Matt Hancock accuses Cummings of being ‘chatty rat’ who leaked lockdown news

Matt Hancock has accused Dominic Cummings of being the “chatty rat” who leaked news of a second Covid lockdown in October 2020.

The former health secretary pointed the finger at Boris Johnson’s former adviser over the row which sparked a leak inquiry.

Mr Hancock said he almost “choked on my chapati” when he got a text about the plan for full national lockdown being leaked, according to an extract from his book in the Daily Mail.

He said an “enraged” Mr Johnson called him to say he had been told his health secretary was to blame. “‘Whoever is telling you that is lying to you,’ I replied furiously,” Mr Hancock wrote.

“How had this happened? My money is firmly on Dominic Cummings via his acolytes. The agenda? To bounce the PM into announcing the lockdown sooner than later and stop him U-turning. If they got me sacked into the bargain, that would be a bonus.”

The second national lockdown was first revealed on 30 October by ITV’s Robert Peston as a “circuit-breaker” before being announced on 31 October.

Mr Johnson ordered an inquiry to find the identity of the leaker – dubbed the “chatty rat” – but no-one was ever found responsible.

Mr Hancock also claimed that Mr Cummings delayed the government’s initial response to Covid because he thought it was “a distraction from our official withdrawal from the EU” in January 2020.

He claimed he was “elated” and “relieved” when Mr Cummings left No 10 in November 2020 – saying the strategist had been “a frightening, damaging, negative force for so long”.

The former health secretary, who has yet to be restored the Conservative party whip after returning from his stint on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, has made a series of incendiary claims in his book.

He blamed care home chiefs for the scandal over the release of elderly Covid patients from hospital into care homes, claiming that they were responsible for allowing staff to move from home to home.

In his diary of the pandemic, Mr Hancock insisted that only a small proportion of cases – as few as 1.2 per cent – were caused by his decision to discharge patients from hospital without testing.

He also claimed then-chief executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens was “determined” to ensure that elderly patients who did not need urgent treatment were discharged from hospital to free up beds.

Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Hancock’s comments suggesting care home staff are to blame for bringing Covid into care homes were “deeply, deeply insulting”.

The Labour leader added: “It was a huge effort by the NHS. They’ve come out of [Covid] exhausted. There’s now a massive backlog of waiting lists which were far too high before we went into the pandemic.”