Unfit for office? 'I make no comment' on Dominic Cummings' claims, Boris Johnson says

Did tens of thousands of people die unnecessarily because of your action or inaction? 'No, I don't think so,' Boris Johnson answers

Boris Johnson has refused to comment on his former aide Dominic Cumming's damning claims that he was "unfit for the job".

Asked if Mr Cummings' told the truth during a seven-hour grilling by MPs during which he accused the prime minister of being unfit for the job, Mr Johnson said: "I make no comment on that."

Speaking for the first time since Mr Cummings gave evidence to MPs on Wednesday, Mr Johnson was asked whether it was true, as the former aide claims, said he would rather see “bodies pile high” than order a third lockdown.

Mr Johnson replied: “I have already made my position very clear on that point."

"I make no comment on that" - Boris Johnson on whether Dominic Cummings was telling the truth

Mr Johnson has previously denied making the comment, which Mr Cummings told MPs he heard from the Prime Minister in his Downing Street study.

Responding to Mr Cummings’ claims about it being “nonsense” to say care homes were shielded, Mr Johnson said: “We did everything we could to protect the NHS and to protect care homes as well."

But the prime minister did not answer when he was asked whether he has confidence in health secretary Matt Hancock who was subject to the worst of Mr Cummings' criticisms.

One of Mr Cummings' central claims was that Mr Hancock had allowed residents to be discharged to their care home without being tested while insisted there was testing in place, a charge the health secretary did not deny during an Urgent Question in the Commons on Thursday.

"We did everything we could to protect the NHS," Boris Johnson says as he dodges the question as to whether Matt Hancock is "the best man for the job".

“We put £1.4 billion extra into infection control within care homes, we established a care homes action plan, I remember very clearly, to ensure that we tried to stop infection between care homes," Mr Johnson said.

“We remain very vigilant.

"What happened in care homes was tragic but we did everything we could to protect the NHS to minimise transmission."

"Some of the commentary I heard doesn't bear relation to reality"

During a seven-hour evidence session to MPs on Wednesday, Mr Cummings claimed his former boss, the Prime Minister, is “unfit” to lead and his Government’s failures had led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

In response Mr Johnson said "some of the commentary I've heard doesn't bear any relation to reality".

"I don’t see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the roadmap."

Asked whether the rise in the Indian variant Johnson said he did not "see anything currently in the data” to divert from the June 21 target for the next stage of exiting lockdown but “we may need to wait” for more data.

The prime minister told reporters: “As I have said many times I don’t see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map.

“But we may need to wait.

“Don’t forget the important point about the intervals between the steps of the road map, we put that five weeks between those steps to give us time to see what effect the unlockings are having.”

Asked if Mr Johnson regretted hiring Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is a matter of fact that the Prime Minister took on Dominic Cummings into that role, into a senior role in No 10.”

Downing Street denied Mr Johnson was “obsessed with the media”, as claimed by Mr Cummings.

Asked whether the PM’s fiancee Carrie Symonds had tried to fill jobs with her friends, another accusation made by Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “All appointments made in No 10 are done in the normal way, that’s always been the case.”

Responding to Mr Cummings’ assessment of the Prime Minister as unfit for the job, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I don’t think the Prime Minister has made good decisions in this pandemic.

“I was very concerned about the repeated mistakes from the first wave into the second wave, and in particular the slowness to lock down in the autumn, and I think the Prime Minister got that completely wrong.

“There are consequences and this is what all these allegations are about and that’s why the inquiry needs to be fast-forwarded, and we can’t have this drip, drip, drip of allegations, and we need to get to the bottom of it.”