Ms Bond – a correspondent writes

A correspondent writes:

We could not have views more diametrically opposed than Owl’s and Paul S’s on the subject of the political affiliation of long-distance EDDC councillor Susie Bond.  I am firmly in the Owl camp.

Ms Bond was elected around the time of the Graham Brown scandal, at a time when calling yourself a Tory would have been a vote loser.  It made sense to be an independent.  Especially as she was identifying strongly with her ward and its appalling flooding problems.

However, as time went on, it was obvious that Ms Bond was closer in political terms to Tories than other Independents. This is fair enough – independents are on a spectrum just as party councillors are.  She made it quite clear that she did not feel close to other independent councillors (particularly East Devon Alliance) – always being careful to distance herself from them when it was needed – again, fair enough. But indicative of her lack of identification with other independents.

After the rout of Tories in the last election however, she joined the caucus around Ben Ingham.  Yes, other independents did too, but most of them saw the (blue) light quite quickly and abandoned his cabinet and sought to distance themselves from him – I do not recall Ms Bond doing this or criticising his increasing identification with Tories (of which he is one again after being Independent then East Devon Alliance (Leader) , then Independent again).

Note, too, that, as she says, she did not vote for Andrew Moulding (Con) bit DID vote for another Conservative councillor, not an Independent.

As for councillors not living in their constituency – true the pandemic made it impossible to hold a by-election for some of the time but one has to say that not living in the ward means she has had no ear to the ground in what goes on there – it was perhaps disingenuous to say nothing about her move until quite recently, and travelling from Berkshire for one physical meeting where she  supported Tories.

I think Ms Bond did right by her community on many hyper-local issues -but on non-local issues she showed a different side.

UK house prices rose six times more than nurses’ pay over last decade, Royal College of Nurses warns

A union is demanding a 12.5 per cent pay rise for NHS nurses after finding the increase in average house prices over the last decade had been six times that of an experienced practitioner’s pay.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) accused the government of perpetuating an injustice against nurses and said it should instead “tip the scales” in their favour. A planned 1 per cent basic pay hike was not enough, the union said.

The RCN cited analysis by the consultants London Economics, which found the total pay of a nurse in the NHS’s band five with seven years’ experience had risen only 9 per cent since 2011, from £32,440 to £35,340. Meanwhile, average house prices had gone up 55 per cent, from £165,600 to £256,400.

Total pay includes overtime, unsociable hours and on-call pay.

Experienced healthcare assistants and practitioners in lower bands – three and four – saw their pay rise by 12 and 9 per cent respectively over the decade, well below the increase in retail price index inflation, which was 31 per cent.

Graham Revie, chair of the RCN’s trade union committee, said: “The government needs to tip the scales in nursing’s favour to stop this injustice.

“The proposed 1 per cent pay rise won’t come close to remedying the suppression of nursing salaries over the past 10 years. It is officially a pay cut now that inflation has risen above 1 per cent as expected.”

And the union’s acting general secretary, Pat Cullen, added: “The impact of nursing staff being priced out of the neighbourhoods where they work is devastating not just for them but their patients and patients’ families.

“Communities in which nursing staff can’t afford to live are communities at risk of poor health and patient care.”

All UK nursing staff should get a 12.5 per cent pay rise, the union insisted.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care and the Treasury for comment.

Ministers have faced widespread criticism for their decision to implement only a 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff, having spent more than a year expressing their thanks and admiration for health workers’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus crisis.

In March, more than 250,000 NHS employees reported having been made ill by work-related stress during the pandemic, while one in five said they had considered leaving the service.

NHS bands – what do they mean?

Here’s what duties the RCN says these staff can expect to perform

  • A band three healthcare assistant may have an important role in the accident and emergency department or the operating theatre
  • A band four assistant practitioner’s job can involve administering catheters and managing wounds
  • Most nurses are in band five, and their seniority is on the level of administrators who run GP practices, according to the NHS website. They may work in intensive care, mental health or another area, and can be responsible for monitoring patients and administering medicine

Meanwhile, one of the country’s biggest unions is warning that health workers employed by private companies may miss out on that 1 per cent rise promised by ministers to NHS staff.

