Dominic Cummings was invited to appear in front of MPs today to talk about the government’s coronavirus response in the early stages of the pandemic. A neutral observer might suggest though that the true purpose of Cummings’s visit was to demolish the health secretary Matt Hancock. Near the beginning of his evidence Cummings suggested that there were ‘at least 15 to 20’ different reasons Hancock should have been fired since the outbreak and described him at various points as a 'serial liar', 'stupid', 'disgraceful' and even, 'criminal'.
By Mr Steerpike’s count, Dominic Cummings has so far given nine reasons that Hancock should have been given the chop, and suggested that several people in Number 10, including the Prime Minister, considered replacing the health secretary. (Mr S should note that Cummings has made some serious allegations about the health secretary, which Hancock will no doubt respond to in time.)
Below are the nine firing offences Cummings has suggested Hancock is guilty of. Mr S will keep this list updated as his evidence progresses…
Testing people going in to care homes
Cummings alleges that Matt Hancock ‘told us in the Cabinet room’ that all hospital patients were going to be tested before being sent back to care homes. Cummings added that ‘We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened. We sent people with Covid back to care homes.’ He pointed out that ‘quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.’
— ITV News (@itvnews) May 26, 2021
“Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.”Dominic Cummings said Government talk of putting a shield around care homes was “complete nonsense”.https://t.co/F9TP5eZxY4 pic.twitter.com/AOcuuWKMc5
Hancock’s ‘stupid’ testing target
When discussing the test and trace programme, Cummings argued that Matt Hancock’s famous pledge to conduct 100,000 tests a day by the end of April was an ‘incredibly stupid thing to do’ because the goal had already been set internally, and work was being done to build this capacity. Instead, he alleged that Hancock interfered in the system to make sure his target was achieved, and even held tests back, which impacted the system overall. Cummings said Hancock should have been fired for ‘that thing alone’.
Hancock’s involvement in testing will get people ‘killed’
Cummings was so concerned about Hancock that he reportedly told the Prime Minister ‘from February-March’ that if Boris Johnson didn’t fire the health secretary and put the testing programme in someone else’s hands ‘we are going to kill people and it is going to be a catastrophe’.
— ITV News (@itvnews) May 26, 2021
Dominic Cummings said he warned the Prime Minister that “if we don’t fire the Secretary of State (Matt Hancock) and we don’t get the testing in someone else’s hands, we are going to kill people and it will be a catastrophe”.https://t.co/F9TP5eZxY4 pic.twitter.com/XrqUXSP3JH
‘Everyone got treatment’
Giving one example where he argued Matt Hancock had lied, Cummings suggested that over the summer Hancock’s public promise, that everyone who needed treatment got the treatment they required, was not true. Cummings said that Hancock had been briefed by the Chief Scientific Officer and the Chief Medical Officer that people did not get the treatment they needed.
Cummings says that during the crisis Hancock blamed PPE shortages on the NHS chief Simon Stevens and the Treasury. He then said that the Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill told Cummings that this was not true, and Sedwill said ‘I’ve lost confidence in the secretary of state’s honesty in these meetings.’ Sedwill reportedly then told the Prime Minister that the cabinet system was breaking down because of Hancock’s alleged dishonesty.
Hancock ‘completely wrong’ about herd immunity
Asked about Matt Hancock’s comment on 15 March that herd immunity was not part of the government’s Covid plan, Cummings said that was ‘completely wrong’ and he was ‘completely baffled’ as to why Number 10 denied this was the case. Cummings went on to allege that Hancock briefed senior journalists on the week of 9 March that herd immunity was part of the official plan.
If I was in charge, Hancock would have been fired
In case anyone was doubting Cummings’s commitment to the bit, he then told the committee that if he could have improved three things about the government’s Covid response, one of those things would have included firing Hancock. He told the committee:
‘If I could have clicked my fingers and done things there would have been a serious border policy, masks would have been compulsory, Hancock would have been fired.’
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 26, 2021
“Fundamentally the prime minister and I did not agree about Covid”Dominic Cummings says “if I could have clicked my fingers and done things there would have been a serious border policy, masks would have been compulsory, Hancock would have been fired”https://t.co/0hrsO5W9hc pic.twitter.com/wBAp4YmU14
Hancock used Vallance and Whitty as human shields
When asked about the Downing Street press conferences, Cummings singled out Matt Hancock and said he used the chief scientific and medical advisors, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty, as shields for himself. He argued that Hancock used the advisors to hide behind the science and said it was ‘one of the many appalling things Hancock did’
Hancock was only saved because of the inquiry
With Hancock being blamed for so many government disasters, one could easily wonder why the health secretary was kept around for so long. Cummings provided one explanation to the committee. After explaining that he had called for Hancock to be fired, ‘almost every week, sometimes almost every day’, Cummings said that Boris Johnson was advised that Hancock was ‘the person you fire when the inquiry comes along’.
Unsurprisingly, Cummings didn’t agree with this assessment and had suggested that Hancock needed to go now, because ‘every single week, things are going disastrously wrong.’