The former No 10 aide staged a bizarre poll on Twitter, asking the social media audience whether he should auction the document for a charity in aid of coronavirus victims or hand it over to a House of Commons committee or publish it on his blog.
No 10 declined to comment on the claims of the former Johnson ally who is now being blamed by Downing Street insiders for a string of leaks designed to embarrass and damage the Prime Minister.
“I’ve got the only copy of a crucial historical document from covid decision-making,” he said in a tweet clearly intended to make mischief and raise expectations of bombshell disclosures when he gives evidence to MPs next week.
He went on to ask: “Should I 1/ give it to the Cmte next week / put on blog, b/ auction it … & give the ETH to a covid families charity?”
Mr Cummings deleted the tweet offering to auction the document about 45 minutes after posting it, explaining he had “botched options like idiot”.
Clarifying his intentions he said he would still give the document to the Committee if it was auctioned, meaning it could not be bought by someone intending to prevent disclosure.
Early results of his “poll” seen by the Standard found two-to-one support among Twitter followers for writing it on his blog rather than auctioning it.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman gave a cool response to the Cummings tweets. Asked to comment on the imminent release of an important document, the spokesman said: “I’m not going to speculate about what information individuals may or may not choose to present at committees.”
Mr Cummings was overtly on manoeuvres, issuing a 19-part Twitter thread about what he alleges were blunders over “pseudo lockdowns”.
Posting an extraordinary stream of tweets this morning from the waiting room for his first vaccine jab, he wrote: “Remembered Vallance 24/3 amid disaster: will u support taking vaccines out of DH & a new Taskforce, we need different leadership & skills to drive it? CABSEC supported divvying up DH tasks. If not, normal Whitehall process, probably normal result.”
This appeared to say that Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific officer, had proposed stripping Matt Hancock’s Department of Health of vaccines policy and that this was supported by the former Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill.
He then wrote: “Success seems to have blinded SW1 [the Westminster post code district] to important Qs. [questions].
“a/ We did it much better than Brussels, obviously, but Brussels is not a good comparison. How well did we do relative to ‘how well wd General Groves who ran the Manhattan Project have done it?’” The Manhattan Project was the US-led race to build a nuclear bomb in World War II.
He went on to allege that the Government missed an opportunity to start vaccinations last summer, nearly six months earlier.
He said: “I think we’ll conclude we shd have done Human Challenge trials immediately & cd have got jabs in arms summer. This is not criticism of the VTF which has been constrained in ways they shdnt be. It’s cnctd to b/ where is the public plan for how the VTF will deal with variants?”
Mr Cummings then suggested that errors had been covered up. “One of the most fundamental & unarguable lessons of Feb-March is that secrecy contributed greatly to the catastrophe. Openness to scrutiny wd have exposed Gvt errors weeks earlier than happened.
“So why are MPs accepting the lack of a public plan now for VTF viz variants? Especially when rumours reach me that the silent entropy of Whitehall is slowly turning VTF back into a ‘normal’ entity?
“The best hedge re a variant escaping current vaccines is PUBLIC SCRUTINY of Gvt plans. This will hopefully show it’s been taken seriously. If not, better learn now that the Gvt has screwed up again than when ‘variant escapes’ news breaks.
“I can think of no significant element of covid response that wd not have been improved by discarding secrecy and opening up. This was symbolised by e.g how COBR cd not be used: a constrained STRAP environment cd not cope with the scale/speed, another important lesson.”
“Having watched classified elements of covid response, Gvt cd make the vaccine plans 99% public without risks, ‘national security’ almost totally irrelevant to the critical parts of the problem, a few things cd be withheld while publishing all crucial parts of the plan.”
The official No 10 spokesman hit back at some of Mr Cummings’ other claims. Asked if border policy was “a joke”, he said: “Obviously, I would reject that. We have some of the strongest border measures in the world.”
To Mr Cummings’ claim that human vaccine trials should have started earlier, the spokesman said: “There are a number of individuals who have different views on actions taken by government during the course of this pandemic.”
To the former aide’s claim that the Covid plan was either non-existent or a disaster, the spokesman said: “Our approach to this pandemic throughout has been guided by the best scientific data. It is an approach that has enabled us to secure early development of vaccines which has now enabled us to move through our roadmap and restore freedoms to the public.”