Unison said in a statement: “Unison is calling on all private companies running health service contracts to pledge at least to match any government pay rise for workers directly employed by the NHS.

“Ministers should also increase funding to trusts to end the growing gap between the salaries of NHS staff and colleagues employed by private firms. Unison wants NHS trusts and boards to grant new contracts only to companies that pledge to equal health service pay rates.”

Outsourcing giants “must also improve sick pay, overtime payments and annual leave allocation in line with NHS terms and conditions”, the union said.

Sidmouth’s notorious crumbling cliffs crash down yet again

Sidmouth’s notorious crumbling cliffs have once again been pictured crashing into the sea.

Chloe Parkman

The town’s red cliffs are well-known for tumbling onto the ground below with the coastguard issuing a number of warnings to the public, urging them to avoid the area.

The most recent cliff fall took place yesterday (June 16) at around 4pm and was captured by Daryl Dudley Photography.

Daryl says he did not hear any sound prior to the landslide as he was stood quite a distance away, but he spotted the rest dust cloud shortly after it happened.

In the last three weeks, there have been at least four cliff collapses in the East Devon town, all of which on land which is owned and managed by the District Council.

The spate of recent falls prompted Beer Coastguard team to issue a warning to the public.

They posted: “Another cliff fall just happened to the East of the last one between Sidmouth and Salcombe Regis.

“Stay away from the cliffs, DO NOT go on the beach below Salcombe hill.”

Last week, DevonLive reported that no immediate work will be carried out on Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs which have seen a spate of collapses in recent weeks.

Cliff falls in Sidmouth (Image: Daryl Dudley Photography.)

While long term work on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan scheme, which aims to reduce the rate of erosion, is being carried out, the cabinet recently voted to pause the current working option to review other possible options now that the scheme is eligible for more government funding.

A spokesman for East Devon District Council (EDDC) said that the risk of cliff falls is well signed in this area, so members of the public should adhere to warnings to stay well clear of the cliffs and not access East Beach as it is closed for safety reasons, but that no immediate work was planned to address the recent cliff falls.

They added: “The locations of the recent cliff falls at East Beach/Pennington Point are outside land owned and managed by East Devon District Council.

“The risk of cliff falls is well signed in this area, so members of the public should adhere to warnings to stay well clear of the cliffs and not access East Beach as it is closed for safety reasons.

“Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although heavy rainfall can trigger incidences.

“We recommend that people enjoy East Devon cliffs from a distance and do not climb or sit directly beneath them. Please always follow the warning signs.

“Work on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) scheme continues. It aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth beach and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs east of the town (and therefore the rate of exposure of the east side of Sidmouth to coastal conditions).

“The EDDC Cabinet recently voted to pause the current working option to review other possible options now that the scheme is eligible for more government funding.

“A sub group is currently reviewing the scope for this and will report back at the next BMP advisory group in July.

“A temporary rock revetment on East Beach and planning permission for this will be explored if the new scheme means a delay to work starting.”

Simon Jupp’s pub crawl prompts a question

Simon Jupp is lobbying hard for the hospitality sector. But wasn’t last year’s “Eat out to help out” campaign thought to have been a significant factor in fuelling the second wave? – Owl

Photo of Simon JuppSimon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

East Devon is back open for business, but step into any pub, café, hotel or restaurant and it is clear that it is struggling with the impact of social distancing. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that social distancing in hospitality must go next month to give these businesses a fighting chance of survival?

Photo of Steve BarclaySteve Barclay The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the review of social distancing that the Government are committed to undertaking, and that will obviously shape the approach. We have said that we will have a review, and we are very committed to that. The future beyond step 4 will therefore need to be taken in the round, shaped by the data in that review.

Anyone spotted our mystery man on his mission: as we head towards summer and hopefully some more fine weather, I plan to visit as many pubs as possible in the patch.?

300 ‘hippy crack’ canisters found near family beach – Exmouth

After experiencing a stint of warm weather across the county over the last few days, many of us have flocked to our local beauty spots in order to take advantage of the glorious sunshine.

Chloe Parkman

Beaches and parks have been packed out across Devon with people settling down for picnics and barbecues.

