Former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings has renewed his attack on Boris Johnson in the wake of scathing report into the UK government’s response to Covid – calling his ex-boss a “joke prime minister”.
r Cummings claimed Mr Johnson thwarted his own attempts to improve emergency planning – and said the system remains “a disaster”.
It follows a damning report by an MPs’ committee on science and health, which found that the delay in imposing lockdown ranks among the country’s worst-ever public health failures.
“The government system for dealing with crises is a disaster,” Mr Cummings told Sky News. “The system was bad for many years before Covid. Me and others put in place work to try to improve the system in 2020 after the first wave.
“Unfortunately the prime minister, being the joke that he is, did not push that work through. Now we have a joke prime minister and a joke leader of the Labour party, and we obviously need a new political system.”
The cross-party MPs’ report said the government’s failure to act at the start of the Covid pandemic cost lives, blaming a culture of “fatalism” and pandemic planning that had been far too focused on flu.
The report offered some vindication for former health secretary Matt Hancock, describing his April 2020 target to have 100,000 Covid tests a day as “an appropriate one to galvanise the rapid change the system needed”.
Mr Cummings – who previously called Hancock’s target “stupid” – rejected the idea that the former health secretary had been the one who galvanised the system.
Other parts of the report supported Mr Cummings’ claims of a dysfunctional government, finding that “structures for offering scientific advice lacked transparency… and structured challenge”.
It comes as senior minister Stephen Barclay refused to apologise in the wake of the report’s publication, insisting ministers “did take decisions to move quickly”.
Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who chairs the health select committee, said “groupthink” in government had focused too much on flu and failed to adequately plan for a pandemic such as Covid.
He told ITV the UK should have locked down earlier and “the prime minister is of course ultimately responsible, but some of the advice that he got was also wrong”.
Meanwhile, bereaved families reacted to yesterday’s report with outrage, furious that the people who died of Covid received scant mention in the 150-page document.