Michael Gove said the government was “fucking up” its response to Covid in the early days of the pandemic, it has been revealed.
The WhatsApp exchange was revealed as Gove gave evidence to the Covid Inquiry.
He also apologised to the families of Covid victims “who endured so much as a result of the mistakes that were made by government in response to the pandemic”
In a message to Cummings on March 4, before the first lockdown, Gove, who was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “We’re f***ing up as a government and missing golden opportunities. I will carry on doing what I can but the whole situation is even worse than you think.”
It is not the first damning admission made by a senior government figure to be revealed by the inquiry.
Earlier this month, No.10 adviser Ben Warner wrote “we are fucked” on a note written by a colleague as panic set in at the top of government.
Kicking off his evidence session this morning, Gove said he must “take his share of responsibility” for the mistakes that were made.
“I want to apologise to the victims, who endured so much pain [and] the families who endured so much loss as a result of the mistakes that were made by government in response to the pandemic,” he said.
“As a minister, responsible for the Cabinet Office, and who was also close to many of the decisions that were made, I must take my share of responsibility for that.”
It is the first time a government minister has formally apologised during the inquiry for any mistakes made during the Covid pandemic.
Earlier in the inquiry, former health secretary Matt Hancock said he was “profoundly sorry” for his part in mistakes, but not for his actions during the pandemic, for the planning before the virus hit.
Cummings has also repeatedly said that mistakes were made by ministers and officials.
“I think the handling of it was a disaster... and I regret and have already apologised for how badly No 10 handled the whole thing,” he said in his evidence last month.