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All eyes were on Westminster yesterday as Dominic Cummings made his long-awaited appearance in front of two select committees to give his view on lessons learned from the pandemic.
It did not disappoint.
During an unprecedented seven-hour long session, Mr Cummings tore into prime minister Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care – as well as much of Whitehall.
Mr Cummings singled out Mr Hancock for particular criticism, accusing him of lying on multiple occasions and saying he should have been fired for “fifteen to twenty different things”.
Mr Hancock’s most egregious offences, in Mr Cummings’ eyes, were his alleged lies over PPE failures and the failure to test patients discharged from hospitals to care homes as the NHS rapidly sought to free up bed capacity in March last year.
According to Mr Cummings, the health secretary also “interfered” in attempts to scale up testing infrastructure due to his “stupid” decision to set a target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.
The intense assault on Mr Hancock’s character continued with Mr Cummings saying Boris Johnson came close to sacking him in April, but chose not to – despite then cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill also reportedly losing confidence in him.
Mr Hancock, who is due to give a press conference on Thursday, will get his chance to respond to the claims when he appears in front of the same committees in two weeks’ time.
Mr Cummings also fired several shots in the Department of Health and Social Care’s direction, which he had previously described as a “smoking ruin”.
He claimed the department had no detailed plan for the pandemic and bemoaned its “failure” to procure PPE and ventilators ahead of the first wave fully hitting the UK.
There were some praiseworthy achievements highlighted by Mr Cummings, one of which was the efforts of NHS England official Ninjeri Pandit – whom he said played an instrumental role in developing the covid-19 data store to help the government make decisions.
In summary, this was an – at times – extraordinary hearing which revealed many troubling statements. While many of the facts speak for themselves, now we have the benefit of hindsight, one of the biggest questions is how Mr Hancock will respond to many of the allegations left at his front door.