However, it appears that after their outing, some groups have left decided to leave a little more than just their footprints in the sand.

On Saturday, June 12, one Exmouth resident – who wishes to remain anonymous – discovered mounds of litter left by louts on the Maer including 300 hippy crack canisters.

The anonymous litter picker says that the waste was likely a result of a ‘party’ the group had the night before.

The rubbish pile was a mixture of plastic bottles, glass bottles and empty cardboard boxes as well as the canisters.

And it’s not the first time these silver bullet-like canisters have been spotted strewn across parks and public spaces in Devon.

Last year, Devon Live reported that these Nitrous Oxide canisters or what is more commonly referred to as “nos”, ”hippy crack” or “laughing gas” was increasingly prevalent throughout lockdown.

Although they may look harmless, they are the evidence of a drug-craze that frequently sweeps the country in the sunny months.

Mounds of rubbish found on the Maer in Exmouth (Image: Anonymous)

The drug is sold cheaply online making it easily accessible. It is often sold supposedly to make soda or whipped cream.

In 2015 Devon and Cornwall Police issued a warning to youngsters about the dangers of inhaling the gas after finding cannisters littered around a Devon town.

Police said some people have been taking to the gas for a “cheap and quick high, starving the brain of oxygen.”

A spokesperson for the police said at the time: “We have noticed an increase in used Nitrous Oxide canisters scattered around the town.

“They can cause instantaneous death through cardiac arrest or other life threatening conditions. Fainting, dizziness and a decrease in mental performance are minor side effects but the risk of ongoing health issues is well documented.”

Lib Dems win Chesham and Amersham byelection in stunning upset

Is this another Orpington moment as the Liberal Democrats take the safest of safe Conservative seats?

The constituency of Chesham and Amersham has been Tory ever since it was formed in 1974. A conservative majority of 16,223 has been swept away and replaced by a Lib Dem majority of 8,028.

Owl thinks this is a vote of no confidence in the Tory planning reforms.

Heather Stewart 

The Liberal Democrats have pulled off an extraordinary victory in the Buckinghamshire constituency of Chesham and Amersham, taking the formerly safe seat from the Tories in a byelection.

In a shock result, Lib Dem Sarah Green secured 21,517 votes, leaving the Conservative Peter Fleet trailing with 13,489, and giving the Lib Dems a majority of 8,028.

The contest was called after the death of the local MP Cheryl Gillan, who had represented the constituency since 1992 and held it in 2019 with a majority of 16,223.

Ed Davey’s party will hope the surprise win shows that a swath of seats across the home counties could now be within their grasp at the next general election.

Davey said his party secured a huge swing of 25 points to win Chesham and Amersham, claiming: “The Tory ‘blue wall’ is beginning to crumble … This is a huge victory for the Liberal Democrats. The people of Chesham and Amersham have sent a shockwave through British politics.

“We were told it was impossible for any party to beat the Tories here in Buckinghamshire. We were told this seat was too safe and the Tories too strong. This Liberal Democrat win has proved them utterly wrong.”

Green said she was “humbled by the faith you have placed in me” and promised she would hold the government to account.

“This Conservative party has taken people across the country for granted for far too long,” she said.

Senior Conservative figures including party co-chair Amanda Milling had poured into Chesham and Amersham to canvass in recent days, determined to show that the “blue wall” across the home counties remains intact.

Boris Johnson also made a visit to the area to back Fleet earlier this month, telling local paper the Bucks Free Press (BFP): “I think he’s a superb candidate, he’s a local man, he’s lived here for a while and has a long career in business. He has a huge amount to offer parliament and the constituents.”

The prime minister highlighted hopes of turning the nearby Chilterns into a national park, and ensuring that development takes place on brownfield land, not the green belt. And he claimed that if Fleet won, he would be the tallest Tory MP. The BFP said the MP, who towered over Johnson as they toured the streets, was “around 6ft 9in”.

The result will alarm Tory strategists at Conservative HQ. Johnson has made significant gains in former Labour-held areas in the Midlands and the north-east, including snatching the Hartlepool seat from Keir Starmer’s party last month in a rare gain for a governing party in a byelection.

But he also needs to avoid alienating his party’s more traditional supporters.

