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LONDON, June 16 — Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser reignited a campaign of criticism of the government on Wednesday, publishing a smartphone exchange in which the prime minister branded Britain’s coronavirus testing programme “hopeless”.
Reuters could not independently verify whether the exchange was genuine. Johnson’s Downing Street office said it would not engage with every allegation made by Dominic Cummings, who left the office late last year.
In a new blog posting, Cummings intensified his criticism of both Johnson and health minister Matt Hancock over their handling of the pandemic, less than a month after accusing government of being responsible for thousands of avoidable Covid deaths.
In seven hours of questioning by a parliamentary committee, Cummings had said it was “crackers” that Johnson was prime minister and aired particular disdain for Hancock, accusing him of repeatedly lying in government meetings.
Hancock rejected the allegations and some in the Conservative Party say that Cummings has an axe to grind after being forced from his post.
In his posting today, Cummings said people should ask Johnson why he had kept Hancock in his position if he thought so little of him.
He posted screenshots of electronic conversations, which he said were with the prime minister, in which Johnson responded to Cummings’ complaints about the slow progress of Hancock’s efforts with the words “Totally (blanked expletive) hopeless”.
Johnson’s spokesman said he had not asked the prime minister directly about the new allegations, and declined to comment on the authenticity of the exchange.
“I don’t plan to engage with every allegation made. The prime minister has set out that we will hold a public inquiry next year, the health secretary has given hours of evidence to the parliamentary committee and I have taken a number of questions on this issue previously,” he told reporters.
“Our focus is on recovering from the pandemic, moving through the road map, distributing vaccines and delivering on the public’s priorities.” — Reuters
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