Boris Johnson described Matt Hancock’s performance when it came to mass testing in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic as “totally f****** hopeless”, Dominic Cummings has claimed.
Treasury minister Jesse Norman said today that the Prime Minister’s is “firmly behind” the health secretary after the messages emerged.
“I think this is some of the biggest nonsense I’ve heard. The Prime Minister obviously, as anybody would detect, is a massive supporter of the Health Secretary, he’s coming firmly behind him. There can be no question of loss of confidence,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The minister added that the message were in the context of being “in the middle of the biggest economic and public health catastrophe for a century”.
“What you’re alluding to is a tiny snapshot of one side of the story without any context or without hearing from the other side,” he said.
Yesterday the Prime Minister’s former right-hand man tweeted what appeared to be a screenshot of a message exchanged between Johnson and Cummings.
The screenshot, dated 27 Match 2020, showed Cummings informing Johnson that Hancock did not believe mass testing would improve as quickly as it needed to.
“US has gone from 2000 tests a fornight age to 27,000 a week ago to 100k yesterday,” Cummings said.
“This is what we should do. Instead we are still stuck on abut 5-7k and [Matt Hancock] saying he’s ‘sceptical’ about getting to 10k by Monday which he said would ‘definitely’ happen on Tuesday.”
In response Johnson said: “Totally f****** hopeless”.
Cummings has repeatedly alleged Hancock has lied to the PM during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, during an explosive seven-hour committee meeting, Cummings claimed Hancock should have been fired “15 or 20 times” and that he repeatedly lied about the UK’s supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), about testing in care homes and on NHS treatment of non-Covid patients.
Asked by reporters if he thought he was hopeless, Hancock responded: “I don’t think so.”
Number 10 did not dispute the authenticity of any of the published text messages.
PM mulled swapping Gove with Hancock
Also revealed today via Cummings was Johnson’s idea to give Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office, responsibility over PPE rather than Hancock, the health secretary, after the PM told Cummings the situation was “a disaster”.
Cummings in response said doing so would be a bad idea, because: “With the [Cabinet Office] in such a total s***show i’m afraid we’d have a severe risk of making things worse not better.”
Cummings then went on to say that “the government does not control the government”. He said the Cabinet Office “controls most of it”.
Later, Cummings added: “Hancock b*******s but that wouldn’t matter much if we actually controlled the [Cabinet Office].”