Dominic Cummings will allege Boris Johnson said ‘Covid is only killing 80-year-olds’ when he delayed a fresh national lockdown last autumn when the PM’s ex-aide is grilled by MPs, it was claimed today.
Mr Cummings is due to give evidence tomorrow to a joint session of the health and science select committees on the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
The Vote Leave maverick has already slammed ministers in a lengthy Twitter thread full of bombshell accusations.
But ITV News reported this afternoon that Mr Cummings will escalate his attack by setting out the PM’s alleged defence for delaying a second national shutdown.
Number 10 is braced for a damaging onslaught from Mr Cummings, with Downing Street having previously kept its powder dry in the days leading up to his committee appearance.
However, sources hit back overnight at the claims made by Mr Cummings as they accused him of being a ‘rank hypocrite’ who is trying to ‘rewrite history’.
It came as it was claimed that Tory MPs fear Mr Cummings and Michael Gove are working together to try to oust Mr Johnson from Number 10.
Some Conservative backbenchers believe Mr Cummings could make a political comeback at the heart of a future Gove premiership – should the Minister for the Cabinet Office ever secure the keys to Downing Street.
The claims were dismissed as ‘absurd conspiracy theories’ by friends of Mr Gove.
Dominic Cummings will allege Boris Johnson said ‘Covid is only killing 80-year-olds’ when he delayed a fresh national lockdown last autumn when the PM’s ex-aide is grilled by MPs, it was claimed today
Number 10 is braced for a damaging onslaught when Mr Cummings gives evidence to MPs tomorrow on the Government’s coronavirus response. Boris Johnson’s former top aide has already slammed the Government in a lengthy Twitter thread full of various accusations
The Telegraph reported that Mr Gove will not be criticised by Mr Cummings during his evidence.
Some Tory MPs believe the Vote Leave architect is planning a return to Whitehall in a Gove premiership.
Some Conservative backbenchers fear the pair are conspiring to try to oust Mr Johnson, the newspaper said.
One former Cabinet minister said: ‘Gove is permanently on manoeuvres. The man manoeuvres more than Napoleon did.’
The former minister said Mr Gove is a ‘shapeshifter’ and ‘everything is just a performance because he keeps trying to reinvent himself’.
One Whitehall source said they were ‘sure the two of them have spoken’ since Mr Cummings’ acrimonious departure from Number 10 in November last year.
‘Both think exactly the same way, and have known each other for so long – since Cummings worked for Gove at the Department for Education – that Cummings knows what Gove’s position is on any one topic,’ they said.
The source suggested that ‘Dom bulldozes a path and then Michael follows in his ministerial car’.
But friends of Mr Gove rubbished the claims as ‘absurd conspiracy theories’.
‘Michael is focused on the job the PM has asked him to do – co-ordinating the cross government response to the pandemic, tackling backlogs in our public services and strengthening the Union,’ one friend said.
Another ally said Mr Gove is ‘not in touch’ with Mr Cummings and they have not spoken ‘for months’.
Mr Gove has run for the Tory leadership twice before, including when he torpedoed Mr Johnson’s run in 2016. Allies insist he is content in his current role.
Mr Cummings has set the stage for an explosive appearance in front of MPs tomorrow by claiming the Government’s ‘Plan A’ in the early months of the pandemic was to pursue a strategy of ‘herd immunity’.
Mr Cummings said the initial response to the crisis was ‘total and utter chaos’ and the original plan was only ditched after Number 10 was warned it would lead to a ‘catastrophe’.
Mr Cummings was at the heart of Government decision-making when the pandemic hit early last year
Downing Street has vehemently denied that ‘herd immunity’ – allowing the disease to spread so people could build immunity – was ever its strategy.
A Government source today accused Mr Cummings of ‘revisionism’, telling The Times: ‘He’s going round saying ”if only competent people were in charge”.
‘This was a guy with unrivalled authority. You can either be an all-powerful special adviser or a busted flush with no powers and influence. You can’t be both. He’s a rank hypocrite.’
Mr Cummings escalated his extraordinary assault on Mr Johnson yesterday as he claimed the PM had no plan for a Covid lockdown before experts started ‘screaming’ that hundreds of thousands of people could die.
He also claimed that Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the Cabinet Office did not understand what the consequences of a ‘herd immunity’ strategy would be.
Mr Cummings – who was at the heart of Number 10 decision-making – said the original intention was to allow the virus to play out quickly to avoid a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS in winter.
But in a series of tweets he said it became apparent the strategy was ‘disastrously misconceived’ and a ‘Plan B had to be bodged’.
He claimed that by March 13 last year the Government still had ‘neither an intention to lockdown nor… any official plan for doing so’.
Saying that experts had been ‘screaming’ at the PM, the maverick adviser posted a chart from the time showing a 259,000 death toll as an ‘optimal single peak strategy’ – against a ‘do nothing’ option that could have meant 510,000 casualties.
A full lockdown was eventually announced on March 23, with significant curbs having stayed in place ever since as the Government wrestled to keep infections down. The death toll on the main measure is just under 128,000.
In the event the death toll has been far lower than the ‘optimal’ estimates highlighted by Mr Cummings, with two main peaks in numbers
Mr Cummings tweeted: ‘Even AFTER we shifted to PlanB, COBR documents had the ”OPTIMAL single peak strategy” graphs showing 260k dead cos the system was so confused in the chaos’.
The PM’s former top adviser said ‘herd immunity’ was ‘officially seen as unavoidable’ in the week of March 9, 2020, and that it would come either ‘in a single peak over by September, or in a second peak in winter’.
He said that the first option was ‘seen as easier to manage and less of a catastrophe so it was Plan A’, but then the government ‘started to figure out Plan B to dodge herd immunity until vaccines’.
Mr Cummings said that in the week of March 9 – seven days before Mr Johnson told people to stop non-essential contact with others – it ‘became clear’ that neither Mr Hancock nor the Cabinet Office understood herd immunity.
He said the policy would have left hundreds of thousands ‘choking to death’, no NHS treatment for months, unburied dead and an economic implosion.
Ministers then moved to ‘Plan B’, he said, adding: ‘Critical as I am of the PM in all sorts of ways, it’s vital to understand the disaster was not just his fault.
‘The official plan was disastrously misconceived … and a Plan B had to be bodged amid total and utter chaos.’
Mr Cummings has been posting an ever-lengthening Twitter thread about the Government’s response to the pandemic