(3rd paragraph: reaction added)
LONDON (dpa-AFX) – Lies, chaos, failure: In an hour-long general billing, the former top government advisor Dominic Cummings dragged on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s corona policy. Johnson was “unsuitable” to lead the government, said Cummings in London on Wednesday in front of parliamentarians. The head of government completely underestimated the virus and there were no prepared contingency plans. “Tens of thousands of people have died who shouldn’t have died.” Johnson denied the allegations.
There are several potential mines that the once most powerful man at Johnson’s side puts in the way of his former boss. Cummings asserts that he wants to bring the truth to light with his testimony. But at times it seems like a campaign of revenge: The former “gray eminence” left the government in November 2020 in a dispute.
Cummings targeted Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whom he accused of lying and criminal behavior. The head of department had failed in the procurement of protective equipment and tried to shift the blame on others. A health ministry spokesman denied allegations against his boss, saying that everyone in the ministry had “worked incredibly hard” to protect the NHS health service and save lives. Johnson’s spokesman also defended Hancock, who is still in office.
Cummings denied the prime minister’s qualities anyway. There are “thousands upon thousands” of people who are more competent than Johnson. There are many brilliant minds among the professional civil servants. “The problem with this crisis was that lions were always led by donkeys.” He expressly referred the criticism to himself.
In front of the members of two parliamentary committees, Cummings drew the picture of a self-indulgent Prime Minister who only cares about maintaining power and who long ridiculed the danger of a health crisis. The head of government even deliberately wanted to have the virus injected live on television to show that Corona is not dangerous, Cummings claimed. Johnson later actually became infected and had to be treated in an intensive care unit for days – “almost on his deathbed,” as Cummings said. The ex-consultant also got seriously ill with Corona.
Nevertheless, Johnson stayed on course, said Cummings. When he called for a stricter entry policy like in Taiwan, the prime minister preferred to rail against the nationwide lockdown. Accordingly, Johnson said he should have acted like the mayor from the film “The Great White Shark”, who, despite the man-eating predatory fish, does not close the beaches – out of concern for tourism. According to media reports, Johnson said at the time that he would rather accept that “the corpses pile up by the thousands”. Cummings confirmed the statement, which the prime minister has repeatedly denied.
Johnson also admitted that he was more afraid of Cummings than of the chaos in the government. “Chaos means that everyone will look up to me as the person responsible,” Johnson told him.
Cummings described a government on a zigzag course: the real plan was to achieve herd immunity. In mid-March 2020, for example, then top official Mark Sedwill said that Johnson should call for coronavirus parties, similar to the way parents organize chickenpox parties for their children. Cabinet members had rejected the allegations before the testimony.
With more than 150,000 people dying from or with Covid-19, the UK is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in Europe. The government is criticized for hesitating too long, especially with the first lockdown. Cummings said that the spread of the virus was also due to the fact that corona patients were sent untested from clinics back to nursing homes – contrary to assurances from the authorities.
For the opposition, the violent allegations are a hit. “We had a circus when we actually needed a serious government,” said the parliamentary group leader of the Scottish pro-independence party SNP, Ian Blackford. But Johnson let the allegations ricochet off. Although he apologized for the suffering of the population and took responsibility. “But I hold to the fact that the government has consistently acted with the intent to save lives,” said Johnson. He prefers to look ahead – and thinks the population is by his side. While the opposition pokes at history, his government is acting.
Johnson shouldn’t have too much to fear from his Conservative Party as long as he sticks to the announced opening-up policy. Instead of asking about Cummings, one MP was more concerned with whether Boris Johnson would soon meet an alpaca named Boris in north-west England. He’s happy to come, the prime minister said modestly./bvi/DP/he