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LONDON – Former Downing Street advisor Dominic Cummings said the UK government suffered from bad leadership and “groupthink” in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to catastrophic errors in its response.
In a devastating criticism of the government, in which he was the top adviser until November 2020, he accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of incompetence and said Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired multiple times for “lying to everyone multiple times afterward.” to meet meetings in the cabinet room and in public. “
Former Johnson’s top advisor started a marathon and highly anticipated committee hearing with a regret. “I would like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that have been made and for my own mistakes,” he told MPs.
Cummings made a number of extraordinary claims about the March 13 tipping point when he realized a lockdown was required. He told the committee that Helen McNamara, the deputy cabinet secretary, had informed him and other government aides that there was “no plan” to deal with the severity of the threat and that “we are absolutely nuts.” He said the No. 10 advisors felt that there was a detailed contingency plan to refer to.
He compared the situation to the movie Independence Day, with Ben Warner, a Cummings-hired physicist in the role of Jeff Goldblum, who warned everyone of the imminent arrival of aliens. As an example of the nonsense at stake, Cummings said Mark Sedwill, then head of public service, advised the Prime Minister to appear on television and tell the public that COVID is “like chicken pox” and they “have chicken pox parties.” “Would have to host in order to spread it.
This was based on the assumption that it would be easier for the National Health Service to deal with peak infections in the summer than to suppress the virus in the short term and resurrect it in the winter. Ministers also assumed the people of Britain would not accept lockdown measures.
The unwillingness to move to a full lockdown at this point is “a classic historical example of groupthink in action,” he said, as people failed to grasp that the worst-case scenario could occur and regretted repeated not having pushed back harder again.
He added that the Hancock should have been fired 15 or 20 times, and that is what he said to Johnson at the time.
Cummings claimed there were “numerous examples” of Hancock lies, stating that Hancock said publicly over the summer that anyone who needed treatment was getting the treatment they needed. “He knew it was a lie. He had been informed by the chief scientific advisor and chief medical officer that people couldn’t get the treatment they deserve,” Cummings said.
He also took a hit on his ex-boss’s competence, saying the UK political system presented a poor selection of potential leaders to the public in the recent general election in Johnson and then Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn. “There are thousands of people in this country who could lead better than either,” he said.
More than 120,000 people have died in the UK from the COVID-19 pandemic, while the UK also faced one of the worst economic hits, according to the OECD.
“The truth is that high-level ministers, high-level officials and high-level advisers like myself have catastrophically fallen short of the standards the public can expect from their government in such a crisis,” said Cummings. “When the public needed us most, the government failed.”
The Commons Health and Science committees have come together on an initial investigation into the pandemic’s abuse – although Johnson has announced that an independent public inquiry will be launched in the coming months.
Cummings is famous in the UK for leading the Vote Leave campaign that led to Brexit and later for breaking coronavirus rules with a trip to Barnard Castle in Durham.
After assuming part of the responsibility, Cummings made a number of harmful allegations against the Prime Minister. He said the government was “not on a war basis” in mid-to late February and Johnson was on a two-week vacation at that time.
He went on to claim that there was an opinion among Official # 10 that it would not have been helpful for Johnson to chair COBR meetings – the committee on government, health and safety services convened in response to national emergencies – in February because he would “tell everyone” it’s swine flu, don’t worry. “He added that the Prime Minister then considered it a” scary story “.
Cummings also despised the government’s border policy, saying that prior to April the official advice was that closing the state borders “would have no effect,” which he saw as yet another example of Whitehall’s “groupthink.”
He claimed he told officials it was “insane” not to end the trip to the country, but at the time Johnson “again thought the lockdown was a mistake” and wanted to be “the mayor of Jaws”. This was an obvious indication of Johnson’s fondness for the film character, who keeps beaches open despite the threat of a giant man-eating shark.
“Basically, there was no real border policy because the prime minister never wanted a real border policy,” Cummings said.
Johnson tried to wipe the evidence off Cummings when faced with Prime Minister questions from Labor leader Keir Starmer.
The Prime Minister hit back and told MPs: “Dealing with the pandemic has been the hardest thing this government has had to do in a very long time. None of the decisions were easy, and going into lockdown is a traumatic thing. In every phase we tried to keep the loss of human life as low as possible. “
He denied ever being “complacent” and insisted that despite the slander Cummings leveled against his honesty, he believed in his health secretary. Johnson accused Starmer of “being fixated on the rearview mirror as always”.
This story has been updated.
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