ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan explores how damaging Dominic Cummings' WhatsApp messages with the PM could be for the government
In a blog post exceeding 7,000 words, Mr Cummings shares messages between himself and a contact purporting to be the prime minister.
Downing Street did not dispute the authenticity of the messages, or most of the claims made by Mr Johnson's former chief aide, but insisted the Prime Minister has full confidence in Mr Hancock.
Mr Cummings claimed in the post "No10/Hancock have repeatedly lied about the failures last year" and are trying to "rewrite history".
Watch ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan's analysis of the blog post.
In one message from March 27 2020, the contact appearing to be Mr Johnson says the handling of testing was "totally f*****g hopeless", in another he says "it's Hancock. He has been hopeless".
A further message suggests Mr Johnson called the handling of PPE "a disaster" and considered removing health secretary Mr Hancock from some of his responsibilities and replacing him with Michael Gove.
The message reads: "I can't think of anything except taking Hancock off and putting Gove on."
What did Mr Cummings say in the blog:
He claimed Number 10 and Mr Hancock are trying to "rewrite history" over their handling of the pandemic and said the Health Secretary was "creating a new version of reality"
He said Number 10 "cannot be trusted now either on covid or any other crucial issue of war and peace"
Cummings wrote "it is urgent for public safety" that Mr Hancock is removed from his position
He said in the prime minister's meetings, Mr Johnson would avoid "embarrassing" issues and say "let’s take it offline" and then would shout "forward to victory" before "doing a thumbs-up and pegging it out of the room before anybody can disagree"
"A public inquiry cannot fix this" Mr Cummings argues saying it will take too long to have any real impact
Cummings claims Mr Johnson wants to leave his post "at the latest a couple of years after the next election"
Mr Cummings apparently missed three calls on WhatsApp from the PM who was trying to tell his chief aide he had Covid - they spoke minutes later
Mr Cummings also listed a number of questions to ask the prime minister, including:
How many more people died as a result of your failure to remove the Health Secretary?
Why is No10 lying, including to Parliament, about the fact that the original plan was ‘herd immunity by September’ and had to be abandoned?
When did Patrick Vallance brief you on NHS data showing that the death rate at the first April peak was much higher than before/after the peak and do you now agree with Hancock that every patient got the treatment they needed?
Do you now agree with Hancock that there was no shortage of PPE or do you agree with yourself in April 2020 that PPE supply was ‘a disaster’ that required moving Hancock?
When will the Mr Hancock come to the House and correct his many false statements to MPs?
Mr Cummings, who left Downing Street in November during a bitter power struggle in No 10, has targeted much of his criticism since leaving at the health secretary.
In a hearing before the joint Science and Technology committee last month, he said he had told the prime minister to fire Mr Hancock on multiple occasions.
The messages are Mr Cummings' first attempt to publish supporting evidence since his select committee appearance where he accused the Health Secretary of lying, failing on care homes and "criminal, disgraceful behaviour" on testing.
Mr Hancock has denied the Brexit campaigner's allegations and said last week it was "telling" that he was yet to provide the joint Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee with written evidence.
When asked by reporters on Wednesday whether he was "hopeless", Mr Hancock replied "I don't know."
Sources close to Mr Hancock told ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan: "Mr Cummings's claims remain unsubstantiated and he has still failed to provide evidence."
No 10 insisted Mr Johnson still has full confidence in the Health Secretary, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman simply replying "yes" when asked during a Westminster briefing.
The spokesman did not deny the WhatsApp exchanges are genuine when asked by journalists and instead said: "Our focus is not examining those specific images but delivering on the public's priorities.
"I don't plan to get into the detail of what's been published."
Asked if the Prime Minister called Mr Hancock hopeless, the spokesman said: "I'm not planning to engage with every allegation put forward, the Prime Minister worked very closely with the health and care secretary throughout and continues to do so."
Mr Cummings published the bombshell less than half an hour before Prime Minister's Questions began, and Mr Johnson did not respond when asked in the Commons.