.’

He said he was ‘definitely’ in meetings when it was discussed ‘but at that point, I basically lost the argument on the approach’.

In his extraordinary condemnation of the Government’s ‘disastrous’ response to coronavirus, Mr Cummings claimed Britons had been ‘lions led by donkeys’ and claimed that Mr Johnson viewed Covid as a ‘scare story’ just a month before the first lockdown.

Mr Cummings said ‘tens of thousands of people died who did not need to die’ as he conceded he should have been ‘hitting the panic button’ in mid-February but he had been ‘wrongly reassured’ by the WHO and others about the situation in China.

Having bungled the early phase of the crisis, Mr Cummings said the premier then opted to ‘hit and hope’ by deciding to shun a second ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in September, despite entreaties from Prof Whitty and science chief Patrick Vallance among others.

Mr Cummings also insisted he personally heard the PM say in his study on October 31 that he would rather let ‘the bodies pile high’ than trigger a third lockdown. Mr Johnson has flatly denied making the remark.

In a detailed timeline, Mr Cummings laid out his version of how the government was far from a ‘war footing’ in February, with senior figures including Mr Johnson himself going on holiday. ‘Lots of key people were literally skiing in mid-February,’ he said.

He said Mr Johnson regarded the pandemic as a ‘scare story’ and the ‘new Swine Flu’ at that stage, and had even suggested he could be injected with the disease live on TV by medical chief Chris Whitty to show people it was not a threat.

Mr Cummings said that on March 12 at 7.48am he texted the PM and said the Cabinet Office was ‘terrifyingly sh**’ and Covid restrictions should be stepped up immediately. However, on the same day Donald Trump was trying to persuade the UK to join a bombing raid in the Middle East.

And Ms Symonds was ‘going crackers’ at the PM over a ‘trivial’ story in the papers about their dog Dilyn.

Mr Cummings said on the evening of March 13 the second most senior civil servant at the Cabinet Office, Helen MacNamara, came in and relayed to him the view of another senior official that ‘there is no plan’ and ‘we’re in huge trouble’.

Mr Cummings said she told him: ‘I think we are absolutely f*****’ and warned that ‘thousands’ of people could die.

Despite the rising alarm, at around the same time there were still meetings going on with officials suggesting people should be advised to have ‘chicken pox parties’ to spread the virus more quickly.

Mr Cummings suggested that after March he did not agree with Mr Johnson on any element of Covid policy.

He said by that stage the premier had decided lockdown was a mistake and he should have been like ‘the mayor in Jaws who kept the beaches open’.

‘I thought that perspective was completely mad,’ he said, adding that the PM was like a ‘shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other’.

Stressing that his influence had waned dramatically by that point, Mr Cummings said that Ms Symonds was also ‘desperate to get rid of me and all my team’. He was ousted in November along with most of the Vote Leave clique.

He also raged at the government’s determination to delay the start of a public inquiry until next year, saying there was ‘absolutely no excuse’ for putting it off.

‘The longer it is delayed the more people will rewrite memories… documents will go astray.’

Mr Johnson tried to shrug off the vicious onslaught at a bruising PMQs this afternoon, denying the government was ‘complacent’ and rejecting Keir Starmer’s calls to bring the promised public inquiry forward.

‘None of the decisions have been easy,’ the premier said. ‘To go into a lockdown is a traumatic thing for a county. We have at every stage tried to minimise loss of life.’

No10 refused to address the specific allegations levelled by his former ally.

But the committee heard hours of damaging claims, including that even in the first half of March Mr Johnson was still of the view that the threat to the economy was more significant than the public health risk.

Mr Cummings said the scenes were reminiscent of disaster movie Independence Day, where star Jeff Goldblum says the plan to resist the alien invasion has failed and there needs to be a new one.

