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Britain’s top civil servant says government looks like ‘tragic joke’ during pandemic | Civil service


The UK’s most senior civil servant, Simon Case, described the government as being like a “terrible and tragic joke” in its handling of the Covid pandemic in expletive-laden WhatsApp messages passed to the Covid inquiry.

The messages – which are likely to raise questions about Case’s professionalism – also lamented that Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie appears to be “the real person in charge” at Downing Street.

Case, who had been permanent secretary at 10 Downing Street and appointed head of the civil service in September 2020, expressed frustration with the government’s handling of the pandemic, writing in a message: “I’m not sure I can deal “.

In messages read to the inquiry on Friday, Case said: “The government does not have the credibility to impose things just days after deciding not to (sic). We look like a terrible, tragic joke. If we were going hard, this decision was necessary weeks ago. I can’t deal with this, I can’t deal with this.

Lee Cain, who was Johnson’s communications director until November 2020, said Carrie “doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

The messages appeared on screen during today’s session of the inquiry which focuses on the UK’s decision-making and political governance. They are believed to be from October 14, 2020.

A letter from Dominic Cummings contained an email dated July 13, 2020 about “issues with the implementation of No 10/CabOff (Cabinet Office) which are relevant to the investigation”.

He said this was copied to the Prime Minister “but he never seriously engaged”.

Case wrote: “I’m not sure I can cope with today. I might just go home. Matt just called, after speaking to the PM. According to Matt (so aim far, obviously), the Prime Minister has asked Matt to draw up regional circuit breakers for the North (according to Northern Ireland) today – and provide recommendations. I will scream… “

Cain asked, “What are we talking about? »

To which Case replied, “Whatever Carrie’s interested in, I guess.”

“I was always told that Dom (Dominic Cummings) was the secret prime minister. How wrong they are. I can’t wait to tell Select Cttee tomorrow – ‘oh, hell no, don’t worry about Dom, the real person responsible is Carrie,'” Case added.

Witness to the inquiry, Alex Thomas, formerly of the Cabinet Office and now of the Institute for Government, described some of the comments in the messages as “unfortunate”.

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“It is clear to me that the consistency of the decision-making process was something that could be criticized and concerned about,” he said. “They are not comfortable to read. If you are a victim or relative of someone who suffered or died from Covid, this is terrible to read. This should be called regrettable.

Professor Chris Brightling and Dr Rachael Evans, both experts on long Covid, also gave evidence to the inquest which included members of various long Covid support groups.

In notes that appeared on the investigation screen, Johnson scribbled “bullshit” on one and another said: “Do we really believe in long Covid.” Why can’t we cover it more. I bet it’s totally Gulf War syndrome.

Brightling said: “I am both deeply saddened and extremely angry. I’m not even sure what he means: bullshit for science or bullshit for patients?

Evans said of Johnson’s comments: “It’s just another amazing thing. It’s shocking and more than disappointing. We have people here who are going through this absolutely dreadful disease and to see that your own Prime Minister wrote something like this…”

The investigation continues.



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