Watch: Important moments from Dominic Cummings' testimony
It was towards the end of the seven-hour committee hearing that Labour MP Sarah Owen asked Dominic Cummings if Boris Johnson is a fit and proper person to lead the UK through the coronavirus pandemic.
"No," came the pointed one-word answer from Cummings.
During an extraordinary joint meeting of Commons health and social care and science and technology committees on Wednesday, Cummings – who was Johnson's chief adviser between July 2019 and November last year – repeatedly ripped into the prime minister's handling of the pandemic.
Here are nine remarkable claims Cummings made.
1. ‘He dismissed coronavirus as a scare story and wanted to be infected on live TV’
Cummings told the hearing that as late as February last year, Johnson was dismissing the outbreak as a “scare story”, saying he virus was the “new swine flu”.
He quoted the PM as saying “I’m going to get Chris Whitty [England’s chief medical officer] to inject me live on TV with coronavirus.”
Cummings claimed Johnson’s attitude did “not help serious planning” in Downing Street as infections spread.
2. ‘His government was more concerned on 12 March about Trump’s bombing campaign... and Dilyn the dog’
Cummings told MPs he warned Johnson on 12 March there were “big problems coming” if self-isolation measures were not announced immediately.
Instead, rather than focusing on coronavirus that day, Cummings claimed Downing Street was consumed with a potential bombing campaign in the Middle East at the request of Dominic Trump, and a story in The Times newspaper about Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds’ dog, Dilyn.
“So we had this sort of completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying: ‘Are we going to bomb Iraq?’ Part of the building was arguing about whether or not we’re going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, [and] the prime minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial.”
3. ‘PM said in March real danger was damage to economy, not people's health’
Cummings claimed Johnson, as late as March, was more worried about the economy at the beginning of the pandemic.
“The prime minister’s view throughout January, February, March, was – as he said in many meetings – the real danger here is not the disease, the real danger here is the measures that we take to deal with a disease and the economic destruction that that will cause.”
The first lockdown was imposed on 23 March. In June last year, Prof Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose modelling convinced the PM to do so, told MPs deaths during the first wave could have been halved if Johnson had started that lockdown one week earlier.
4. 'PM a thousand times far too obsessed with media'
Cummings said Johnson's obsession with the media undermines his ability to do his job as PM.
Saying he did not tell the PM, a former journalist himself, when he was briefing reporters, Cummings said: "I just got on with things because my view was the prime minister already is about a thousand times far too obsessed with the media in a way which undermined him doing his own job."
Cummings said "I did everything I could to limit conversations about the media", apparently to avoid distracting Johnson.
5. ‘Johnson prioritised travel industry over stopping people with COVID entering UK’
Cummings said Johnson never wanted a serious border policy to combat coronavirus because he wanted to prioritise the travel industry.
The UK has repeatedly been accused of having a lax border policy during the pandemic.
Of the situation after April last year, Cummings said he told the PM: “We’re imposing all of these restrictions on people domestically but people can see that everyone is coming in from infected areas. It’s madness, it’s undermining the whole message that we should take it seriously.
“At that point he was back to: ‘Lockdown was all a terrible mistake… we should never have done lockdown one, the travel industry will all be destroyed if we bring in a serious border policy.’”
6. ‘PM was angry with advisers for convincing him to impose first lockdown’
Cummings said there is a “great misconception” that because Johnson almost died from COVID-19 last year, “therefore he must’ve taken it seriously”.
“But in fact after the first lockdown his view was… he was cross with me and for others with what he regarded as basically pushing him into the first lockdown.
“His argument after that happened was, literally quote: ‘I should’ve been the mayor of Jaws and keep the beaches open.’ That’s what he said on many, many occasions.”
7. ‘Johnson is unfit for office and I worked against him to stop extremely bad decisions’
Cummings said he regarded Johnson “unfit for the job”, to the extent that he tried to create a "structure around him to try and stop what I thought were extremely bad decisions and push other things through against his wishes”.
Cummings also said it’s “crackers” Johnson is PM, saying there are “thousands of people” who could provide better leadership. He also compared him to a "shopping trolley, smashing from one side of the aisle to the other".
However, Cummings is a key person behind Johnson’s rise to become PM. He was campaign director of the winning Vote Leave campaign – of which Johnson was a figurehead – ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
8. 'PM ignored Whitty and Vallance over lockdown'
The government has often claimed it is being "led by the science" during the pandemic, but Cummings alleged Johnson ignored England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance when they said in September that there needed to be a two-week lockdown.
Cummings said despite modelling showing the NHS was going to get “smashed again”, Johnson decided not to lock down.
"The prime minister decided no and said basically we are just going to hit and hope.” A second month-long lockdown was eventually imposed on 5 November.
Cummings also referred to past media reports which claimed Johnson said he would rather let “bodies pile high” than impose a third lockdown. “I heard that in the prime minister’s study," he told MPs.
9. ‘Hancock has been set up as PM’s fall guy’
Cummings suggested Johnson did not sack health secretary Matt Hancock – who he repeatedly attacked during the hearing – so he can be used as a scapegoat later.
Cummings said he was telling the PM to sack Hancock “almost every day”. “He was told, though, that you should not sack him, you should keep him there because he’s the person you fire when the inquiry comes along.
“My counter argument was if you leave him there, we’re going to have another set of disasters in the autumn, and that’s the critical thing."
Watch: Led by donkeys': Dominic Cummings says it's crackers Boris Johnson is our prime minister