The former aide also launched an excoriating attack on Matt Hancock, accusing him of ‘lying’ about PPE and access for treatment for those suffering from the disease. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on February 14, 2020


A masked Dominic Cummings arrived at Parliament this morning (left) as he prepared to rain fire on Boris Johnson (pictured right at PMQs today)

Mr Cummings tweeted a picture of the whiteboard before his explosive grilling from MPs over how Downing St handled the pandemic. He captioned the image: ‘First sketch of Plan B, PM study, Fri 13/3 eve – shown PM Sat 14/4: NB. Plan A ‘our plan’ breaks NHS,>4k p/day dead min.Plan B: lockdown, suppress, crash programs (tests/treatments/vaccines etc), escape 1st AND 2nd wave (squiggly line instead of 1 or 2 peaks)… details later’

Mr Cummings posted another excerpt from a report suggesting that imposing a tough lockdown could merely have caused a second peak at a more dangerous time for the NHS 

He insisted the Health Secretary told ministers ‘categorically’ in March that people would be tested for Covid before being returned to care homes, but it later transpired that it not happened.

‘We sent people with Covid back to the care homes,’ he said. He claimed that the then-Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill told him he had ‘lost confidence’ in Mr Hancock’s ‘honesty’ during key meetings.

Mr Cummings said Mr Hancock used scientists including Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick as a ‘shield’ for himself and told the PM they could be blamed if things went wrong.

Mr Cummings said he went to Mr Johnson in July last year and said that he was going to leave because Downing Street was in ‘chaos’. He said he told the PM that he was ‘not prepared to work with people like Hancock any more’, accusing Mr Johnson of being ‘frightened’ to give him enough power to set up a functional system.

The former Vote Leave chief said Mr Johnson retorted that ‘chaos isn’t that bad’ because it ‘means everyone has to look to me to see who is in charge’.

‘The Prime Minister knew I blamed him for the whole situation and I did,’ Mr Cummings said.

‘By October 31 our relations were essentially already finished, the fact that his girlfriend also wanted rid of me was relevant but not the heart of the problem.

‘The heart of the problem was 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 and push other things through against his wishes.

‘He had the view that he was Prime Minister and I should just be doing what he wanted me to.’

‘If we don’t fire the Health Secretary we are going to kill people’: Cummings accuses ‘serial liar’ Hancock of ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’ and using Whitty and Vallance as ‘human shields’ 

Dominic Cummings accused Matt Hancock of ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’ during the early days of the Covid pandemic today as he launched an astonishing broadside at the Health Secretary.

During a no-holds-barred attack on the senior Cabinet Minister he accused him of being a serial liar whose behaviour directly hindered the Government’s ability to tackle the pandemic last year.

In a rollercoaster appearance in front of MPs today Mr Cummings outlined a series of failings by Mr Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care. 

Mr Cummings told a joint committee of MPs today: ‘One thing I can say completely honestly is that I said repeatedly from February/March that if we don’t fire the Secretary of State and get testing into somebody else’s hands, we’re going to kill people and it’s going to be a catastrophe.’

In a withering assessment of the Health Secretary’s abilities Mr Cummings: 

  • Branded the minister ‘stupid’ for boasting last year that the test-and-trace system would be able to do 100,000 tests per day by the end April, saying it slowed the much-maligned system’s long-term development. 
  • Alleged that the Health Secretary ‘categorically’ told the Prime Minister directly that elderly people in hospital would be tested for Covid before being discharged to care homes – something which did not happen and contributed to the death toll.
  • Accused Mr Hancock of overplaying the UK’s readiness for a massive infectious disease outbreak early last year, before Britain was affected. 
  • Claimed that Mr Hancock used scientists including chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance as a ‘shield’  who could be blamed if things went wrong. 
  • Alleged that Boris Johnson was advised to keep Matt Hancock as Health Secretary because ‘he’s the person you fire when an inquiry comes along’. 

Discussing Mr Hancock’s interference in test and trace, Mr Cummings said:  ‘In my opinion he should have been fired for that thing alone and that itself meant that the whole of April was hugely disrupted by different parts of Whitehall fundamentally trying to operate in different ways completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say ”look at me and my 100k target”.

‘It was criminal, disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm’. 

Mr Hancock was far from the only person singled out by the Prime Minister’s former chief aide, who also set his sights on Mr Johnson and upper echelons of the Civil Service. But the attacks on the Health Secretary were the most vitriolic. 

During the evidence, which even took the MPs on the Commons Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees by surprise, Mr Cummings said: ‘Like in much of the Government system, there were many brilliant people at relatively junior and middle levels who were terribly let down by senior leadership.

‘I think the Secretary of State for Health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly. 

‘There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the Secretary of State for Health is certainly one of those people.

