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UK PM’s ex-aide reignites row with release of expletive-laden WhatsApp messages

·2-min read

London, Jun 16 (PTI) Dominic Cummings, the former top aide of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Wednesday reignited an ongoing row over the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as he shared expletive-laden WhatsApp messages believed to be from his former boss in which the premier brands his health secretary 'hopeless'.

Johnson's former Chief Strategy Adviser, who left Downing Street unceremoniously last year, has previously made withering attacks on UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock and claimed the minister should have been sacked for 15-20 things, including 'for lying' to people.

Following Hancock’s own evidence before a parliamentary committee to deny all the allegations, Cummings took to his blogpost to brand the Cabinet minister's parliamentary evidence as an attempt to rewrite history.

'Number10/Hancock have repeatedly lied about the failures last year,' he writes in his blog.

In screenshots of WhatsApp messages he has shared alongside, the Prime Minister appears to call Hancock's efforts 'totally f****** hopeless' in response to a message from Cummings and in others seems to consider replacing him.

The 7,000-word blogpost dubs Hancock's version of events as 'fiction' and criticises 'systemic incompetence' surrounding the UK Prime Minister.

Downing Street has refused to be drawn into the latest WhatsApp messages row, with the UK Prime Minister's official spokesperson saying Johnson continued to have 'full confidence' in Hancock.

'I am not planning to engage with every allegation put forward, the Prime Minister has worked very closely with the Health Secretary throughout and will continue to do so,' the spokesperson said.

Cummings, who left his role as one of Johnson's closest allies in November 2020 amid a Number 10 Downing Street power struggle, last month gave seven hours of evidence to cross-party MPs on the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis.

He used that appearance to particularly focus on Hancock’s alleged incompetence.

In his own evidence to MPs on the government's COVID response, Hancock last week said it was 'telling that no evidence has been provided' about some of the claims Cummings made.

It would seem the latest blogpost is a direct reaction to that.

Reacting to the latest salvo in a bitter war of words between Cummings and Hancock over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Opposition Labour Party's shadow health minister Justin Madders said: 'This is more evidence that the Conservatives were too slow to lockdown, too slow to deliver PPE and too slow to protect our care homes.

'With this evidence that even the Prime Minister thinks Hancock is useless, why in the worst pandemic in our history has he left him in charge?' But Conservative business minister Paul Scully dismissed the leaked messages as 'little grenades' that were only of importance to the 'Westminster bubble' and suggested they may have been the prime minister 'letting off steam'. PTI AK MRJ AKJ

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