Boris Johnson was so weak that Dominic Cummings was Prime Minister “in all but name”, the Covid Inquiry heard.
Sajid Javid warned that Downing Street became “toxic”, “dysfunctional” and “feral” during his time in power. It came as No10 yesterday repeatedly refused to deny claims that Rishi Sunak believed the Government should “just let people die” during the pandemic.
Mr Javid resigned as Chancellor in February 2020 after he was told to sack all of his advisers following clashes with Mr Cummings. He later returned as Health Secretary in June 2021 when Matt Hancock was forced to quit for breaking lockdown guidance.
Giving evidence at the Covid Inquiry, Mr Javid said Mr Cummings gained power as Mr Johnson appointed an “inexperienced” Cabinet with ministers chosen solely to support him in delivering Brexit. "Many times I felt like many of the key decisions were being made by Mr Cummings and not the Prime Minister in a way that I had not seen with any other Prime Minister.
"That is something I had to work with," he added. Mr Javid told the Inquiry that the senior No10 aide had "sought to act as a Prime Minister" and that he’d warned Mr Johnson he was "running rings around him".
The Covid Inquiry was shown more bombshell extracts from the diaries of Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. In one it was claimed Mr Johnson said wearing masks was “b*****ks” as he argued the UK must learn to “die” with coronavirus.
In an entry from Sir Patrick’s diaries, the top scientist recalled a meeting with ministers in July 2021. After Mr Javid said the country would have to learn to live with the virus, Mr Johnson reportedly quipped "and die with it".
The PM then ranted about wearing masks, apparently telling colleagues: "Are we going to encourage people to wear masks? Are we going to continue with this "b*****ks?" Mr Johnson then said he didn't want to keep consulting trade unions, as people just needed to come back to work. Mr Javid suggested Mr Johnson often said things to "lighten the mood".
The Covid Inquiry last week was shown an entry from Sir Patrick’s diary when he recorded that Mr Cummings had told a meeting in October 2020: "Rishi Sunak thinks just let people die and that’s okay”.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Sunak said he had not said those words himself, but did not dispute that is what he thought. The Prime Minister's spokesman also did not deny this was his view.
"He will set out his full evidence for the inquiry when they request it of him," the spokesman said. Pushed on whether that was Mr Sunak's view, even if he did not say the words, the spokesman said: "I am limited in what I can say but obviously the PM has clearly set out his position, you will hear from him in detail when he gives evidence."
Former Deputy PM Dominic Raab, who also gave evidence, admitted that he went on a skiing holiday with his family in the February half term in 2020, even after Covid had arrived in the UK. When Mr Johnson became ill, he said he was given five minutes notice that he was having to take charge.
Mr Hancock is due to appear at the Inquiry on Thursday. Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic last night demanded that he come clean about mistakes made.