‘I said repeatedly to the Prime Minister that he should be fired, so did the Cabinet Secretary, so did many other senior people.’

He added that Mr Johnson ‘came close’ to removing Hancock in April last year. Pushed on why he didn’t, Mr Cummings said: ‘That would be speculation on my part. There is certainly no good reason for keeping him.’ 

Mr Johnson’s spokesman today said the PM had full confidence in the Health Secretary and tonight Mr Hancock hit back at the claims made about him.

A spokesman said: ‘At all times throughout this pandemic the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and everyone in DHSC has worked incredibly hard in unprecedented circumstances to protect the NHS and save lives.

‘We absolutely reject Mr Cummings’ claims about the Health Secretary.’ 

In a rollercoaster appearance in front of MPs today Mr Cummings laid a large part of the blame for Covid failings at the door of Mr Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care.

Matt Hancock pictured out running today before Mr Cummings started giving evidence The Prime Minister’s vengeful former chief aide turned both barrels on one of Mr Johnson’s most senior ministers, who has played a central role in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.


Boris Johnson denied being told about Mr Hancock by Lord Sedwill by Labour leader Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions this lunchtime.

PM ‘focused on Trump’s bombing plan and dog story as top civil servant admitted the UK was absolutely f*****’ 

Dominic Cummings laid out a detailed timetable of the disastrous response to the coronavirus threat last March.

The former aide said he warned the PM on March 12 that there were ‘big problems coming’ if self-isolation measures were not announced immediately.

He said he told Boris Johnson: ‘We’ve got big problems coming. The Cabinet Office is terrifyingly sh**. No plans, totally behind the pace, we must announce today, not next week. We must force the pace. We’re looking at 100,000 to 500,000 deaths between optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.’

But he said on that day rather than focusing on Covid the Government was consumed with a potential bombing campaign in the Middle East at the request of Mr Trump and a ‘trivial’ story in the Times newspaper about Mr Johnson, his fiancee Carrie Symonds and their dog.

He said: ‘And then to add to … it sounds so surreal couldn’t possibly be true … that day, the Times had run a huge story about the Prime Minister and his girlfriend and their dog.

‘The Prime Minister’s girlfriend was going completely crackers about this story and demanding that the press office deal with that.

‘So we had this sort of completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying are we going to bomb Iraq? Part of the building was arguing about whether or not we’re going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial.’

Mr Cummings said on the evening of March 13 the second most senior civil servant at the Cabinet Office, Helen MacNamara, came in and relayed to him the view of another senior official that ‘there is no plan’ and ‘we’re in huge trouble’. 

Mr Cummings said she told him: ‘I think we are absolutely f*****’ and warned that ‘thousands’ of people could die.

However, at around the same time there were still meetings going on with officials suggesting people should be advised to have ‘chicken pox parties’ to spread the virus more quickly.

Even in the first half of March Mr Johnson was still of the view that the threat to the economy was more significant than the public health risk. 

Mr Cummings said it was like something out of disaster movie Independence Day, where star Jeff Goldblum says the plan had failed and there needs to be a new one.

Boris Johnson denied being told about Mr Hancock by Lord Sedwill by Labour leader Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions this lunchtime.

‘The answer to that is no,’ he said as the Opposition leader based his weekly grilling of the PM on the bombshells dropped by Mr Cummings this morning.

The former chief aide has previously described Mr Hancock’s department as a ‘smoking ruin’ which could not cope with the demands of the pandemic. 

He said today that then Cabinet Secretary Lord Mark Sedwill told Boris Johnson he had lost confidence in Matt Hancock’s honesty. 

‘In mid-April, just before the Prime Minister and I were diagnosed with having Covid ourselves, the Secretary of State for Health told us in the Cabinet room everything is fine with PPE, we’ve got it all covered, etc, etc.

‘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, hospitals all over the country were running out.

‘The Secretary of State said in that meeting this is the fault of Simon Stevens, this is the fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it’s not my fault, they’ve blocked approvals on all sorts of things.

‘I said to the cabinet secretary, please investigate this and find out if it’s true.

‘The Cabinet Secretary came back to me and said it’s completely untrue, I’ve lost confidence in the Secretary of State’s honesty in these meetings.

‘The Cabinet Secretary said that to me and the Cabinet Secretary said that to the Prime Minister.’ 

