Dominic Cummings has questioned Boris Johnson’s “competence and integrity” as he accused the prime minister of being responsible for a series of false allegations about him in the media.
In an explosive blog posting, Johnson’s former top adviser denied he was responsible for the leak of private texts in which he promised to “fix” a tax issue for the entrepreneur Sir James Dyson.
He also claimed the PM had tried to stop an inquiry into the leak last year of plans for a second lockdown because it implicated a friend of his fiancee, Carrie Symonds.
He said that he had also warned Johnson against plans to have donors secretly pay for refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, saying they were “unethical, foolish (and) possibly illegal”.
“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” he said.
His attack follows briefings to a number of newspapers, which said Johnson believed Cummings was the source of the leaks about the lockdown and his texts to Sir James as well as stories about the flat refurbishment.
It follows his dramatic departure from No 10 last year amid the fallout from a bitter power struggle with Symonds.
Denying the being the source of the BBC story on Johnson’s text communications with the businessman, Cummings said: “I do have some WhatsApp messages between the PM/Dyson forwarded to me by the PM. I have not found the ones that were leaked to Laura Kuenssberg on my phone nor am I aware of being sent them last year. I was not directly or indirectly a/the source for the BBC/Kuenssberg story on the PM/Dyson texts.”
He said he is “happy to meet with the Cabinet secretary” and to have his phone searched.
He added: “If the PM did send them to me, as he is claiming, then he will be able to show the Cabinet secretary on his own phone when they were sent to me.
“It will therefore be easy to establish at least if I was ever sent these messages. I am also happy to publish or give to the Cabinet Secretary the PM/Dyson messages that I do have, which concerned ventilators, bureaucracy and covid policy — not tax issues.”
Referring to the leak of a decision on having another lockdown last autumn, Cummings said: “Last year there was a meeting between the PM, Cabinet Secretary, the director of communications and me regarding the leak of the decision for a further lockdown on the Friday evening immediately after the meeting in the Cabinet Room that made the decision (known in the media as ‘the chatty rat story’).”
He said Johnson “knows that I was not the source of the leak and that the Cabinet secretary authorised the prime Minister’s official spokesman to tell the media this, yet he has now authorised his DOC (director of communications) to make this accusation”.
He said events around that situation had “contributed to my decision to stick to my plan to leave No10 by 18 December, which I had communicated to the PM in July the day before my long-delayed operation”.
Cummings said Johnson had “stopped speaking” to him about renovations to the Downing Street flat last year “as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended”.
He added: “I refused to help him organise these payments. My knowledge about them is therefore limited.
“I would be happy to tell the Cabinet secretary or Electoral Commission what I know concerning this matter.”
Cummings said he has “made the offer to hand over some private text messages, even though I am under no legal obligation to do so, because of the seriousness of the claims being made officially by No10 today, particularly the covid leak that caused serious harm to millions”.
However, he added that this “does not mean that I will answer every allegation made by No10”.
He said the “proper way for such issues to be handled” would be through a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s conduct over the Covid crisis.
He said this “ought to take evidence from all key players under oath and have access to documents”.
He added: “Issues concerning covid and/or the PM’s conduct should not be handled as No10 has handled them over the past 24 hours.
“I will cooperate fully with any such inquiry and am happy to give evidence under oath.
“I am happy for No10 to publish every email I received and sent July 2019-November 2020 (with no exceptions other than, obviously, some national security / intelligence issues).”
The ex-aide confirmed he will appear before MPs next month.
He wrote: “I will not engage in media briefing regarding these issues but will answer questions about any of these issues to parliament on 26 May for as long as the MPs want.”
Johnson declined to say why No 10 insiders suspected Cummings is behind leaks of his correspondence.
During a campaign visit to Hartlepool, Johnson told broadcasters: “I think people aren’t so much interested in who is leaking what to whom as the substance of the issue at hand. The issue is really the question of the ventilators as you will remember James Dyson was offering to make.
“Let’s be absolutely clear I think it was right to talk to him.”
He said he is “mystified” as to why some people have “chosen to attack” his communications.
Asked if he will take legal action against Cummings, the prime minister said: “I think there’s much more public interest in what we’re doing not just to procure ventilators…
“And we’re now in a position where we do have 30,000 ventilators, we’re able for instance to think about what we can do to help the people of India who are suffering so terribly at the moment.”