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What we learned from Dominic Cummings damning coronavirus testimony to MPs

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It was billed as political box office and in that respect, it didn’t disappoint.

But beyond the dramas and personality clashes, MPs were given an all-too-rare insight into life behind the closed doors of Downing Street as the government tried to get to grips with the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings left Downing Street late last year Picture: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings left Downing Street late last year Picture: PA

Paul Francis discusses Dominic Cummings' evidence

In several hours of gripping testimony, Dominic Cummings laid out in graphic detail the failings of the government in its strategy to deal with the virus.

He told MPs that Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, should have been sacked and that he had tried to persuade Boris Johnson to do so regularly but was unsuccessful.

The stories came thick and fast: on one day when the government was weighing up whether to implement a national lockdown, Downing Street had been contacted by Donald Trump to support a bombing campaign in the Middle East; at the same time, he had been asked by Carrie Symonds - the PM’s fiancée - to respond to a story in the Times about her dog.

MPs were told that the PM was so convinced the virus was not lethal he wanted Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, to inject him with coronavirus live on TV to show it didn’t really affect people - “that would not have helped” said Cummings, in something of an understatement.

Asked why he had decided to give evidence to the committee, he said it was the chance to get the “whole terrible story out there” so it would not happen again.

Dominic Cummings mid eight-hour session
Dominic Cummings mid eight-hour session

"The scale of the disaster is so big that people need to understand how the government failed them," he told MPs.

He occasionally strayed off the coronavirus crisis to ventilate his thoughts on how the 2019 general election offered a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. It was, he said, a sign of a system that wasn’t working.

But however intriguing it was to have someone pull back the curtains on Downing Street, this was much more than a glimpse into the domestic machinations of government and personality clashes.

As Cummings himself acknowledged, the lack of a plan, the failure to introduce lockdowns earlier and a belief that herd immunity was the way out, all contributed to a tragedy that unnecessarily cost thousands of lives.

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