Dominic Cummings warned the prime minister and other Downing Street officials in May last year that he feared the government could be “negligently killing the most vulnerable” by not having effective testing plans in place.
Boris Johnson‘s former chief adviser published the WhatsApp message on his blog, along with a message Mr Cummings claims was sent by Mr Johnson, in which the PM is said to say: “The whole track and trace thing feels like whistling in the dark.”
A few weeks later, the PM claimed to MPs in the Commons the UK would have a “world-beating” test and trace system by the start of June.
According to Mr Cummings, Boris Johnson’s message was a response to a lengthy document he had prepared for senior officials demanding more detailed planning work be undertaken around the test and trace system.
Mr Johnson’s response is claimed to have been sent on 26 April 2020, the day before the prime minister made his first appearance in Downing Street after being released from intensive care.
In the message Mr Johnson said: “Thanks totally agree. The whole track and trace thing feels like whistling in the dark. Legions of imaginary clouseaus and no plan to hire them. Apps that don’t yet work. And above all no idea how to get new cases down to a manageable level or how long it will take. By which time uk may have secured double distinction of being the European country w the most fatalities and the biggest economic hit. So your email is bang on. We GOTTA turn it round.”
Mr Cummings also published a screenshot of a message he had sent to a WhatsApp group entitled ‘Number10 action’ on 3 May 2020, which appears to have included the prime minister, then director of communications Lee Cain, senior advisers Sir Eddie Lister, Munira Misra, Henry Newman, as well as then aide to the chancellor, Allegra Stratton, among others.
In it he asks for the “3-6 month plan for testing” to be added to the next day’s agenda, adding “this shouldn’t be ‘lots of work at short notice’ cos these goddamn plans should already exist and be happening. But I don’t think they do – either way we MUST find out tmrw morning.”
“At the moment I think we are negligently killing the most vulnerable who we are supposed to be shielding and I am extremely worried about it”.
Mr Cummings claimed his warning led others in Downing Street to conclude Health Secretary Matt Hancock should be fired, but Mr Johnson refused.
“The meetings over the next few days that resulted from the above message convinced me and others in No10 that our suspicions were true,” he said.
“This led to another insistence from me and others that Hancock be removed. On 7 May I told the PM that Hancock was ‘unfit for this job’ and him staying in place was ‘killing god knows how many’.
“The PM agreed that Hancock’s failures were a catastrophe but refused to fire him.”
The publication of fresh revelations will be seen as an effort by Mr Cummings to put further pressure on the health secretary, who is facing calls to quit after photographs were published in The Sun newspaper which show him kissing an aide.
Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “This latest blog from Mr Cummings reveals the prime minister lacked confidence in Hancock’s handling of the crisis, and yet astoundingly Boris Johnson kept the health secretary in post.
“He left care homes exposed, has admitted breaking his own COVID rules and failed to deliver test and trace when it was most needed. The charge sheet against Hancock continues to grow – so why hasn’t the prime minister had the confidence to sack him?”
The latest post by Mr Cummings on Substack, a newsletter platform, is part of a string of disclosures he has made about his time in Downing Street.
In a question and answer session to paid subscribers last week, Mr Cummings described the PM as “a pundit who stumbled into politics and acts like that 99% of the time”.
He also referred to Downing Street as a branch of the “entertainment industry”, without a clear focus on the important issues of the day.
Earlier this month, Mr Cummings shared a WhatsApp message in which Mr Johnson appeared to call Mr Hancock’s efforts to boost COVID testing capacity “totally f****** hopeless”.