Ex-aides Criticise Former UK PM Johnsons Covid Handling

London, (APP – UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 1st Nov, 2023) British former prime minister Boris Johnson’s ex-senior advisers on Tuesday slammed his handling of the Covid pandemic, as an inquiry heard he believed claims that the virus was “nature’s way of dealing with old people”.

Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s ex-top aide, and Lee Cain, Downing Street’s former communications chief, both painted a troubling picture of Johnson’s attitude and response to the health emergency as it unfolded in early 2020.

They were testifying at the Covid-19 public inquiry examining the government‘s performance dealing with the virus, which led to nearly 130,000 fatalities being recorded in Britain by mid-July 2021.

The toll is one of the worst official Covid-19 death counts in the world.

Johnson and his government faced criticism for not taking the threat seriously enough in the early stages of the outbreak, and for not having enough protective equipment for frontline medical staff.

In newly disclosed diary entries submitted to the inquiry, the government‘s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance noted he had “quite a bonkers set of exchanges” with the then-prime minister.

“He says his party ‘thinks the whole thing is pathetic and Covid is just nature’s way of dealing with old people — and I am not entirely sure I disagree with them’,” Vallance wrote in December 2020 of a conversation with Johnson.

The “whole thing” referred to lockdowns Britain was enduring to curb the virus.

During his evidence, Cummings reiterated past descriptions of Johnson as a broken shopping “trolley” that would veer in all directions on issues, most notably Covid.

“Pretty much everyone called him a trolley, yeah,” Cummings told the inquiry, referring to former colleagues in government.

Turning his fire on the government‘s pandemic response more broadly, the former top aide said it featured “widespread failure” alongside “pockets of excellent teams doing excellent work within an overall dysfunctional system”.

– ‘Exhausting’ –

Chaired by retired senior judge Heather Hallett, the inquiry’s first phase focused on the UK‘s resilience and preparedness and is now looking at decision-making and political governance.

It is to interview Johnson and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who was finance minister during the pandemic, later this year.

Johnson was ousted last year by Conservative MPs after a string of scandals, including the so-called “Partygate” controversy around lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.

He quit as an MP in June after lawmakers found he had deliberately misled them about the affair.

Cummings himself had ignited one of the first Covid controversies of Johnson’s government, when in early 2020 he drove across the country after catching the virus.

Johnson backed him but the two fell out spectacularly and Cummings was sacked later that year. Since then, the notoriously combative advisor has become a vocal critic of his former boss.

Cummings denied he had been offensive and misogynistic to colleagues, but apologised for sending a foul-mouthed message in which he said he would “personally handcuff” a senior female civil servant and escort her from the building.

In his testimony Tuesday, Cain said Covid was the “wrong crisis” for Johnson’s skill set, admitting that he became “exhausted” by his alleged indecision and oscillation in dealing with the pandemic in early 2020.

“He’s somebody who would often delay making decisions, would often seek counsel from multiple sources and change his mind on issues,” Cain said of his former boss during several hours in the witness box.

Cain said that can be “a great strength” in politics, but the pandemic response required “quick decisions” and “people to hold the course” and “not constantly unpick things”.

Pressed about expletive-filled messages from Cummings to Cain in early 2020 criticising Johnson’s performance, the former communications chief acknowledged that the prime minister frustrated his senior aides.

“Anyone that’s worked with the prime minister for a period of time will become exhausted with him sometimes,” he said.

“He can be quite a challenging character to work with, just because he will oscillate, he will take a decision from the last person in the room… it is rather exhausting from time to time.”

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