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Dominic Cummings slams ‘smoking ruin’ Health Department

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Dominic Cummings still sees himself at war with Whitehall’s inefficient bureaucracy

Boris Johnson’s controversial former chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, has blasted onto the centre stage of British politics again by harshly criticizing the Health Department’s performance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a blistering attack on the Health Department – and by extension Health Secretary Matt Hancock – Cummings likened it to a “smoking ruin” in terms of “procurement and PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]”.

Cummings was giving evidence to MPs on the Science and Technology Committee on the creation of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA).

ARIA – which is the brainchild of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – is expected to focus on “high-risk” and “high-reward” scientific research with a view to making “groundbreaking” discoveries.

The organization is expected to become fully operational in 2022.

Cummings – who was forced out of the heart of government last November due to his disruptive behavior – told MPs that Parliament needs to take an “urgent very, very hard look” at “what went wrong and why” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“One of the most obvious lessons is the incredible value potentially of getting science and technology stuff right, the disaster that can come if you don’t get it right”, Cummings added by referencing the potential utility of the soon-to-be-established ARIA.

From his interaction with MPs on Wednesday (March 17) it was readily apparent that Cummings still sees it as his life mission to reform Whitehall’s cumbersome bureaucracy beyond recognition.

Perhaps it is within that context that Cummings was keen to explain to the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee as to how he was hired in the first place by Prime Minister Johnson to manage the Brexit transition.

 “The Prime Minister came to speak to me the Sunday before he became Prime Minister and said: ‘Would I come in to Downing Street to try and help sort out the huge Brexit nightmare?”, Cummings said.

“I said, yes, if first of all you are deadly serious about actually getting Brexit done and avoiding a second referendum; secondly, double the science budget; third, create some ARIA like entity, and fourth support me in trying to change how Whitehall works and the Cabinet Office works because it is a disaster zone. And he said ‘deal'”, the former chief strategist claimed.

As the UK slowly emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, it remains to be seen if Johnson is tempted to bring Cummings back into the fold to manage the post-pandemic recovery across Whitehall.  

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