According to newly leaked messages, Dominic Cummings was subjected to a profanity-laced criticism on WhatsApp by one of Matt Hancock’s colleagues.
The messages are among the latest set of WhatsApp correspondence to emerge from the leak of more than 100,000 messages by journalist Isabelle Oakeshott to the Daily Telegraph.
The conversations, published by the Telegraph, show animosity towards Cummings from Hancock and his team, who felt betrayed after the then health secretary publicly supported Cummings over the controversy over his lockdown drive at Barnard Castle.
The government was forced to defend Cummings after he moved to the County Durham town during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Cummings described the Department for Health and Social Care as a “smoking waste” in evidence to a parliamentary committee on 17 March 2021, four months after he was ousted from Downing Street as chief adviser to Boris Johnson .
A message from Hancock that day asked: “How do you deal with this Cummings nonsense?” One of Hancock’s advisers, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, responded: “What nonsense. You went out and supported him on Barnard Castle and he responds by briefing against you constantly, privately and now publicly.
He added: “He’s a psychiatrist,” before swiftly correcting himself: “Psychopath.”
Hancock continued to complain: “But sometimes I think we throw punches too often. Why should I keep putting up with this crap?”
In another set of messages dated 26 May 2021 – the day Cummings testified to parliament that “tens of thousands of people” had died needlessly because of the government’s handling of the pandemic – Hancock suggested that Cummings was only looking for future jobs. Rishi Sunak was testifying to secure the government.
He added: “Of all the bandwagoning about Dom’s circus, the one I enjoy most is that he is doing this to secure his place at the heart of a future cynic administration.”
Sunak replied: “Ha! Ironically, I haven’t spoken to him since he left!”
In a later message, Sunak, who was then chancellor, described the time when Cummings was chief adviser to Downing Street as “a nightmare I hope we never have to repeat”.
On the same day, Hancock referenced Cummings’ widely ridiculed claim that he had gone to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, saying: “His insight is no better than his sight.”
A year earlier, in May 2020, Hancock requested that Njoku-Goodwin “draft a supportive tweet” in response to his lockdown drive demanding Cummings’ resignation. He then sent some draft words to his adviser to post on Twitter: “Dom Cummings was right today to explain completely transparently how he made his decision in very difficult circumstances. Now we must move on, This terrible disease should be fought and our country should stand on its feet again.
The following day, Njoku-Goodwin told Hancock that the tweet in support of Cummings had gone down well with “the people in the building”, meaning Number 10. He added: “Lee was literally talking about promotion in the next reshuffle,” referring to Lee Cain, Boris Johnson’s then communications director and one of his closest advisers at the time.