UK PM called health chief ‘hopeless’, leaked texts reveal

Johnson’s ex-aide Dominic Cummings has published WhatsApp exchanges that purport to show the British leader slamming Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Cummings said he was posting the messages to back up explosive allegations he had levelled against Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a hearing in Parliament last month [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Boris Johnson’s former chief aide has published expletive-laden messages which purportedly show the British prime minister denouncing his health secretary’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “hopeless”.

Dominic Cummings, who stepped down as Johnson’s top adviser in December and has since levelled several serious accusations at his ex-boss, posted screenshots of apparent WhatsApp exchanges between him and Johnson in March and April 2020, as a first wave gripped the United Kingdom.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify whether the correspondence was genuine.

In one conversation date-stamped March 27, 2020, Cummings decried the UK’s mass testing efforts and called out Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“Totally [expletive] hopeless,” Johnson replied.

In another comment on March 27, Johnson appeared to blame Hancock for the UK’s difficulty in getting hold of ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

“It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless,” the message said.

Asked whether the messages shared by Cummings via a 7,000-word blog post were authentic or not, a spokesman for Johnson said he would not comment on the detail of what had been published.

“I don’t plan to engage with every allegation made. The prime minister has set out that we will hold a public inquiry next year, the health secretary has given hours of evidence to the parliamentary committee and I have taken a number of questions on this issue previously,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“Our focus is on recovering from the pandemic, moving through the road map, distributing vaccines and delivering on the public’s priorities.”

Cummings-Hancock spat

Cummings, a key strategist behind the Conservative Party’s 2019 election victory and the campaign for the UK to leave the EU, said he was posting the messages to back up explosive allegations he made against Hancock while giving evidence during a Parliamentary hearing in May.

In his blog post, Cummings said Johnson should be asked why he kept Hancock in his position if he believed he was “hopeless”.

During the May 26 hearing, Cummings criticised Hancock when discussing the government’s handling of the pandemic’s early stages.

He alleged Hancock had lied to colleagues on numerous occasions, including over pledges to test all elderly patients released from hospital back into care homes.

Cummings said Hancock “should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things” after “lying to everybody on multiple occasions, in meeting after meeting, in the cabinet room and publicly”.

Hancock last week rejected the claims as he gave evidence to MPs.

Some Conservative Party politicians have accused Cummings of having an axe to grind after being forced from his post.

During his appearance at the Parliamentary hearing, Cummings also condemned Johnson’s leadership during the pandemic, saying he was “unfit for the job”.

The UK, one of the worst-hit countries, has recorded nearly 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

While a successful vaccination drive in recent months has seen the rate of deaths fall sharply, the emergence of the Delta coronavirus variant, first detected in India, has seen cases rise.

Anxiety over a potential third wave prompted Johnson this week to delay a planned full lifting of virus restrictions.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies