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Boris Johnson is a gaffe machine and clueless about policy, Cummings claims

By PA News

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Dominic Cummings appears to call the Prime Minister a “gaffe machine” in the latest of his sustained war of words with once long-standing ally Boris Johnson.

The former chief aide to the Prime Minister claimed that Tory officials did not put Mr Johnson up for an interview with broadcaster Andrew Neil during the 2019 general election because he was “clueless” on policy.

It comes after Mr Cummings published private messages between himself and Mr Johnson in which the Prime Minister twice described Health Secretary Matt Hancock as “hopeless”.

During the 2019 December election campaign, Mr Johnson dodged a one-on-one interview on the BBC with Mr Neil, who is now chairman of GB News.

The Conservative Party leader was accused of “running scared” from scrutiny by avoiding in-depth questioning from the veteran broadcaster, even though rival leaders had taken part.

Mr Cummings claims to reveal the strategy behind this in a Twitter rant against political pundits, writing: “Pundits: not doing ANeil ‘a huge campaign blunder’.

“Me: why the f*** wd be put a gaffe machine clueless about policy & government up to be grilled for ages, upside=0 for what?! This is not a hard decision.”

Asked about Mr Cummings’ latest remarks, a Downing Street spokesman said on Friday: “Of course that is not a characterisation that we would accept.

“But I’m not going to get into specific allegations.”

The former aide’s comments are the latest salvo in a bitter row between him, Mr Johnson and the Health Secretary, who Mr Cummings blames for many failings during the crisis.

Boris Johnson (right) with Dominic Cummings in 2019 (Victoria Jones/PA)
Boris Johnson (right) with Dominic Cummings in 2019 (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Johnson has insisted he has full confidence in Mr Hancock after his former aide used a blog post earlier this week to publish private text messages from the early stage of the pandemic.

“I have complete confidence in Matt and indeed all of the Government who have been dealing with Covid throughout the pandemic,” the Prime Minister told reporters on Friday.

“I think that when you look at the vaccine rollout that has been delivered by the NHS it is absolutely outstanding.”

Mr Cummings, who left Downing Street in November during a power struggle, used a blog post to accuse Mr Johnson of publicly supporting the “fiction” that he has been in agreement with Mr Hancock throughout the crisis.

The former chief aide argued the messages showed otherwise, as did moves by the Prime Minister to carve up some of the Health Secretary’s responsibilities and hand them to others.

Mr Cummings published one screenshot from WhatsApp in which the Prime Minister described Mr Hancock as “totally f****** hopeless” in an exchange about testing.

In another message about struggles to procure ventilators, Mr Johnson responded: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”

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