Dominic Cummings branded the Cabinet ‘useless f***pigs’ as he raged about the Covid response in extraordinary messages to Boris Johnson.
The former No10 chief ranted at the then-PM in a series of missives as their relationship disintegrated, warning that the government was being consumed by ‘mayhem’.
He also slated ministers as ‘c***s’ and ‘morons’ in foul-mouthed messages shown as Mr Cummings gave evidence to the Covid inquiry – with counsel Hugo Keith KC branding his language ‘revolting’.
Once a close ally, Mr Cummings is now a sworn enemy of Mr Johnson, and is slamming his leadership during the pandemic.
He has slammed the premier’s inability to stick to decisions ‘exhausting’, claiming that ‘pretty much everybody’ referred to Mr Johnson as ‘the trolley’.
Mr Cummings said the Cabinet Office was a ‘dumpster fire’ with people in the wrong posts – but also admitted it was ‘crackers’ that someone like him had been in No10.
Earlier, former Downing Street spin chief Lee Cain told the government had no ‘clarity’ or ‘plan’ on how to deal with Covid.
Mr Cain defended the low priority given to the virus in No10 as it emerged in January and early February, saying that the Department of Health was confident preparations were in place.
Dominic Cummings slated ministers as ‘c***s’ and ‘morons’ in foul-mouthed messages shown as he gave evidence to the Covid inquiry
Dominic Cummings ranted at the PM in a series of missives as their relationship disintegrated, warning that the government was being consumed by ‘mayhem’
Former Downing Street spin chief Lee Cain today admitted the government had no ‘clarity’ or ‘plan’ on how to deal with Covid as he gave evidence to the official inquiry
Mr Johnson, pictured out running in Oxfordshire this morning, has yet to give his own account to the inquiry
The inquiry was shown messages between Mr Cain and Mr Cummings saying they were ‘exhausted’ with the PM
The inquiry has been shown extraordinary WhatsApp messages from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in which he slated Boris Johnson for ‘changing the calls on the big plays every day’
Mr Case also sent messages complaining that the government looked like a ‘terrible, tragic joke’
An exchange with Mr Cummings from August 2020 saw Mr Case level more criticism at Mr Johnson
Mr Johnson has yet to give his own account to the inquiry.
Mr Cummings was Mr Johnson’s top political aide in Downing Street from July 2019, having previously led Vote Leave in the Brexit referendum, and was credited with masterminding the Tories‘ election triumph.
He was asked to leave government by Mr Johnson in November 2020, after seemingly losing a bitter power struggle. Mr Cain, another Vote Leave veteran, quit a day before.
Mr Keith said ‘we’re going to have to coarsen our language somewhat’, as he read out some of the terms used by Mr Cummings.
Asked by Mr Keith whether he contributed to a lack of effectiveness on the part of ministers, Mr Cummings replied: ‘No, I think I was reflecting a widespread view amongst competent people at the centre of power at the time about the calibre of a lot of senior people who were dealing with this crisis extremely badly.’
He conceded his language was ‘appalling’ and apologised, but said his ‘judgment of a lot of senior people was widespread’.
Mr Cain told the inquiry that in January and into early February other things like Brexit, 5G and a Cabinet reshuffle were a focus in Downing Street.
Mr Cain noted Mr Johnson had also taken a two-week holiday in that period.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘In defence of the Prime Minister – and there were certainly things that the Prime Minister got wrong – but I think in this early stage, he is receiving assurances that, you know, everything actually is being well prepared and we are in a good situation to handle things and nobody is sort of setting up the warning flares to him, or to the core team.
‘So, you know, his behaviour at this point isn’t, you know, irrational to focus on some of the other issues that, you know, we shouldn’t forget were large-scale significant issues at the time.’
In his written statement he noted that ‘collectively, we failed to anticipate the scale and speed of the oncoming pandemic and lost crucial weeks when we could have been improving our resilience and preparedness.’
Mr Cain said indecision was a ‘theme’ inside Downing Street during the pandemic and could be ‘worse than the wrong decision’.
‘Indecision can sometimes be worse than the wrong decision in certain circumstances. And I think indecision probably was a theme of Covid that people did struggle with inside Number 10,’ he said.
However, the long-term aide also defended the former PM’s struggle to make a decision over the first Covid lockdown, saying in a statement it was ‘to some degree understandable’ that he ‘would occasionally oscillate’ between locking down the country and other potential policy options.
Mr Cain told the inquiry: ‘I would say that it’s pretty easy for advisers like myself to say the prime minister should have done X, the prime minister should have done Y.
‘I do think that this was probably one of the biggest peacetime decisions in recent years the prime minister’s had to undertake, and it clearly weighed incredibly heavy on him. And I think it’s him and him alone who has to take that decision, so it is understandable that he wrestled with it.’
