Dominic Cummings will accuse Boris Johnson of blocking plans to close Britain’s borders and putting lives at risk by failing to prevent the spread of Covid from abroad early in the pandemic.
The Prime Minister’s former chief adviser is expected to tell MPs next month that he backed plans by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to ban flights from Covid hotspots such as Iran or impose quarantine on passengers.
However, he will say the plans were overruled by Mr Johnson, who his allies say took the “ideological and libertarian” view that he wanted to keep “global Britain’s borders open” despite the risks of importing the virus.
Mr Cummings and his allies are said by sources to feel “vindicated” by the Government’s subsequent border crackdown, which banned foreign travel from “red list” countries and imposed hotel quarantine on UK residents returning from them to the UK.
His criticism of the Government’s failure to take a tougher approach on borders is expected to be a key part of his evidence to a joint inquiry by the health and science select committees on May 26 into the lessons to be learned from the pandemic.
He is also expected to criticise Mr Johnson for putting lives at risk by delaying the introduction of a second lockdown until November.
It comes amid fears within Downing Street that the former adviser has a “treasure trove” of internal memos and emails that will paint the Government at the height of the pandemic in the worst possible light.
An ally of Mr Cummings warned that his “war” with Mr Johnson is likely to last for the rest of the Prime Minister’s tenure in Downing Street.
“I am not sure why the Prime Minister has picked a fight with Dom,” said the ally. “In terms of some kind of war between Dom and Boris, it will probably not end until Boris leaves office. Dom is not a man to let sleeping dogs lie.”
The backlash follows Downing Street briefings last week that blamed Mr Cummings for leaking text messages in which Mr Johnson promised to “fix” tax issues for the entrepreneur Sir James Dyson. Mr Cummings denied being behind the leak.
He hit back by accusing Mr Johnson of making false claims and falling “below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves”.
One ally said: “When Dom appears before the MPs, he will tell the truth. He knows the timeline of everything. He will have detailed notes. Whether he has emails I don’t know. But if it was me I would have copies at home to refresh my memory. If the MPs want them, then they can ask a parliamentary question or FOI it.”
An options paper setting out the plans to ban flights or impose quarantine was prepared for a Cabinet sub-committee in March last year and was backed by the Home Office’s chief scientific adviser, John Aston, a leading professor of statistics at Cambridge University.
However, a leak of an outline of the proposals to The Telegraph provoked a furious backlash from Mr Johnson, who rejected them. Sage scientists suggested that only 0.5 per cent of cases were linked to foreign travel and would therefore not make a significant difference to the scale of the pandemic.
However, Mr Cummings is expected to query the science behind the 0.5 per cent figure at a time when there was no mass testing and will argue that the decision could have accounted for potentially tens of thousands of cases.
He is expected to say that Britain should have looked to the example of Asian nations such as Singapore and South Korea which successfully fought the pandemic by closing their borders.
The former adviser signalled his line of attack in a tweet over the weekend in which he said border controls were a “very important issue re learning from the disaster”, in response to a thread pointing at how Vietnam had insulated itself and limited its death toll to just 35.
Last March, however, Mr Johnson came down firmly on the side of Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, who warned that stopping flights would mean an end to the ongoing repatriations of British tourists who had been told to come home.
Foreign Office sources suggested banning flights would be a “purely symbolic” measure with a “significant” downside, including leaving Britons “trapped” abroad. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, are understood to have agreed with Mr Raab, with both ministers reluctant to block repatriations.
Within two days of the decision, however, it was announced that Mr Johnson had Covid and Mr Cummings left London for Durham with his family after his wife, Mary Wakefield, contracted the virus. “It meant the idea of border closures lost momentum,” said a source.
In his explosive blog last week, Mr Cummings made clear that he would answer questions about Number 10’s handling of the pandemic “for as long as the MPs want” when he gives evidence next month.
Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the health select committee, said: “We will publish whatever he gives us – we would have to check if it passes any tests.”
There were allegations on Sunday night that Mr Johnson said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown.
He agreed to fresh restrictions but his frustration is said to have boiled over after the crucial meeting at No 10 in October. The Daily Mail reported that he is alleged to have said: “No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”
Downing Street on Sunday night strongly denied the Prime Minister made the comment, insisting it was “just another lie”.
The allegations reflect the increasingly bitter briefing war between Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings who has been blamed by Number 10 for leaks including texts with businessman Sir James Dyson and Tory donor funds for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, also disclosed by the Mail.
In his blog, Mr Cummings called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the Government’s conduct over the Covid crisis, with evidence under oath from key players. “I will co-operate fully with any such inquiry and am happy to give evidence under oath,” he wrote.
“I am happy for Number 10 to publish every email I received and sent July 2019-November 2020 (with no exceptions other than, obviously, some national security/intelligence issues).”