Mr Cummings said one of Matt Hancock’s lies was that everybody got the treatment they deserved in the first peak when ‘many people were left to die in horrific circumstances’.

Asked to provide evidence of the Health Secretary’s lying, the former chief aide to the Prime Minister told the Commons committee: ‘There are numerous examples. I mean in the summer he said that everybody 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, and we were told explicitly people did not get the treatment they deserved, many people were left to die in horrific circumstances.’

On care homes, Mr Cummings told MPs Government talk of putting a shield around care homes was ‘complete nonsense’.

‘We were told categorically in March (by Mr Hancock) that people would be tested before they went back to homes, we only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened.

‘Now while the Government rhetoric was we have put a shield around care homes and blah blah blah, it was complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.’ 

Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s shadow social care minister, said: ‘Mr Cummings’ comments have revealed what we knew all along – that the Government’s ‘protective shield’ around care homes during this pandemic did not exist.

‘Over 30,000 care home residents have died of coronavirus during this pandemic. 25,000 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without any tests whatsoever, and frontline care workers were left without PPE.

‘The Government was much too slow to act to protect residents and staff. As we emerge from this pandemic Ministers must put in place a plan to transform social care and ensure that care homes never again face a crisis of this scale.’

Mr Cummings said that assurances given to him by Mr Hancock in January last year that pandemic preparations were brilliant ‘were basically completely hollow’. 

The former chief aide to the Prime Minister told the Commons committee he received a response from Health Secretary Matt Hancock assuring: ‘We’ve got full plans up to and including pandemic levels regularly prepared and refreshed, CMOs and epidemiologists, we’re stress testing now, it’s our top tier risk register, we have an SR bid before this.’

Mr Cummings told the committee: ‘I would like to stress and apologise for the fact that it is true that I did this but I did not follow up on this and push it the way I should’ve done.

‘We were told in No 10 at the time that this is literally top of the risk register, this has been planned and there’s been exercises on this over and over again, everyone knows what to do.

‘And it’s sort of tragic in a way, that someone who wrote so often about running red teams and not trusting things and not digging into things, whilst I was running red teams about lots of other things in government at this time, I didn’t do it on this.

‘If I had said at the end of January, we’re going to take a Saturday and I want all of these documents put on the table and I want it all gone through and I want outside experts to look at it all, then we’d have figured out much, much earlier that all the claims about brilliant preparations and how everything was in order were basically completely hollow, but we didn’t figure this out until the back end of February.’

Dominic Cummings said scientists on Sage and officials in the Department of Health were ‘completely wrong’ to assume the British public would ‘not accept the lockdown’ or a test and trace system.

He said: ‘Those two assumptions were completely central to the official plan and were both obviously, completely wrong.’ 

He said this was raised with the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson was told: ‘This assumption that the public won’t… basically aren’t that frightened and don’t want to have a lockdown is false, and we should abandon it.’

Mr Cummings gave an extraordinary account of the catastrophic response to Covid today – revealing that Boris Johnson viewed it as a ‘scare story’ just a month before the first lockdown and describing the dramatic moment when a top civil servant admitted: ‘We are absolutely f*****.’

The maverick former No10 chief admitted the government – and he personally – ‘fell disastrously short’ in its response to coronavirus as he kicked off a titanic hearing with MPs on coronavirus.

Mr Cummings conceded he should have been ‘hitting the panic button’ in mid-February but he had been ‘wrongly reassured’ by messages from the WHO and others about the situation in China. 

The government was certainly not on a ‘war footing’ at the time, with senior figures including Mr Johnson himself going on holiday. ‘Lots of key people were literally skiing in mid-February,’ he said.

And he said Mr Johnson regarded the pandemic as a ‘scare story’ and the ‘new Swine Flu’ at that stage, and had even suggested he could be injected with the disease live on TV by medical chief Chris Whitty to show people it was not a threat. 

In a detailed timeline from March 12, which he described as a ‘crazy day’, Mr Cummings said he was urging moving faster towards ordering people to stay at home.

At 7.48am he said he texted the PM and said the Cabinet Office was ‘terrifyingly sh**’ and the response should be stepped up immediately.

However, on the same day Donald Trump was trying to persuade the UK to join a bombing raid in the Middle East.

