‘It’s just completely crackers’ – key quotes from Dominic Cummings’ evidence

Here are some of the key quotes from Dominic Cummings’ appearance at the Commons health and social care and science and technology committees:

– On the performance of Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

“There’s no doubt at all that many senior people performed far, far disastrously below the standards which the country has a right to expect. I think the Secretary of State for Health is certainly one of those people.”

“I think the Secretary of State for Health should’ve been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the Cabinet room and publicly.”

“If we don’t fire the Secretary of State (Matt Hancock) and we don’t get the testing in someone else’s hands, we are going to kill people and it will be a catastrophe.”

“He (Boris Johnson) came close to removing him (Matt Hancock) in April but just fundamentally wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t just me saying this, lots of people said to him, the cabinet secretary said to him, pretty much every senior person around Number 10 told him that we can’t go into the autumn with the same system in place, otherwise we are going to have a catastrophe on our hands.”

– On the Prime Minister:

“I just got on with things because my view was the Prime Minister already is about a thousand times too obsessed with the media.”

“It’s just completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there, just the same as it’s crackers that Boris Johnson was in there, and that the choice at the last election was Jeremy Corbyn.”

“In February the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story, he described it as the new swine flu.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised by Dominic Cummings over his approach to the pandemic in early 2020 (Luciana Guerra/PA)

“I have been critical of the Prime Minister. But… if you dropped, you know, Bill Gates or someone like that into that job on March 1, the most competent people in the world you could possibly find, any of them would have had a complete nightmare.”

“He (Boris Johnson) laughed and said ‘you’re right, I am more frightened of you having the power to stop the chaos, chaos isn’t that bad, chaos means that everyone has to look to me to see who’s in charge’.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve got great people doing communications, if the Prime Minister changes his mind 10 times a day, and then calls up the media and contradicts his own policy day after day after day, you’re going to have a communications disaster.”

– On the Government’s Covid preparations in early 2020:

“The Government itself and Number 10 was not operating on a war footing in February on this in any way, shape or form. Lots of key people were literally skiing in the middle of February.”

“This is like a scene from Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum saying, ‘the aliens are here and your whole plan is broken, and you need a new plan’.”

Dominic Cummings gives evidence to a joint inquiry of the Commons health and social care and science and technology committees
Dominic Cummings gives evidence to a joint inquiry of the Commons health and social care and science and technology committees (House of Commons/PA)

“The problem in this crisis was very much lions led by donkeys over and over again.”

“There wasn’t any plan for shielding, there wasn’t even a helpline for shielding, there wasn’t any plan for financial incentives, there wasn’t any plan for almost anything in any kind of detail at all.”

“One of the fundamental reasons why people, I think, were not isolating is that we, the Government, failed terribly to explain to people that a lot of people are being infected asymptomatically, point one. Point two, it’s airborne. Even now, even today, the Government communications is still over-stressing wash your hands and under-stressing airborne.”

“As soon as you have some kind of major problem, you have kind of that Spiderman meme with both Spidermans pointing at each other, it’s like that but with everybody.”

“In my opinion, you would have had a kind of dictator in charge of this.”

– On his own performance:

“It’s true that I hit the panic button and said we’ve got to ditch the official plan, it’s true that I helped to try to create what an official plan was. I think it’s a disaster that I acted too late. The fundamental reason was that I was really frightened of acting.”

“There’s no doubt that he (Boris Johnson) was extremely badly let down by the whole system. And it was a system failure, of which I include myself in that as well, I also failed.”

“I apologise for not acting earlier and if I had acted earlier then lots of people might still be alive.”

– On his trip to Barnard Castle in April 2020:

“I was extremely mindful of the problem that when you talk about these things, you cause more trouble for yourself, and I’d already put my wife and child in the firing line on it. So I said, I’m not talking about this, we should shut our mouths about it.”

“The whole thing was a complete disaster and the truth is – and then it undermined public confidence in the whole thing – the truth is, if I just when the Prime Minister said on a Monday, ‘we can’t hold this line, we’re going to have to explain things’, if I just basically sent my family back out of London and said here’s the truth to the public, I think people would have understood the situation.

Coronavirus – Mon May 25, 2020
Mr Cummings apologised for his controversial visit to Barnard Castle in April 2020 (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

“It was a terrible misjudgment not to do that. So I take … the Prime Minister got that wrong, I got that wrong.”

– On coronavirus testing:

“In my opinion, disastrously, the Secretary of State (Matt Hancock) had made, while the Prime Minister was on his near-death bed, his pledge to do 100,000 (daily tests) by the end of April. This was an incredibly stupid thing to do because we already had that goal internally.”

“We had half the Government with me in No 10 calling around frantically saying do not do what Hancock says, build the thing properly for the medium term. And we had Hancock calling them all saying down tools on this, do this, hold tests back so I can hit my target.”

“In my opinion he (Matt Hancock) should’ve been fired for that thing alone, and that itself meant the whole of April was hugely disrupted by different parts of Whitehall fundamentally trying to operate in different ways completely because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say ‘look at me and my 100k target’.”

– On care homes:

“While the Government rhetoric was we have put a shield around care homes and blah blah blah, it was complete nonsense.”

“Quite the opposite of putting a shield around them, we sent people with Covid back to the care homes.”

– On his threats to resign:

“If we had not successfully bounced things in the week of March 16, I talked to those people during that week and about saying to him ‘I will resign and hold a press conference to say the Government is going to kill hundreds of thousands of people’ but we managed to bounce things through and therefore I didn’t do it.”

– On the UK’s approach to its border policy

“Fundamentally, there was no proper border policy because the Prime Minister never wanted a proper border policy. Repeatedly in meeting after meeting, I and others said all we have to do is download the Singapore or Taiwan documents in English and impose them here.”

“At that point (after April) he was back to, ‘lockdown was all a terrible mistake, I should’ve been the mayor of Jaws, we should never have done lockdown one, the travel industry will all be destroyed if we bring in a serious border policy’.”