He added that Mr Johnson’s indecision over the second lockdown was ‘slightly more difficult to defend’.
The inquiry was shown messages that Mr Cummings sent to Mr Cain on March 19 2020.
‘Rishi saying bond markets may fund our debt etc. He’s back to Jaws mode w**k,’ Mr Cummings wrote.
‘I’ve literally said same thing 10 f****** times and he still won’t absorb it.
‘I’m exhausted just talking to him and stopping the trolley.
‘I’ve had to sit here for two hours just to stop him saying stupid sh**.’
Mr Cain replied: ‘I’m exhausted with him.’
After a later message highlighted a ‘slightly confusing message’ from Mr Johnson at the start of a press conference, Mr Cummings said: ‘What did I say – it’s only a matter of time before his babbling exposes fact he doesn’t know what to say.’
Asked what Mr Cummings had meant by ‘Jaws mode’, Mr Cain replied: ‘The PM at the time would refer to the mayor of Jaws from the film who wanted to keep the beaches open.
‘I think he had a routine from previous in his career where he would use that as a joke from one of his after-dinner speeches.
‘The mayor was right all along to keep the beaches open because it would have been a long-term harm to the community – so it’s a sort of sub-reference to that.’
Mr Cain said he was ‘frustrated’ by the PM saying that the government could turn the tide on Covid in 12 weeks.
‘We were looking at a year where we were going to have to do harsh measures… we all knew it was a long-term challenge,’ he said.
And he expressed the view that Covid had been the ‘wrong crisis for this PM’s skill set’.
‘I think what will probably be clear in Covid, it was the wrong crisis for this prime minister’s skillset,’ he said.
‘Which is different I think from not potentially being up for the job of prime minister.’
‘He is somebody who would often delay making decisions… sometimes in politics that can be a great strength,’ he said.
‘If you look at something like Covid you need quick decisions.’
Mr Cummings’ departure came months after it emerged he had driven from London to Barnard Castle in County Durham with his family at the end of March 2020, when the Government had instructed people to stay at home.
The inquiry heard yesterday that the Government became highly ‘dysfunctional’ during the pandemic.
WhatsApp messages shown to witnesses hinted at the turmoil at the heart of power.
A message sent by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson kept changing stance, complaining that he ‘cannot lead and we cannot support him in leading with this approach’.
Mr Case’s message added: ‘A weak team (as we have got – Hancock, Williamson, Dido (Harding, former chairman of NHS Improvement and now a Tory peer)… definitely cannot succeed in these circs [sic]. IT HAS TO STOP! Decide and set direction, deliver, explain.
‘[Government] isn’t actually that hard but this guy is really making it impossible.’
Mr Case is currently on sick leave for an undisclosed medical condition, but is expected to give evidence at some stage.
Mr Cummings was said to wield phenomenal influence, with one adviser claiming he was ‘the most empowered chief of staff’ Downing Street had seen.
Martin Reynolds, the ex-prime minister’s former principal private secretary, said Mr Cummings ‘was the person whose writ ruled, who was able to drive things through the machine in the way I suspect few other chiefs of staff have done’. Mr Cummings, who has repeatedly sought to undermine Mr Johnson since the pair’s working relationship ended in acrimony in November 2020, is due to give evidence today.
Mr Case is currently on sick leave for an undisclosed medical condition, but is expected to give evidence at some stage
Extracts from Patrick Vallance’s notebooks show he complained about being pushed to do a press conference that would be ‘political’, and slated a ‘rambling opening to Cabinet’ by Mr Johnson
Mr Reynolds admitted that coronavirus plans were ‘inadequate to deal with the nature of the crisis we were confronted with’.
He said Mr Johnson ‘blew hot and cold’ on some Covid decision-making in the early days of the pandemic.
Mr Reynolds was dubbed ‘Party Marty’ after he organised a notorious ‘bring your own booze’ Downing Street garden party – something he apologised for at the end of his evidence yesterday. He told the inquiry: ‘I would like to say how sorry I am for my part in those events.’
But he said coverage of that party did not undermine public confidence in the Government at the time, because it did not emerge until months later.
Mr Johnson has faced repeated claims he failed to properly consider the impact of Covid but Mr Reynolds said he could not remember his former boss dismissing it as not a ‘big deal’.
He said: ‘He was concerned that if we reacted in a certain way we could actually generate a sense of panic and concern which would be counterproductive.’
Mr Reynolds quit No 10 in February 2022 as part of a clear-out of senior aides in the wake of the Partygate scandal.
The Covid inquiry is being chaired by Baroness Hallett (pictured at the hearing yesterday)