And Carrie Symonds was ‘going crackers’ at the PM over a ‘trivial’ story in the papers about their dog Dilyn.

Dominic Cummings reveals how the wheels came off inside Number 10: Extraordinary timeline of chaos as coronavirus spread across Britain… before civil servant screamed ‘we’re f*****’ and aides drew up ‘plan B’ on a whiteboard asking ‘who do we not save?’

Dominic Cummings today laid out a damning timeline of the battle to convince the Government to lock down in March 2020 and take Covid seriously in his blockbuster testimony to MPs that has seen him savage the UK response.

The No10 adviser-turned-loose cannon today presented a sketch of the ‘Plan B’ he and other Government aides hashed together when they realised Boris Johnson’s original ‘mitigation’ Covid policy was going to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

It asks the chilling question ‘who do we not save?’ and was drawn up on the same day one of the UK’s most senior civil servants, Helen MacNamara, marched into the PM’s office and warned ‘there is no plan… we’re absolutely f****d.’

A furious Mr Cummings today slammed the Health Secretary Matt Hancock as incompetent and said everyone in Government made terrible mistakes during the pandemic, bearing some responsibility himself and admitting he was ‘incredibly frightened’ of being the one who forced the PM’s arm into into a lockdown in March.

He lifted the lid on how Downing Street refused to take the crisis seriously until spring, claiming senior figures were still holidaying in February, and laid out a timetable of his alleged battle to get a lockdown imposed in Britain to prevent.

Here is Cummings’s chaotic version of events: 

Mr Cummings tweeted a picture of the whiteboard before his explosive grilling from MPs over how Downing St handled the pandemic. He captioned the image: ‘First sketch of Plan B, PM study, Fri 13/3 eve – shown PM Sat 14/4: NB. Plan A ‘our plan’ breaks NHS,>4k p/day dead min.Plan B: lockdown, suppress, crash programs (tests/treatments/vaccines etc), escape 1st AND 2nd wave (squiggly line instead of 1 or 2 peaks)… details later’

Lack of pandemic plans exposed in February – Cummings scrambled to get expert advice

What Cummings said: Cummings said he had urged the Government to look into pandemic preparedness plans at the start of the year after not having any confidence in them after talking to Matt Hancock.

It emerged at the end of February that ‘claims about brilliant preparations and how everything was in order were basically completely hollow,’ he said. 

By the beginning of March Cummings was personally convinced and afraid that the situation was out of control and ‘was increasingly being told by people this is going wrong’. 

He spent much of the first two weeks of the month, however, ‘having meeting after meeting with people trying to figure out where we were’ instead of ‘pressing the panic button’ and forcing the PM to act.

What was happening in the UK: On January 31, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak – by that time confined mostly to China with cases among travellers in other countries – was a ‘public health emergency of international concern’. 

The first cases of coronavirus in the UK were recorded on the same day and, that weekend, the Government started an advertising campaign to encourage people to use tissues and wash their hands more often.

There had been a total of 23 confirmed cases in the UK by the end of February. The first death was recorded on March 6. 

Mr Cummings posted another excerpt from a report suggesting that imposing a tough lockdown could merely have caused a second peak at a more dangerous time for the NHS 

Dominic Cummings posted a chart claiming that COBR documents had the ‘optimal single peak strategy’ showing 260,000 dead because the system was ‘so confused in the chaos’ 

Cummings foresaw spiralling outbreak in March but was ‘frightened’ to force Johnson to act 

What Cummings said: In early March Cummings said he was personally convinced and afraid that the situation was out of control and ‘was increasingly being told by people this is going wrong’. 

He admitted to being ‘incredibly frightened’ of taking an executive decision to tell the Prime Minister the plan needed to change because he claimed many others were not taking the threat as seriously as he was. 

At this point, SAGE recommended shielding elderly and vulnerable people, but not more drastic action.

Boris Johnson held a TV press conference on March 3 and encouraged people to wash their hands more often. There had been 51 confirmed Covid cases by that date

What was happening in the UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson held his first TV press conference – unprecedented for many people in the UK – on March 3, three days before the first Covid death on March 6. 

He admitted: ‘It is highly likely we will see a growing number of UK cases’ and said that keeping the country safe was the Government’s ‘overriding priority’.

