BORIS Johnson has full confidence in Matt Hancock, No 10 has insisted. But after the bombshell blog by Dominic Cummings, the question has to be: why?

Following his forced departure from No 10 at the end of last year, the Prime Minister’s former senior aide was seen - in a staged exit worthy of London’s West End - carrying a box of documents. At the time, people were curious about what secrets lay within?

Last month during a marathon appearance before MPs, Mr Cummings made a number of damning claims. He accused Mr Hancock, England’s Health Secretary, of having lied repeatedly, failed to protect care homes and was guilty of “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” on testing.

The Secretary of State firmly denied the allegations, insisting he had been “straight” with people during the pandemic.

Downing St insiders calmly rejected the ex-aide’s claims as pure spite and evidence that Mr Cummings’ mission now was all about grinding his rather large axe to damage the Conservative Government as much as possible. Where was the proof of his allegations, they asked?

It has taken a few weeks but the former aide has now unleashed his act of public vengeance.

In a nutshell, Mr Cummings claims the PM in a series of WhatsApp messages:

  • described the performance of England’s Health Secretary during the height of coronavirus crisis as “totally f***ing hopeless”;
  • discussed replacing Mr Hancock with Michael Gove;
  • branded the failure to procure enough PPE a “disaster” and
  • complained about the supply of ventilators for Covid-19 patients, saying: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”

The former aide also claimed his former boss was preparing to step down after the next General Election to avoid still being in office when the planned public inquiry into the pandemic reports.

“The public inquiry,” wrote Mr Cummings, “is designed to punt the tricky parts until after this PM has gone. Unlike other PMs, this one has a clear plan to leave at the latest a couple of years after the next election, he wants to make money and have fun, not ‘go on and on.’”

Interestingly, Downing St felt obliged to respond to this latter claim, dismissing it as “utter nonsense” but declined to comment on all the other damning aspects of Mr Cummings’ claims.

“We are not going to engage with every allegation put forward,” declared the PM’s spokesman. “Our focus is on recovery from the pandemic,” he added.


Now it may be that in the heat of the first phase of the pandemic tempers frayed easily as the Government came under intense pressure and there will be loyal Tories denouncing Mr Cummings for simply spouting venom as an act of revenge.

However, this episode just adds more controversy to and piles more pressure on Mr Johnson over how he has handled the pandemic and forcing him to defend a catalogue of mistakes from admitting infected people back into care homes to being too slow to close down the UK borders, letting in the Delta variant. 

Yet by his vengeful publication of private messages Mr Cummings may have opened himself up to a serious counterattack.

It would seem that he has broken the code for special advisers, which states they “should not disclose official information, which has been communicated in confidence in government or received in confidence from others”.

It adds: “The preparation or dissemination of inappropriate material or personal attacks has no part to play in the job of being a special adviser as it has no part to play in the conduct of public life.”

But, of course, he is no longer a special adviser. 

And yet Government sources have pointed out SpAds, as they’re known, also have to abide by the 1989 Official Secrets Act during - and after - their time in Whitehall. An offence can be committed if they make disclosures “without lawful authority” and which are deemed “damaging”.

Angela Rayner, the Deputy Labour leader, has called for the public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic to begin immediately to prevent “history being rewritten”.

“These accusations and the evidence presented about the failures at the heart of Government - and the alleged lies, dishonesty and cover-ups - are absolutely damning,” insisted the Manchester MP.

However, Mr Cummings’s latest barrage of poisoned arrows towards Downing St also posed one party political question, that still has to be answered. Given it was unleashed around half an hour before PMQs, why on earth didn’t Keir Starmer use it to attack Mr Johnson. 

The ex-aide’s allegations were mentioned by the SNP’s Ian Blackford but his question came amid a raft of others, which meant the PM could ignore it, which he did. 

The Labour leader’s failure to take advantage of such a political opportunity shows he has to acquire a taste for the jugular if he is to really begin to expose what he regards as Boris’s bluster and weak leadership.