Some home counties Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, who represents Maidenhead, and Damian Green, whose seat is Ashford, in Kent, have recently been highly critical of Conservative policies, including Johnson’s planning reforms and his cuts to overseas aid.

The Lib Dems appear to have succeeded in picking off disenchanted Conservative voters in Thursday’s byelection, and Davey will hope it marks the beginning of a renaissance for his party after a very disappointing performance in the 2019 general election.

At last month’s local elections, the Lib Dems took control of Amersham town council.

Lib Dem activists on the ground had insisted the race for the seat looked “neck and neck”, with former Tory voters on the doorsteps complaining they felt neglected by the governing party.

The Lib Dems said the government’s proposed planning reforms had also featured heavily in the campaign.

Turnout in the byelection was just over 52%. Green candidate Carolyne Culver got 1,480 votes, with Labour’s Natasa Pantelic receiving 622.

Devon has 37 confirmed Covid-19 clusters in latest data

(Owl hopes Simon Jupp keeps testing himself before he goes on his well publicised pub crawl)

Chloe Parkman

According to the latest figures, there are currently 37 coronavirus clusters across Devon, with one area of the county containing more cases than any other.

Figures released by the Government on June 16, relating to positive coronavirus cases between June 5 and June 11, show that Exeter has nine areas reporting a cluster.

A cluster is when more than two positive coronavirus cases are recorded in the same seven-day-period in one area.

Central Exeter has the highest case rate across the city, which is divided into 15 Middle Layer Super Output Areas [MSOA], with 15 cases recorded between June 5 and 11, with a rate of 124.1 cases per 100,000 people.

The figures released today (June 16) show Exeter recorded two new clusters, along with one in West Devon, one in Torbay and two in Plymouth.

The MSOA areas which currently contain the most cases in Devon are Exeter Central with 15 cases, Pennsylvania and University with 12 cases and Teignmouth South with 6 cases.

The Government’s coronavirus cluster map splits the country into areas of roughly 7,500 people, based on the 2011 census, known as Middle Super Output Areas (MSOAs).

The map highlights areas where three or more coronavirus cases have been reported for a week period, with the numbers coming off of the map a week after being confirmed positive.

Areas not highlighted do not necessarily have no coronavirus cases in them, as the data does not highlight or count areas with less than three cases in order to protect individuals privacy – meaning that if an area has one or two cases, it will display as 0 to 2 cases.

Below we take a look at the current coronavirus clusters across Devon: New Positives 05-June to 11-June

Note: The figure on the left is how many Covid cases there currently are in the area and the figure in () is how many Covid cases there were in the area yesterday.

Areas in Devon that are not listed below are not currently showing a cluster, but could have up to two positive cases in the seven-day-period.

Exeter / East Devon

East Devon Honiton South & West 3 (0)

Exeter Pennsylvania & University 12 (10)

Exeter Mincinglake & Beacon Heath 4 (4)

Exeter St James’s Park & Hoopern 5 (4)

Exeter Heavitree West & Polsloe 3 (4)

Exeter Heavitree East & Whipton South 5 (4)

Exeter Central Exeter 15 (11)

Exeter St Leonard’s 4 (4)

Exeter St Thomas East 3 (0)

Exeter Middlemoor & Sowton 4 (3)

Mid Devon

Mid Devon Bampton, Holcombe & Westleigh 4 (3)

Mid Devon Cullompton 5 (3)

Mid Devon Crediton 3 (3)

North Devon

North Devon Woolacombe, Georgeham & Croyde 3 (3)

North Devon South Molton 4 (3)

South Hams

South Hams Kingsbridge 4 (4)


Teignbridge Tedburn, Shillingford & Higher Ashton 3 (3)

Teignbridge Teignmouth South 6 (6)

West Devon

West Devon Okehampton 5(5)

West Devon Lifton, Lamerton & Bridestowe 3 (0)

West Devon Tavistock 3 (3)


Torbay Brixham Town 3 (0)


Plymouth Glenholt & Widewell 6 (4)

Plymouth Higher Compton & Eggbuckland 5 (5)

Plymouth North Prospect 3 (3)

Plymouth Keyham 5 (4)

