British PM called health secretary totally 'hopeless', says former aide

British PM called health secretary totally 'hopeless', says former aide

Boris Johnson appears to have described Matt Hancock as "totally f-- hopeless" while the United Kingdom was scrambling to increase covid-19 testing capacity a year ago, according to messages released by Dominic Cummings on Wednesday.

They include messages in which Mr Johnson appears to have described Mr Hancock in March past year as "hopeless" over problems with scaling up testing and the procurement of ventilators.

It includes screenshots of WhatsApp messages, which appear to show an exchange between Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings on 27 March a year ago.

© 2021 WPA Pool LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a Covid-19 pandemic virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room on June 14, 2021 in London, England.

But the former chief aide argued the messages show otherwise, as do Mr Johnson's moves to carve up some of Mr Hancock's responsibilities and hand them to other individuals.

Mr Cummings highlights the ramping up of testing capacity in the United States and criticises Mr Hancock for saying he was "sceptical" about meeting a target.

After Cummings commented that Hancock was unsure he would reach a target of 10,000 virus tests per week on schedule, the prime minister apparently responded: "Totally (obscenity) hopeless".

In another, later the same day, Cummings said that officials had "totally f****d up" procurement of medical ventilators - which were needed to treat COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

Mr Cummings claimed in the post "No10/Hancock have repeatedly lied about the failures last year" and are trying to "rewrite history".

In the wake of the blog post, Mr Hancock was asked by a reporter whether he was hopeless while in the back of a ministerial vehicle.

"The prime minister has worked very closely with the health and social care secretary and will continue to do so", the spokesman added.

The messages are Mr Cummings' first attempt to publish supporting evidence since his select committee appearance where he accused the Health Secretary of lying, failing on care homes and "criminal, disgraceful behaviour" on testing.

Asked whether he believed he had been hopeless, Hancock replied from the backseat of his ministerial auto: "I don't think so".

Mr Cummings told MPs when he gave evidence to them last month on the response to pandemic that he believes Mr Johnson is unfit to be premier.

At the end of his blogpost, Mr Cummings listed a "few simple questions" to ask Mr Johnson.

Publishing what he described as "evidence" to back up his scathing attacks on the Health Secretary last month, the former Number 10 adviser has released a number of screenshots of what appear to be exchanges between him and the Prime Minister.

Mr Cummings countered this by pointing out that Mr Johnson had diverted responsibility for vaccines to Dame Kate Bingham, testing to Baroness Harding, and PPE to Lord Deighton.

In another message, on 27 April past year, the prime minister appears to call the situation around personal protective equipment (PPE) "a disaster" and alludes to diverting some responsibilities to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

"The cabinet secretary [Mark Sedwill] was investigating why we were refusing a 25% PPE markup when we had NHS staff wearing bin bags and dying for lack of PPE", he wrote.

The Vote Leave maverick suggested Mr Johnson would not serve a full term in Number 10 if he secures re-election because he wants to "make money and have fun".

The spokesman did not deny the WhatsApp exchanges are genuine when asked by journalists and instead said: "Our focus is not examining those specific images but delivering on the public's priorities".

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