Case said Johnson 'cannot lead' on Covid and slammed 'weak' ministers and perm secs

“A weak team… cannot succeed in these circumstances,” said Case, who was "at the end of [his] tether" with PM
Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Cabinet secretary Simon Case believed Boris Johnson was not fit to lead the country through the pandemic, explosive evidence to the Covid Inquiry has shown.

Case, then permanent secretary at No.10, also regarded key ministers, permanent secretaries, No.10 and the Cabinet Office as a “weak team” surrounding the PM, WhatsApp messages to No.10 chief of staff Dominic Cummings and communications director Lee Cain reveal.

In a message on 26 August 2020 – while the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was running and two weeks after the latest easing of lockdown restrictions – Case said he was at the “end of my tether” with the then-prime minister.

“He changes strategic direction every day (Monday we were all about fear of the virus returning as per Europe, March, etc – today we were in ‘let it rip’ mode cos the UK is pathetic, needs a cold shower etc). He cannot lead and we cannot support him in leading with this approach,” he said.

“The team captain cannot change the call on the big plays every day.”

“A weak team… definitely cannot succeed in these [circumstances],” he said – listing health and education secretaries Matt Hancock and Gavin Williamson, NHS Test and Trace boss Dame Dido Harding, No.10, the Cabinet Office and permanent secretaries.

He added: “Gov’t isn’t actually that hard, but this guy [Johnson] is really making it impossible.”

Cummings replied: “Totally agree. Am already getting lots of despairing messages from people in meetings with him. And he’s careering around on WhatsApp as usual creating chaos and undermining everybody.”

The messages were submitted to the inquiry by Cummings. Also included were screenshots from a WhatsApp group between the former spad, Cain and Case. One showed Case agreeing with a message from Cummings that described discussions with ministers as “moronic”.

“They cannot understand priorities. They didn’t even understand what they were talking about for most of this meeting,” Cummings wrote on 8 September – days before the “rule of six” restricting gatherings came into force – to which Case responded: “Quite.”

The following day, after Johnson made a statement outlining the new "tough measures" to curb the spread of the virus, Case sent a message to the group that read: “Spectacular today – we want to open up the economy ASAP, forget the bloody virus."

Read the most recent articles written by Beckie Smith - Planning decision on York civil service hub imminent

Share this page