Dominic Cummings has used the storm surrounding Matt Hancock’s affair to launch fresh attacks on the Health Secretary, accusing his department of "negligently killing the most vulnerable".
In new evidence published on the former Downing Street chief adviser’s blog on Friday, Whatsapp messages from Mr Cummings to Boris Johnson and his senior staff sent in early May last year alleged there were no plans to use testing to suppress infections in hospitals and care homes.
It is the latest broadside in a campaign of criticism against the beleaguered Health and Social Care Secretary.
Last month, Mr Cummings told MPs that Mr Hancock should have been sacked "15 or 20 times" for the mistakes he made, and for allegedly "lying" about them to colleagues and to the public.
If an alleged text sent by Mr Johnson in March last year is to be believed, the Prime Minister thought his Health Secretary was "totally f—— hopeless".
As the man in charge of England’s health system when the pandemic struck, Mr Hancock has been accused of overseeing the disastrous discharge of Covid-positive hospital patients into care homes, mismanaging the supply of personal protective equipment, and the multi-billion pound failure of NHS Test and Trace.
It comes on top of allegations of a "chumocracy" in the Department of Health and Social Care after a lucrative contract to supply the Government with tens of millions of Covid test vials was awarded to a former neighbour of Mr Hancock’s who lacked experience producing medical supplies.
Gina Coladangelo was appointed as a non-executive director to the Department of Health and Social Care in September last year
He also committed a "technical" breach of the ministerial code by failing to declare that a firm run by his sister, in which he has a 20 per cent stake, had been awarded an NHS contract.
Mr Hancock’s survival in such a high-profile job to this point is all the more remarkable given his shaky foundations as a member of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet. He supported Remain in 2016 and rose through the ministerial ranks as an acolyte of George Osborne.
Breaking into the Cabinet in 2018 as Culture Secretary, one of Mr Hancock’s first acts was to launch the Matt Hancock app, sparking hilarity and derision in Westminster. Mr Hancock was undeterred.
Indeed, it set the template for a series of brazen publicity-seeking stunts, such as releasing a video of him playing cricket with staff in his office after England won the World Cup, or crying on live television at the start of the vaccine rollout.
Many assumed that his elevation in July 2019 to the job of Health Secretary would be short-lived once Mr Johnson entered Downing Street. Mr Hancock had stood against Mr Johnson in the leadership race of 2019, opposing the prorogation of Parliament to deliver Brexit.
However, he subsequently endorsed Mr Johnson’s candidacy, after winning just 20 votes in the first ballot, and clung on to his job.
Still believed by many to be living on borrowed time, Mr Hancock campaigned relentlessly during the general election of that winter, taking it upon himself to visit more constituencies than almost any other minister and duly saturating Twitter with videos of him doing so.
He has brought the same relentless, energetic visibility to the pandemic, seemingly never turning down an opportunity to go on television, however grim the situation.
This sheer durability and the eagerness to act as a punchbag for the media may partly explain why his stock in Government had risen since the grim days of last autumn, when the failures of Test and Trace were brutally exposed by the gathering second wave. That combined with the success of the vaccine rollout, with which he has been keen to associate himself.
Despite generating damaging headlines, Mr Cummings’s public vendetta against Mr Hancock had not been thought to immediately imperil the Health Secretary’s job because Mr Johnson would not want to be seen to hand his former guru a scalp.
However, the new pictures showing Mr Hancock in an amorous embrace with Gina Coladangelo have reignited accusations of a "chumocracy" in Government.
A friend since university, Ms Coladengelo was appointed as a non-executive director – a paid role – to the Department of Health and Social Care in September last year, having served as an unpaid adviser since March.
His refusal to resign despite admitting a breach of social distancing rules has provoked accusations of hypocrisy after Mr Hancock responded to last year’s scandal surrounding Professor Neil Ferguson by suggesting it was a matter for the police.
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