The PM said people should wash their hands with soap as often as possible for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Despite there having been confirmed cases in the country for more than a month, no stricter measures were in place. By March 3 there had been 51 confirmed cases. This doubled to 114 within two days and was at 373 a week later.

March 11: Cummings takes the plunge and piles pressure on Johnson for a lockdown 

What Cummings said: It wasn’t until March 11 that Cummings finally took the plunge and worked to convince the Prime Minister to put the country in a lockdown. 

He warned that the ‘mitigation’ policy being pursued by No10 would kill thousands and likely hundreds of thousands – this policy had been announced publicly just two days earlier.

In today’s meeting he revealed that, at this point, he was planning to threaten to resign if Mr Johnson didn’t do something more drastic, and said he would have quit the job and held a press conference to reveal that the official plan could kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Over the following week Cummings rammed home the message that things needed to change in No10.

What was happening in the UK: By March 11 there had been 456 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and seven people had died. There was still a lack of public testing and the death toll three weeks later – 2,450 by the end of March – suggests hundreds of thousands of cases had gone undetected.

Boris Johnson had held a Downing Street press conference on March 9 and again encouraged people to wash their hands more often but failed to introduce any tougher measures to control the disease. 

He publicly announced his plan to ‘Contain, Delay, Research and Mitigate’ the virus – which modelling later suggested could have killed over 250,000 people in a massive first wave. The PM added: ‘There is no hiding from the fact that the coronavirus outbreak will present significant challenges for the UK.’ 

The Cheltenham Festival horse racing event went ahead on March 10 despite concerns that the virus could spread there, and Liverpool FC played a Champions League match against Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11.

Liverpool FC played a Champions League match against Atletico Madrid to a packed stadium at Anfield on March 11. By this time there had already been 456 coronavirus cases in the UK and seven people had died. It later turned out those figures were just the tip of the iceberg

March 12: ‘Surreal day’ forcing PM’s attention to Covid as it emerges there are ‘no plans’

What Cummings said: He described March 12 as a ‘completely surreal day’ and said he sent a message to the PM saying: ‘We’ve got big problems coming. The Cabinet Office is terrifyingly s***. No plans, totally behind the pace, we must announce today, not next week. We must force the pace. We’re looking at 100,000 to 500,000 deaths between optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.’

Mr Johnson was reportedly distracted that day because he was being pushed and pulled over Covid, Donald Trump wanted him to join a bombing campaign in the Middle East, and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, was angry about a story in the media about the couple’s dog, Dilyn.

What was happening in the UK:  Prime Minister Boris Johnson held another TV press conference and finally introduced a self-isolation rule for anyone testing positive for coronavirus, but not their households. Schools remained open and ministers only committed to ‘considering the question of banning major public events’. Mr Johnson advised over-70s not to go on cruise ships and said schools shouldn’t go on international trips.

He admitted: ‘We’ve all got to be clear, that this is the worst public health crisis for a generation’ and warned the number of people infected was far higher than data were showing.

On that day 134 new coronavirus cases were recorded – more than double the 52 two days earlier – and there had been a total of 590 confirmed infections in less than two weeks, even without publicly available testing. Nine people had died to this date. The number of infections is since known to have been significantly higher and 2,450 people had already died by the end of March.  

The Cheltenham Festival was ongoing. 

This MailOnline graphic from March 12 shows how the virus had already spread to every region of England 

March 13: Cummings realises threat to NHS and civil servant warns: ‘We’re f****d’ 

What Cummings said: Whiteboard ‘Plan B’ was drawn up on March 13 by Cummings and No10 colleagues and shows they realised hospitals wouldn’t be able to cope with the surge in people infected with Covid. The penny dropped that lockdown would be necessary to control the outbreak and they wrote the chilling question: ‘Who do we not save?’

This shows how Cummings and other Downing Street insiders already knew the outbreak was out of control and that deaths and hospital admissions would inevitably soar in the coming weeks and months.

The former adviser repeatedly claimed during his evidence session that the Government had no plans in place for how to deal with a disease outbreak and had to make most of its response up on the hoof.

Lockdown was an alien concept at the start of the outbreak and ministers did not want to consider it because they didn’t believe people would follow the rules or accept the levels of control.