Plymouth Plympton St Mary 3 (3)

Plymouth Plympton Underwood 3 (0)

Plymouth Ford & Blockhouse Park 3 (3)

Plymouth Efford, Laira & Crabtree 4 (3)

Plymouth Plympton St Maurice 3 (3)

Plymouth Mutley 6 (6)

Plymouth Lipson 4 (4)

Plymouth City Centre, Barbican & Sutton Harbour 4 (4)

Plymouth Cattedown & Prince Rock 3 (0)

Plymouth Millbay & Stonehouse 5 (6)

Plymouth Plymstock Hooe & Oreston 3 (3)

After the Great South West economic plan – Simon Jupp launches his vision.

“I’d encourage anyone currently looking for work to take advantage of the opportunities available. Everyone else can do their bit by visiting their local pubs, restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels and supporting them by enjoying a drink or a meal.”

(With scary photo)

No mention of the hospitality industry being seasonal and poorly paid. An example of “I’m all right Jack”? – Owl

Banging the drum for hospitality in East Devon is such an important thing to do

Simon Jupp

I have always enjoyed the comforting surroundings of a traditional British boozer. The ambiance, the local chatter, the chance to catch up with friends over a pint and a decent plate of homecooked food. Our pubs are something to be proud of and must be protected.

The hospitality sector has faced almighty challenges over the last year or so. Pubs, bars, cafés, hotels and restaurants have all endured a rollercoaster of a ride as restrictions were put in place to tackle the pandemic.

Venues across East Devon have shown flexibility, ingenuity, and vigour in adapting to the temporary rules to ensure a safe and secure experience for us all.

We have a part to play too. We should be patient when it comes to table service and to understand that staff are doing the best they can to take and deliver orders in good time.

MPs Neil Parish and Simon Jupp at The Greyhound Country Inn at Fenny Bridges.

MPs Neil Parish and Simon Jupp at The Greyhound Country Inn at Fenny Bridges.

Being asked to use your smartphone to register being in a venue or reminded to use a face covering when moving around might annoy some customers, but the staff are simply doing what is being asked of them until the restrictions are removed. Sadly, as we learnt earlier this week, these rules will be in place for a few more weeks.

I have spoken to several owners and managers in the hospitality sector locally and I know finding staff is becoming another challenge that needs to be overcome.

Next time you are out in your part of Devon, look at the recruitment signs on display outside pubs and restaurants seeking staff. Local online websites are also carrying adverts from businesses looking to hire people. It’s not until you start looking that you see the demand is quickly growing.

Hospitality is the backbone of East Devon. Its prominence and contribution to the local economy is vital. I sometimes feel that we do not properly acknowledge the importance of this sector in terms of how staff are viewed or valued. By this, I don’t necessarily mean by their employers, but by us as customers.

In countries such as France or Spain, working as serving staff or behind a bar is viewed as a lifelong vocation. Sadly, I think some people in the UK wrongly view such jobs as simply menial or a stopgap. They simply aren’t. A lifelong rewarding career is possible. We need to change the perception and recognise how hospitality staff are not only necessary to have a vibrant and successful local economy, but also act as ambassadors for East Devon whenever they interactive with a customer or a tourist.

My door is always open to any business in the constituency that requires support or assistance. I am keen to hear of any ideas of how we can beat the challenge of finding and retaining staff in the hospitality sector.

As we head towards summer and hopefully some more fine weather, I plan to visit as many pubs as possible in the patch. I will also be launching a dedicated website featuring all the pubs in East Devon which I hope will allow you to discover a gem or two that you currently may not be aware of.

I am committed to doing what I can to support any hospitality venue or business of any nature in my constituency as I’m acutely aware many financial support schemes taper off soon. If you would like to speak with me or organise a visit, please make contact via my website

Banging the drum for hospitality in East Devon is such an important thing to do. I’d encourage anyone currently looking for work to take advantage of the opportunities available. Everyone else can do their bit by visiting their local pubs, restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels and supporting them by enjoying a drink or a meal.

We have some of the best hospitality businesses in the country, so let’s come together and give them a helping hand when they need it most.

