The Guardian

Cummings sets up new platform for more insider revelation­s

- PA Media

Dominic Cummings is planning to start a paid-for newsletter allowing subscriber­s to learn about his time inside Downing Street.

Boris Johnson’s former top aide has launched a profile on Substack, a platform for creating email newsletter­s on various topics.

In a post on the site Cummings said he would be giving out informatio­n on the coronaviru­s pandemic for free, as well as some details of his time at No 10 Downing Street. But revelation­s about “more recondite stuff on the media, Westminste­r, inside No 10, how did we get Brexit done in 2019, the 2019 election etc” would be available only to those who paid £10-a-month subscripti­on.

Subscriber­s would also be able to get “extra features” such as question and answer sessions. “Subscriber­s will find out first about new projects that I make public,” the post said. “Only subscriber­s can comment.”

He said he also intended to use the platform to campaign for answers about the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s handling of it. He confirmed the move on his Twitter account, urging campaigner­s pushing for an immediate Covid inquiry to get in touch as he would “help campaign for free”. Subscriber­s are being told they can pay £100 annually, £10 monthly, or £200 a year for “founding member” status.

Cummings has taken aim at Boris Johnson, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, and the government in general since he left Downing Street in 2020. But despite his attacks he has not provided written evidence regarding a number of serious Covidrelat­ed allegation­s he made last month before a committee of MPs. The committee’s co-chair, Greg Clark, said Cummings’s allegation­s should be “counted as unproven without [the evidence]”.

Hancock said yesterday the government had “operated better in the past six months”; Cummings resigned in November.

Matt Hancock insisted he never lied to the prime minister and defended himself against of allegation­s made by Dominic Cummings, ranging from care homes to testing and PPE, saying it was “telling” the former aide had not provided evidence.

At a parliament­ary hearing the health secretary barely mentioned Cummings by name but made veiled digs at his conduct in government.

During his evidence Hancock:

• denied there were national shortages of PPE, saying that, although there had been individual cases of difficulty, no area had run out of stocks;

• defended his 100,000 testing target, which Cummings said interfered with the system but which he said had worked;

• claimed all patients received the Covid treatment they needed, despite Cummings’ claim that the chief scientific adviser had said otherwise.

Hancock also defended the government’s actions before the November lockdown, a time when, according to Cummings, the prime minister was forcefully against another lockdown.

Hancock said the spread of the virus had been far more regional, compared with the initial wave. “Decisions are made through discussion. People have a tendency for one side of the argument or the other … but at the moment everybody is very aligned.”

Cummings had not provided written evidence for a number of serious allegation­s against Hancock and others, according to Greg Clark, cochair of a joint hearing of the health and social care and the science and technology select committees, who said the allegation­s should be “counted as unproven without it”.

and this will be corroborat­ed by lots of people in government, is that government has operated better over the past six months,” said Hancock, in reference to Cummings’ departure.

been a huge challenge but there was “never a national shortage”;

‘I regret that I didn’t overrule scientists and say we proceed on the basis there is asymptomat­ic transmissi­on’

Matt Hancock Health secretary

the government worked to remove bureaucrac­y so it could pay “at the top of the market” for equipment.

He also denied claims that he had assured Boris Johnson that all patients would be tested before they returned to care homes. “My job was to build that testing capacity and with the team we absolutely did,” he said.

He admitted community testing ended early in the pandemic because there had not been sufficient capacity and there were concerns over false negatives. “Testing was at no point scaled down, on the contrary we were driving up testing capacity all the way through,” he said. However, he was not advised in the run-up to the first lockdown whether expanding community testing was an option. “One of the reasons we had to reduce the use of community testing is because we didn’t have a big enough capacity and we had to target the testing at where it [was] clinically most needed. The clinical advice I received was that testing people asymptomat­ically would lead to false negatives.”

nal advice on testing for people discharged from hospitals into care homes at the start of the pandemic. It has been claimed the guidance that testing should occur was weakened following pressure from his department. The claims go to the core of why thousands of people were discharged without tests into care homes in March and April 2020.

Hancock said the only pledge made about testing people leaving hospitals for care homes was “we would introduce this testing when we had the capacity to do that”.

Previously he had claimed the government put a “protective ring” around care homes. But he told the committee: “I think the most important words in the sentence are ‘we tried to’. It was very hard.”

Asked about asymptomat­ic transmissi­on he said he was uneasy when he heard the limited evidence, so sought guidance from the World Health Organizati­on, which said the evidence from China was probably a “mistransla­tion”. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencie­s first noted evidence of asymptomat­ic transmissi­on on 28 January.

“I bitterly regret that I didn’t overrule that scientific advice at the start and say we should proceed on the basis that there is asymptomat­ic transmissi­on,” he said.

Hancock said he had questioned official advice that the British would not accept lockdowns or an intrusive test-and-trace system. “I was always of the view that people would go for it … because the motive was so important,” he said. Asked if he had told Boris Johnson that scientists could be blamed for the handling of the pandemic early in the crisis, he said: “I don’t think so.”

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