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LONDON — Boris Johnson’s former top aide Dominic Cummings joked that “people should be shot” over the U.K. government’s early response to coronavirus.
March 2020 WhatsApp messages between Cummings — who served as then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide until a bitter fallout in late 2020 — and top minister Michael Gove were revealed at the U.K.’s COVID-19 inquiry Tuesday.
They show how the pair privately seethed over how the government they served in was dealing with the emerging pandemic.
“You know me. I don’t often kick off,” a text from Gove to Cummings, on March 4 2020, reads. “But we are fucking up as a government and missing golden opportunities … the whole situation is even worse than you think and action needs to be taken or we’ll regret it for a long time,” Gove’s text continues.
Gove, who was giving evidence in person at the inquiry Tuesday, said he believed the U.K. was too slow to introduce stricter measures in March 2020.
“Agree!” Cummings wrote in response. Then, in further messages on March 11, the top aide described the government’s Cabinet Office — responsible for firefighting crises like the pandemic — as a “fucking joke” which lacked a plan to deal with the virus.
“I’m tempted to take family to countryside and hold a press conference saying you’re on your own the [Cabinet Office] and parliament have fucked us all,” the former aide WhatsApped to Gove.
“People should be shot,” Cummings then added in another text. When Gove asked Cummings who would be “first in line,” Cummings quipped that this was “not for phones!”
Gove told the inquiry Tuesday that the texts show he was “concerned at that stage” about the ability of the government, and Cabinet Office in particular, to combat the virus.
When Cummings faced the inquiry in October, he was taken to task for incendiary language used when describing senior civil servants and ministers.