Dominic Cummings: key claims in his latest attack on government

Bruising and deliciously embarrassing, but does this amount to a “smoking gun”?

The big question is why Boris (and Michael Gove before that) hired him in the first place – Owl

Jessica Elgot

Dominic Cummings has delivered yet more incendiary claims – backed up with some new evidence – in an attempt to tackle what he says is an “Orwellian” rewriting of history by the government about mistakes made during the Covid pandemic.

In a more than 7,000-word essay published on the online platform Substack, he made a series of allegations under the broad headline: “The PM on Hancock: ‘totally fucking hopeless’”.

Just as he did during his testimony to MPs three weeks ago, Cummings repeatedly accused the health secretary of talking nonsense, being slippery and blaming others for his own mistakes – claims the health secretary has strenuously denied.

Cummings’s key claims included:

Lockdown modelling: late and chaotic

Cummings published three key Cobra documents from meetings in early March which he said showed the government intended to pursue a herd immunity strategy by September.

The first document said the government “seeks to avoid” a high second peak of the virus in the autumn when the NHS would be overstretched and that that would be exacerbated by “very stringent social and behavioural interventions like China” because the virus would surge after lockdown ended.

The second document showed the interventions the government were considering and its effect on intensive care unit capacity. It reveals the most stringent intervention that was modelled was case isolation and social distancing for over-70s. It did not show any modelling for a full “stay at home” lockdown.

A final document suggested there would be 250,000 dead after the “optimal single peak strategy”, with herd immunity by September.

Cummings also published “whiteboard” plans shown to the PM urging a shift to a lockdown strategy on 14 March, as well as mass testing and increasing NHS capacity. Cummings insisted this was the first time a lockdown scenario had been modelled.

He said both Hancock and the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had wanted to delay the introduction of quarantining those with symptoms because a helpline was not ready and were overruled. “Both of them have misled the public about this,” he said.

Hancock told MPs that a plan for suppression had been published on 3 March – the contain-delay-mitigate strategy, a document Cummings called “embarrassingly awful”.

Testing: ‘Hancock “hopeless”, but PM does nothing’

In his blogpost, Cummings said Hancock’s select committee hearing had “muddied the waters” about the goal – suggesting he had opposed it – and disclosed text messages to prove he had pushed to ramp up testing. “I was pushing the system on testing weeks before Hancock’s announcement and to build a system for 1m per day,” he said.

What he had opposed, he said, was the “chaos” where Hancock “blurted out his 100k target to the media” and said the health secretary had taken the opportunity while both Cummings and Johnson were ill with Covid.

In a text message to a WhatsApp group including the prime minister, Hancock, Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance and the then director of communications, Lee Cain, Cummings raised the goal of 100,000 tests a day.

Cummings said Hancock had misled the meeting when the goal was agreed, including saying that the current hold-up was with the Treasury. On 26 March, Cummings texted the PM saying that Hancock was falling behind on his testing promises and it would mean tens of thousands of NHS staff could be absent.

The prime minister texted back saying: “Totally fucking hopeless.”

However, Cummings said Johnson never confronted Hancock – “he would never say to him, despite dozens of requests from two cabinet secretaries, me and other ministers and officials”.

Cummings said the 100,000 goal had distracted from other crucial issues including care homes during April – “distorting priorities across the system so that he [Hancock] could hold a successful press conference”.

Care homes: Hancock’s ‘new version of reality’

One of the biggest scandals of the first Covid wave was that hospital patients were being discharged into adult social care homes without being tested for Covid – seeding the virus into vulnerable and elderly people.

Cummings accused Hancock of “creating a new version of reality” by claiming the government “threw a protective ring” around care homes. He said the health secretary “neglected” care homes throughout April 2020 because he was “trying to focus effort on his press conference” at the end of the month, where he wanted to triumphantly declare his testing target had been met.

Having returned to work on 13 April following his Covid illness and trips to Durham and Barnard Castle, Cummings said that despite Hancock’s assurance that people would be tested before being moved from hospitals to care homes, that was not happening and “there was still no plan to do so”.

Two days later, Cummings said, No 10 was told that a lot of tests were not being used because Hancock’s department had “left in place rules that were limiting those eligible for tests, despite care homes screaming”.

