There’s a big problem with Dominic Cummings’s evidence to the government, as provided (and reported ad nauseum yesterday): we all know he’ll say anything to justify himself.
Remember the narrative he created in order to justify breaking lockdown rules to visit his family? We all knew he did it because he thought he was above the laws the rest of us have to follow.
And he was proved right, too, because he was not punished at all.
So it is hard to accept anything he said yesterday at face value. He was trying to justify himself and to disparage his former colleagues in Boris Johnson’s Tory government.
For the record, some of his main points were:
“Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die.” This is the soundbite that sent the mass media into a frenzy. But it has prompted no resignations among the Johnson government yet.
“Senior ministers, officials and advisers like me fell short of standards the public has a right to expect. When the public needed us most, we failed.”
Boris Johnson had ‘ignored advice’ and was late to introduce both the first and second lockdowns. The PM was consistently anti-lockdown, ignored scientific advice and failed to take Covid seriously – even ranting last summer that he should never have done Lockdown 1.
It would not have been helpful for Johnson to attend emergency COBRA meetings in February – five of which he missed – because he would have had flippant responses to the crisis: “In February the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story. He described it as the new swine flu.”
It was suggested that Johnson should tell everyone “It’s swine flu, don’t worry about it, I’m going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realises it’s nothing to be frightened of.”
Cummings “blamed” Johnson for the second wave, thanks to his flat refusal to lock down for a second time in September. He told MPs: “Fundamentally I regarded him as unfit for the job.”
On March 12, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill said, “Prime Minister, you should go on TV tomorrow and explain to people the herd immunity and that it’s like the old chicken pox parties – we need people to get this disease because that’s how we get herd immunity by September.”
That day, Chief Scientist Patrick Vallance told the nation suppressing the virus completely was not “desirable” because some immunity was needed. And Boris Johnson told the nation “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
Cummings said March 12 was the most “surreal” day of his time in government because, just as he was waking up to the danger of Downing Street’s “delay the peak” plan, he claimed, “suddenly the national security people came in and said Trump wants us to join a bombing campaign in the Middle East tonight. Fortunately, thank God, the attorney general persuaded the PM not to go along with the whole bombing campaign.”
On top of all this, that day the Times had run a huge story about the Prime Minister and his girlfriend and their dog. “And 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, the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial, and you have all these meetings going on through the course of the 12th.”
Cummings became downright festive in his descriptions of Matt Hancock’s contribution to the Covid-19 tragedy – as described in a separate article on This Site.
Boris Johnson had no idea for weeks that people leaving hospital into care weren’t being routinely tested in late March.
That led to the virus being seeded into care homes and tens of thousands of residents dying.
Matt Hancock promised that people were going to be tested in care homes – but this did not happen: “It was only in April after the Prime Minister and I had both ourselves been ill that we realised that what we were told never did happen, or only happened very partially and sporadically. The government rhetoric was ‘we put a shield around care homes, blah blah blah’ – that was complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield round them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.”
Until the second week of March the consensus in Downing Street was that there was no point locking down because it would only delay the inevitable peak.
But former Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen Macnamara allegedly said another top official, Mark Sweeney, had told her: “I’ve been told for years there is a whole plan for this. There is no plan. We’re in huge trouble.” In fact there was a plan – but it had last been updated in 2011 and was nine years out-of-date.
Ms Macnamara said on March 13: “I think we are absolutely f****d. I think this country is heading for a disaster, I think we are going to kill thousands of people.”
Carrie Symonds had pursued “completely unethical and clearly illegal” attempts to pack No 10 with her own friends. Cummings said: ”My resignation was definitely connected to the fact that the Prime Minister’s girlfriend was trying to change a whole bunch of different appointments in No10 and appoint her friends to particular jobs. In particular she was trying to overturn the outcome of an official process about hiring a particular job in a way which was not only completely unethical but was also clearly illegal.
Cummings said he told the PM on March 14: “There is no lockdown plan. It doesn’t exist. SAGE haven’t modelled it. [The Health Department] don’t have a plan. We are going to have to figure out and hack together a lockdown plan.”
He said by March 11, when there was “pushback” about ordering people with coughs to stay at home, he believed “the system is basically delaying announcing all of these things because there’s not a proper plan in place.”
Officials also dodged locking down because they thought the public wouldn’t accept it. But that was clearly “false”, and he said he realised that when family members were texting pleading for information.
Cummings said claims about extensive preparations for a pandemic were ”basically completely hollow” and “we didn’t figure this out until the back end of February”.
Boris Johnson refused pleas to lock down for a second time in September, only doing it from November 5.
“He wasn’t taking any advice. He was making the decisions himself,” said Cummings.
“The Cabinet wasn’t involved…there wasn’t any formal Cabinet meeting to discuss it. Or if there was, it was a purely Potemkin exercise.”
The PM had decided he was protecting the economy, and Mr Cummings said “we could not persuade him that if you basically took the view of ‘let it rip’”, it would lead to an economic and health “disaster.”
Mr Johnson later used the phrase “let it rip” as a catchphrase to showcase the kind of approach he would not take.
The government was turning down ventilators in late March because prices had been marked up. [Instead, it has been alleged elsewhere, Johnson offered James Dyson tax breaks to manufacture ventilators – but that came to nothing].
Downing Street staff drew up a back-of-a-fag-packet plan for Covid-19 on a whiteboard, which included the line “Who do we not save?”
We’re about halfway through Cummings’s allegations. They have prompted a huge verbal response from the public, along these lines:
Is Boris Johnson under arrest yet? If not, why not?
— Northern Independence Party 🟨🟥 (@FreeNorthNow) May 27, 2021
The worst response I've heard: "OK, Johnson and his government were useless, but nobody could have done any better."
They did, in New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Iceland, Taiwan, Vietnam and more, they did do better.
We could have done better.
Our government failed us.
— Alan Gibbons (@mygibbo) May 26, 2021
And yet there is very little demand for change.
Even Matt Hancock, the minister Cummings attacked most strongly, is still in his job.
Have we all stopped caring that these self-obsessed incompetents killed off our relatives and friends due to their own inability to do their jobs?
Or have we just given up expecting them to be visited by any kind of justice – after Cummings himself got away with his Barnard Castle rule-breaking junket?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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