Dominic Cummings is to blame Boris Johnson personally for the UK’s catastrophic coronavirus death toll, it was revealed today as the civil war surrounding the Prime Minister and his former top aide deepened.
Mr Cummings is said to be preparing to hand ‘kompromat’ – damaging private material – on Mr Johnson to MPs when he appears before a Covid inquiry in May, showing that the PM’s intransigence contributed to the huge second wave of deaths last winter.
Downing Street furiously denies that Mr Johnson made a graphic remark – in which he is said to have ruled out any more ‘f****** lockdowns’, regardless of the ‘bodies’ – in front of what are said to have been ‘shocked’ political and civil service advisers.
A No 10 source last night described the claim that the PM made the comment after ordering the November lockdown in the face of fury from Tory MPs as ‘another lie’.
Nonetheless, one source indicated that Mr Cummings might repeat it when he appears next month in front of the parliamentary inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid crisis.
An ally of the former aide told the Sunday Times: ‘Dominic has copies of everything and knows where all the bodies are buried.
‘He was pushing the Prime Minister hard to lock down sooner in the autumn and he has lots of evidence that shows that his decision to delay led to devastating consequences.’
It came as No10 hit back at the former aide, who was forced out of his top role in December, after he attacked the regime over leaks and the renovation of Mr Johnson’s private apartment.
Allies of the Prime Minister levelled the damning charge that those loyal to the ex-aide had been behind ‘nasty and sexist briefings’ against Mr Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, in which they exaggerated the influence she wields in No 10.
Downing Street launched a savage counter-attack against Dominic Cummings (pictured in March) last night – as the former adviser readied a fresh assault on Boris Johnson over Britain’s Covid death toll
Allies of the Prime Minister levelled the damning charge that those loyal to the ex-aide had been behind ‘nasty and sexist briefings’ against Mr Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds (left), in which they exaggerated the influence she wields in No 10
Meanwhile a No10 insider painted a picture of a prime minister at sea since Mr Cummings’ departure, despite his increased popularity caused by the vaccine success.
A source told the Sunday Times: ‘After the departure of his closest aides last year, the Prime Minister has become increasingly isolated and paranoid. He has become known in some circles as the King Lear prime minister and we all know how that ended up.’
In Shakespeare’s great tragedy, King Lear is betrayed by those around him who covet his throne, goes mad and eventually dies.
Labour is reportedly calling for a senior minister to front parliament this week to face questions over the growing war of words between Boris Johnson and his former adviser Dominic Cummings.
The Observer and the BBC report the party is hoping to be granted an urgent question which would summon the Government to the Commons to account for allegations made by Mr Cummings.
The war between Mr Cummings and Mr Johnson first erupted at the end of last year when Mr Cummings lost a power struggle with Ms Symonds. It followed the Prime Minister’s decision to make one of his fiancee’s friends, Allegra Stratton, the public face of now-abandoned televised Downing Street briefings.
It flared up again last week after No 10 briefed that Mr Cummings had been behind damaging leaks such as text messages exchanged between Mr Johnson and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson, and the now-infamous ‘Chatty Rat’ row about the November lockdown.
Mr Cummings hit back on Friday with a 1,000-word blog post in which he claimed the Prime Minister once had a ‘possibly illegal’ plan for Tory donors to pay for renovations of his Downing Street flat.
He also denied both leaks, adding that Mr Johnson had considered trying to block an inquiry into the ‘Chatty Rat’ in case it pointed to Henry Newman, a friend of Ms Symonds, who works in No 10.
In the latest salvos, sources told The Mail on Sunday that during their final conversation in Downing Street, Mr Cummings told the Prime Minister that he hoped they would be able to maintain a constructive relationship – but would only do so if Ms Symonds agreed to stop briefing against him to the media. ‘I can’t control her,’ Mr Johnson is said to have replied. ‘It’s impossible.’
But a senior Johnson ally hit back, telling this newspaper: ‘This is a completely inaccurate account of that meeting, which was entirely cordial. They agreed to stay in touch. This has proved to be impossible. What followed was a series of nasty and sexist briefings against Carrie.’ Allies of Mr Newman also responded angrily, denying that he was the ‘rat’ and pointing the finger back at Mr Cummings.
One source claimed that the intelligence services had identified Mr Cummings as the culprit but ‘could not publish their evidence because it would reveal the secrets of their tradecraft, including their penetration of WhatsApp messages’.
Mr Johnson faced further attacks over his conduct yesterday from the pro-Remain wing of the party. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve described him as ‘a vacuum of integrity’ and accused him of ‘smoke and mirrors’ over how the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat would be paid for.
Mr Grieve claimed it was ‘just one illustration of the chaos Mr Johnson seems to bring in his wake… If you have someone who is a vacuum of integrity, you’re going to get this sort of story coming up over and over again.’
He added that Mr Johnson’s character ‘has been apparent for a very long time’, including to the Tory MPs who elected him party leader.
Mr Johnson is also facing crossparty calls to go to the Commons tomorrow to update MPs on the ‘Chatty Rat’ inquiry.
He was told MPs must be told if No 10 had unmasked the person who risked lives by leaking plans for the Covid lockdown last year. It is feared the disclosure prompted people to flock to pubs before they closed on November 4, risking further spread of the virus.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has branded the leak a ‘contempt of the Commons and the British people’, also insisted that the Government ‘should publish what they have got’.
Last year, Sir Iain demanded that any official found to have leaked the information should face the humiliating punishment of apologising in person to MPs in the Commons Chamber.
And senior Labour MP Chris Bryant told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The Prime Minister should come clean and tell MPs as a matter of urgency whether a culprit has been found.
‘And if he now wants to drop the whole thing because the guilty party is a mate of his fiancee, he should tell us that too.’
During the leak inquiry, No 10 has been forced to take the unusual step of briefing Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on its progress under confidential ‘Privy Council terms’. Mr Cummings will give evidence on May 26 to the joint parliamentary committee inquiry into lessons the Government must learn from its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In his blog post, Mr Cummings said that he ‘was not directly or indirectly a/the source for the BBC/[Laura] Kuenssberg story on the PM/Dyson texts’, suggesting that screenshots had been leaked by disaffected civil servants.
And he claimed that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case had told the Prime Minister that the Chatty Rat leaker was ‘neither me nor the then director of communications’ [Lee Cain] and that ‘all the evidence definitely leads to Henry Newman and others in that office’.
He added: ‘The PM was very upset about this. He said to me afterwards, ‘If Newman is confirmed as the leaker then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie as they’re best friends… [pause] Perhaps we could get the Cabinet Secretary to stop the leak inquiry?’
He concluded: ‘It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.
‘I will not engage in media briefing regarding these issues but will answer questions about any of these issues to Parliament on May 26 for as long as the MPs want.’