Simon Case, the UK’s top civil servant, told colleagues Boris Johnson “cannot lead” during the Covid pandemic.
WhatsApp messages published by the Covid inquiry on Monday revealed the cabinet secretary’s withering assessment of the then prime minister.
“He cannot lead and we cannot support him in leading with this approach,” Case told a WhatsApp group of senior officials in September 2020.
Case added Johnson “changed strategic direction every day”, adding: “The team captain cannot change the call on the big play every day.”
He said the government looked like a “tragic joke” that was run by a “weak team” of cabinet ministers and civil servants.
“I am at the end of my tether,” Case concluded, seven months in the the pandemic.
“Government isn’t actually that hard, but this guy is really making it impossible.”
Case accused Johnson of one day fearing the virus would return and the next believing the “the UK is pathetic” and “needs a cold shower” by letting Covid “rip”.
The messages were published as Martin Reynolds - the official who ran the PM’s private office during the pandemic - gave evidence to the inquiry.
During the session, Reynolds admitted he turned on the disappearing messages function on the WhatsApp group named “PM Updates”, just weeks before the inquiry was announced.
Asked why he did this, Reynolds said:“I can guess or I can speculate, but I cannot recall exactly why I did so.”
The inquiry is also due this week to hear from Lee Cain, the former No.10 communications director, and Dominic Cummings, the former Downing Street chief of staff.