Former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings today published screenshots of the WhatsApp messages on his blog, as he launched another broadside against Mr Hancock.
In one message late at night in March 2020, Mr Johnson apparently branded his health secretary “totally f*****g hopeless” because of low levels of coronavirus testing.
And in a second the following day, he responded to Mr Cummings’ worries about ventilator supplies by saying: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”
As Mr Hancock set off to the House of Commons to deliver a statement hours after the publication of the blogpost, he was “doorstepped” by Sky News.
With Mr Hancock obeying official advice to keep car windows open to provide ventilation, the reporter was able to shout to him: “Are you hopeless, Mr Hancock?”
Despite his face-mask muffling his voice, the health secretary can be clearly heard to reply: “I don’t think so.”
Mr Johnson did not respond as he left Downing Street when reporters called out questions to him over whether he truly thought Mr Hancock was hopeless, and if so why he had not sacked him.
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth branded the Cabinet minister “hopeless Hancock” in the House of Commons.
Responding to a statement by Mr Hancock on the delay to lockdown easing, Mr Ashworth told MPs: “The right honourable gentleman is now forever branded as ‘hopeless Hancock’ by his own leader.
“When they watch the news tonight, when they know that (the govenrment) failed to protect our borders, when they know that they allowed this variant to take off, and when they saw that restrictions are being extended, I think many of our constituents will no doubt repeat the prime minister’s expletive-laden sentiments about the secretary of state.”