Top official manufacturers Boris Johnson ‘irritating’ however sorry for ‘tragic joke’ textual content

The UK’s top civil servant has admitted working with Boris Johnson was “very frustrating” as he apologised for his WhatsApps saying the ex-PM made the Government look like a “tragic joke”.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case told the Covid Inquiry that his messages were “raw, in-the-moment” and were “not the whole story” of No10’s handling of the pandemic. He added: “Many of them now require apologies for things that I said and the way I expressed myself.”

The civil service boss’s WhatsApps have raised eyebrows during the inquiry. Among them, Mr Case accused Mr Johnson of a “danger of becoming Trump/Bolsonaro level mad and dangerous” and said his indecisiveness made it “impossible” to govern.

The exasperated top official said Mr Johnson alternated between fearing the virus was getting worse and “let it rip” mode and described the ex-PM and his inner circle as “basically feral”. In another, he suggested Mr Johnson’s wife had undue influence in Downing Street, joking that “the real person in charge is Carrie”.

Simon Case appeared at the Covid Inquiry on Thursday

Simon Case appeared at the Covid Inquiry on Thursday

Questioned by the inquiry about Mr Johnson’s prime ministerial style, Mr Case said: “Each prime minister has their own approach to doing it and as I say, in my job, I found it very frustrating. I just don’t think I understood how difficult he was finding it personally.” He added that he “obviously now deeply regrets” expressing his “in-the-moment frustrations” with Mr Johnson.

Asked about the day-to-day administration of government, Mr Case said: “It was definitely dysfunctional and it was difficult…If anything, the problem is it was almost too dynamic. It was difficult to settle on the course of action, and be sure that the course of action would be consistent.”

Mr Case, who was appointed head of the civil service in September 2020, told the Inquiry it was a “fair criticism” to say the Government failed to demonstrate it had considered alternatives to a lockdown.

He also said he did not know about Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out until the day it was announced. Sir Patrick Vallance, who was chief scientific adviser, previously told the Inquiry the scheme was “highly likely” to have fuelled deaths.

Asked about Sir Patrick and Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, not knowing about the scheme, Mr Case replied: “I wasn’t aware of Eat Out To Help Out until it was announced either. I think you’ve already heard from some that it didn’t come through the Covid task force. So I don’t think we were aware.”