There are scraps of what lockdown could mean on the whiteboard from mid-March, with suggestions of ‘everyone stays home, pubs etc close’; ‘except certain infrastructure people’; ‘who looks after the people who can’t survive alone?’. It adds choice between for ‘less contact’, ‘no contact’ and ‘contact illegal’.

That evening, he said, the second most senior civil servant at the Cabinet Office, Helen MacNamara, walked into Mr Johnson’s office and allegedly said: ‘I think we are absolutely f*****’, and warned that ‘thousands’ of people could die. 

Ms MacNamara had, Cummings said, been told by the director general at the Cabinet Office: ‘I have been told for years that there is a plan for this, there is no plan, we are in huge trouble’.

There was no plan for what to do with all the bodies of people who would die if there was a massive spike in fatalities, he said. 

It was on the night of Friday 13 that officials began to agree the UK was heading for ‘the biggest disaster since 1940’ when the country entered the Second World War. 

What was happening in the UK: By March 13 coronavirus cases were clearly surging out of control. There were 207 new cases confirmed, quadrupling from 52 just three days earlier, and there were a total of 797 to date.

The Cheltenham Festival horse racing event went ahead on March 10, 2020, despite concerns that the virus could spread there. Pictured: A race on March 13, by which time Boris Johnson had already admitted: ‘There is no hiding from the fact that the coronavirus outbreak will present significant challenges for the UK’

March 14: Realisation dawned on need for lockdown but it needed planning on the hoof 

What Cummings said: Cummings showed the March 13 whiteboard to the Prime Minister the following day, on March 14, he said, and suggested to Mr Johnson that at a minimum social contact would have to be limited and pubs closed, for example.

He said it had become clear by this point that a lockdown was necessary because the virus was already out of control but that there was no plan or blueprint they could use and it had not been seriously considered until shortly before. 

What was happening in the UK: The UK had recorded a total of 1,061 cases, with 264 on March 14, and 28 people had died. Both numbers appeared to be growing exponentially.

Critics were growing angry about the lack of proper restrictions and calling for a lockdown at the same time that Dominic Cummings claims he was trying to hammer home the message in Downing Street. 

One frustrated scientist warned on March 12: ‘Now is the time for the UK government to ban large gatherings, ask people to stop non-essential travel, recommend employers shift to home working and ramp up the response.’ 

March 16: Still no proper data or concrete plans, but Boris calls for country to stay home 

What Cummings said: Cummings and other officials were ramping up the pressure after realising the UK was headed for disaster, but there was still no reliable data to work out how bad the situation already was.

He said the Government’s only source of reliable data was Sir Simon Stevens, the chief of NHS England, giving intensive care updates. ICU data is known to come around three weeks later than changes in infection rates and people generally don’t start getting admitted until there are thousands of cases per day. 

Cummings said he was working out epidemic growth and possible numbers of cases and deaths using the calculator on his phone and writing on a whiteboard.

Cummings finds out that the Cabinet Office is not responsible for controlling or scrutinising pandemic response plans, after believing it was for over six weeks, he said.

What was happening in the UK: The Prime Minister held another press conference – they were now daily – and made his first substantial step towards locking down the country, urging people to stop ‘non-essential contact’ with others and to ‘stop all unnecessary travel’. He also added a 14-day self-isolation period for people living with someone with the virus.

He added: ‘We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.’

Venues and offices remained open, however, and large gatherings could still go ahead just without the usual support from the emergency services. The next day Mr Johnson held another briefing with the caution: ‘I stress that although the measures announced are already extreme, we may well have to go further and faster in the coming days to protect lives and the NHS.’

There had been 1,543 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths across the UK. 

On March 16 Boris Johnson advised people to stop going to the pub but did not go as far as to make them close or impose and limits on capacity. Pictured: Punters in a bar in Manchester on March 20

March 19: Still no shielding plan and Government didn’t want a helpline for vulnerable

What Cummings said: Cummings said the Government still did not have a proper plan by March 19 for the shielding programme, even though SAGE had recommended that elderly and vulnerable people should protect themselves at home.

He said: ‘The shielding plan was literally hacked together in two all-nighters after the 19th, I think, Thursday the 19th.’

Whitehall had said they didn’t want to have a phone helpline for people on the shielding list because the Government didn’t have the capacity to cope with it. There were more than three million people on the list at its peak at the end of the 2021 lockdown.

