Boris Johnson called Health Secretary Matt Hancock 'f---ing hopeless,' leaked WhatsApp messages show

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Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock
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  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Health Secretary Matt Hancock "totally f---ing hopeless."

  • Johnson's former chief of staff Dominic Cummings published the messages on his new Substack.

  • Cummings has revealed a series of claims against his former boss in recent weeks.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Health Secretary Matt Hancock "totally f---ing hopeless" at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to bombshell messages published by the prime minister's estranged former chief advisor, Dominic Cummings.

Hancock last week accused Cummings, who left Downing Street acrimoniously last year, of failing to produce evidence to support his claims that Hancock had lied frequently to the prime minister throughout the pandemic.

Cummings told members of Parliament that Hancock should have been sacked for dishonesty and said the former cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill had told the prime minister in mid-April of last year that he had "lost confidence" in the health secretary.

Cummings on Wednesday said he had felt compelled to publish official documents and screenshots of WhatsApp messages between himself and the prime minister to verify those claims, saying that Downing Street and Hancock himself had "openly" lied last week to protect Hancock's reputation.

In a blog post, Cummings alleged that Johnson had frequently been frustrated with Hancock's performance throughout last year.

"Hancock gave a fictitious account to MPs last week and portrayed himself as a heroic figure who had been in agreement with the PM throughout the crisis," Cummings said in the blog post, which was published on Substack.

In one exchange said to be between himself and the prime minister on March 27, 2020, Cummings appeared to highlight the urgent need for the government to ramp up coronavirus testing across the country, and criticizing Hancock for missing targets he had set.

A WhatsApp user identified as Johnson replied: "Totally fucking hopeless."

An apparent Dominic Cummings-Boris Johnson text-message exchange
An alleged exchange between Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson on March 27, 2020. Dominic Cummings / Substack

A Downing Street representative said on Wednesday: "Our focus is on not examining those specific images but delivering on the public's priority."

"I don't plan to get into the detail of what's been published," the person said.

In another exchange, also apparently between Cummings and Johnson on March 27, 2020, Cummings said officials had botched procurement of ventilators, which were needed to treat COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

The user identified as Johnson replied: "It's Hancock. He has been hopeless."

Screenshot of apparent Dominic Cummings-Boris Johnson text messages
An alleged WhatsApp exchange between Cummings and Johnson on March 27, 2020. Dominic Cummings / Substack

"The PM has supported this fiction and ordered the No 10 press office to support many arguments he knows are lies," Cummings said in the blog post.

"If No 10 is prepared to lie so deeply and widely about such vital issues of life and death last year, it cannot be trusted now either on covid or any other crucial issue of war and peace."

Johnson's opponents said the messages underlined the need for a rapid public inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic.

"This is more evidence that the Conservatives were too slow to lockdown, too slow to deliver PPE and too slow to protect our care homes," Justin Madders, Labour's shadow health minister, said.

"With this evidence that even the PM thinks Hancock is useless, why in the worst pandemic in our history has he left him in charge?

"Hancock and Johnson need to respond to these latest revelations and immediately start the public inquiry into their handling of the pandemic."

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