U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock Denies Allegations Made by Dominic Cummings

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock Denies Allegations Made by Dominic Cummings” – below is their description.

    Boris Johnson and his team launched a fightback against his former strategist Dominic Cummings who alleged ministers failed to protect the U.K. public from coronavirus and declared the premier is “unfit” for the job.

    Johnson’s controversial ex-aide catalogued the government’s “disastrous” pandemic failures during a seven-hour parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, saying the premier’s poor leadership led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

    Cummings’s intervention threatens to puncture the mood of optimism around Johnson’s administration flowing from the U.K.’s successful vaccination rollout and the reopening of the economy. His detailed account of the chaos around the prime minister and his errors in office also has the potential to damage Johnson’s standing among Tory members of Parliament at Westminster, whose support he relies upon to stay in power.

    “Tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die,” Cummings said in evidence to the House of Commons inquiry on the pandemic. “There is no doubt the prime minister made some very bad misjudgments and got some very serious things wrong.”

    Asked directly whether Johnson is a fit and proper person to lead Britain out of the pandemic, Cummings replied: “No.”

    The withering judgment from Cummings is particularly dangerous for the prime minister because the two worked so closely at the heart of government and during the 2016 Brexit referendum. It was Cummings who shaped that campaign, and then devised the Conservative Party’s winning general election strategy in 2019.

    On Thursday, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick insisted Johnson had done his “best” in an unprecedented crisis when the pandemic hit. Speaking to the BBC, he said Hancock had denied Cummings’s allegations of lying.

    To be sure, there is no immediate electoral threat to Johnson, with a general election not due until 2024. Voters only this month endorsed the premier’s leadership, giving him a set of local victories, despite controversies in the weeks leading up to the polls.

    Cummings also repeatedly attacked Health Secretary Matt Hancock, saying he regularly lobbied Johnson to fire the minister for lying about the state of Britain’s pandemic preparedness and interfering with the establishment of an effective testing regime.

    Hancock rejected his claims on Thursday, saying Cummings’ allegations on his honesty were “unsubstantiated” and “not true.” Speaking in Parliament, Hancock said throughout the pandemic “we have been straight with people”, and he had been right to set “ambitious targets” because it was “how you get stuff done in government.”

    A year ago, Cummings was at the center of his own storm, after driving his family more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) out of London, apparently ignoring his own government’s lockdown orders.

    On Wednesday, he explained for the first time that this was not simply for childcare reasons, as he initially claimed, but because his family had faced death threats and they needed to flee for their own safety.

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