Despite this, “the care homes nightmare continued”, said the former No 10 aide.

Then on 3 May, Cummings recalled he wrote to Johnson: “I think we are negligently killing the most vulnerable who we are supposed to be shielding and I am extremely worried about it.” A few days later, Cummings said, he and No 10 dug into Hancock’s denial of any problem – and ended up concluding the health secretary’s “failures and dishonesty made him unfit for his job” given “there was still no serious testing in care homes and this was killing people”.

PPE: the system collapsed

Also vital to stopping the virus spreading in hospitals and care homes, and ensuring staff did not go off sick, was personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The lack of PPE killed NHS and care home staff in March-May,” was Cummings’s blunt assessment. He said Hancock had given a “fictitious” account of the procurement of items such as aprons, gloves and face shields.

He added this was another subject on which Hancock and No 10 were “creating a new version of reality”, saying that the government’s procurement operation had “collapsed” and stuck to old rules when it should have been operating on a “wartime mentality”.

The health secretary insisted PPE was “all under control” on 26 March – leading to wasted weeks where problems were not solved, Cummings said, adding Hancock sought to blame the chancellor, Cabinet Office and chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

“The cabinet secretary [Mark Sedwill] told the PM’s office that Hancock’s claims were false,” Cummings said. “The lack of PPE killed NHS and care home staff in March-May.”

Hancock “had to be removed from crucial decisions”, said Cummings, meaning procuring PPE was handed to Lord Deighton – a Tory peer who was judged to have led well the 2012 London Olympics organising committee.

Officials were flatly contradicting Hancock’s insistence that PPE was not running short, Cummings said, with civil servants telling him most deliveries of the items would only arrive after the first wave in April.

By 20 April, Cummings said, Hancock’s department had only just set up a 24/7 payments system for procurement with Asia. “Imagine if NHS staff wearing bin bags had realised that DHSC had not even set up a round-the-clock system at this point, imagine the rage in No 10 when we discovered this,” the ex-aide said.

“At this time NHS staff were screaming for PPE. The dashboard daily meetings showed we were running out of critical items such as gowns. Reports flooded in of hospitals having run out or on the brink of running out and begging for supplies. Hancock caused further chaos by repeated briefing to the media about how new loads were flying in, bluffing his way through meeting after meeting – his whole routine.”

Cummings also teased the release of further information, saying Hancock had given “a fictitious account of what happened on masks” but that he would “leave that to another day”.

Boris Johnson: wants to ‘make money and have fun’

Hancock may have been the main target of Dominic Cummings’s ire, but the spurned former adviser also levels a series of charges at the prime minister. He claimed Johnson’s administration could not be trusted, and would “unravel”, urging Johnson’s opponents to start preparing now for “what comes next”.

Cummings was particularly preoccupied with what he claimed were No 10’s efforts to rewrite the history of the early days of the pandemic, by claiming “herd immunity” was never the government’s plan A.

He lays the blame for what he saw as these lies firmly on Johnson’s shoulders, accusing him of “trying to influence officials/advisers to support the rewriting of history” and “encouraging ministers to give false accounts to parliament”.

Cummings also claimed that what he saw as Johnson’s protection of Hancock sent a damaging signal: that “a secretary of state will be rewarded despite repeated incompetence and dishonesty and the government machine will seek to rewrite history in Orwellian fashion because the PM thinks it in his personal interests to do so”.

Of course, many at Westminster felt Johnson’s protection of Cummings over his lockdown-busting trip to Durham a year ago sent a pretty strong signal, too.

Cummings also said the prime minister had a “clear plan”, not to “go on and on” but to step down two years after the next general election, to “make money and have fun”.

Finally, Cummings gave an excruciating account of the way Johnson chairs meetings – claiming he told rambling stories and jokes and avoided any difficult issues, urging colleagues to “take it offline”, before shouting “forward to victory”, doing a thumbs-up and fleeing the room before anybody could disagree.

Despite Cummings’s lengthy and occasionally rambling analysis, the health committee chair, Jeremy Hunt, pointed out in a Twitter thread that he has yet to produce any evidence that definitively shows Hancock lied to the prime minister.