Mr Cummings said: ‘Not only was there not a plan, lots of people in the Cabinet Office said we shouldn’t have a plan, we shouldn’t put out a helpline for people to call because it will all just be swamped and we don’t have a system.’

What was happening in the UK: By March 19, 3,269 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK and 159 had died. 

Boris Johnson held another press conference – he didn’t announce any new rules but reiterated the importance of those laid out the previous day. He made the poorly aged claim: ‘I do think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks.’

And added that people should be strict about avoiding unnecessary contact; avoiding large gatherings, pubs, bars and restaurants; working from home; and washing hands.

The next day the Prime Minister would plunge the country into a total lockdown, urging people to ‘stay at home’ except for food shopping, after researchers said any alternative could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths. 

When DID Cummings raise alarm bells about Covid and what did he say?

According to Dominic Cummings’s testimony in Parliamentary committee today, this is a timeline of his actions behind closed doors at No.10:

January 25

Advised No.10 to ‘look at pandemic planning and soon’ after lacking confidence in the UK’s preparations following a talk with Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Cummings said he himself stopped talking to journalists. 

February

Cummings said he ‘wrote a note’ to Boris Johnson about Covid in February but the outbreak was not at the top of the Government’s agenda, even after the World Health Organization had warned it was an ‘international concern’. 

He was working on reforming government procurement processes and ‘dealing with other things like HS2, national security issues and the [Cabinet] reshuffle’. He and the Prime Minister did not regularly attend COBRA meetings.

Cummings and Mr Johnson realised at the end of the month that ‘claims about brilliant preparations and how everything was in order were basically completely hollow’. 

March 5

Was personally convinced and afraid that the situation was out of control and ‘was increasingly being told by people this is going wrong’. He admitted to being ‘incredibly frightened’ of taking the executive decision to tell the Prime Minister the plan needed to change. At this point SAGE recommended shielding elderly and vulnerable people.

March 11

Told the Prime Minister to change the policy because the country’s direction at the time – ‘mitigation’ – would lead to disaster. Stricter measures were needed to stop the outbreak from overwhelming the NHS, he warned.

March 12

Cummings rammed home the message that things needed to change. Cummings warned the Prime Minister there were ‘big problems coming’ if the Government didn’t immediately tell people that they must self-isolate and cut themselves off from others if they felt ill.

He described it as a ‘completely surreal day’ and said he sent a message to the PM saying: ‘We’ve got big problems coming. The Cabinet Office is terrifyingly s***. No plans, totally behind the pace, we must announce today, not next week. We must force the pace. We’re looking at 100,000 to 500,000 deaths between optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.’

Mr Johnson was reportedly distracted because Donald Trump wanted him to join a bombing campaign in the Middle East and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, was angry about a story in the media about the couple’s dog, Dilyn.

March 13

Whiteboard ‘Plan B’ was drawn up and shows Cummings realised hospitals wouldn’t be able to cope with the surge in people infected with Covid. The penny dropped that lockdown would be necessary to control the outbreak and he wrote the chilling question: ‘Who do we not save?’

That evening, he said, the second most senior civil servant at the Cabinet Office, Helen MacNamara, walked into Mr Johnson’s office and allegedly said: ‘I think we are absolutely f*****’, and warned that ‘thousands’ of people could die. Ms MacNamara had, Cummings said, been told by the director general at the Cabinet Office: ‘I have been told for years that there is a plan for this, there is no plan, we are in huge trouble’.

There was no plan for what to do with all the bodies of people who would die if there was a massive spike in fatalities, he said. 

March 14

Cummings showed the whiteboard to the Prime Minister, he said, and suggested to Mr Johnson that social contact would have to be limited and pubs closed.

March 16

Cummings and other officials were ramping up the pressure after realising the UK was headed for disaster, but there was still no reliable data to work out how bad the situation already was. He said the Government’s only source of reliable data was Sir Simon Stevens, the chief of NHS England, giving intensive care updates. ICU data is known to come around three weeks later than changes in infection rates and people generally don’t start getting admitted until there are thousands of cases per day. Cummings said he was working out epidemic growth and possible numbers of cases and deaths using the calculator on his phone and writing on a whiteboard.

Cummings finds out that the Cabinet Office is not responsible for controlling or scrutinising pandemic response plans, after believing it was for over six weeks, he said.  

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