Downing Street is bracing itself for a slew of potentially damaging accusations as Cummings appears before MPs from 9.30am on Wednesday (May 26), when he is expected to use his evidence session to criticise the Prime Minister’s response to the pandemic.
“I’ll leave others to determine how reliable a witness to all this he is,” Transport Secretary Shapps told Sky News.
“He was there at the time, what his motives would be I will leave to others.”
Most people are interested in getting their vaccine rather than the “sideshow over a former adviser who has his own agenda, presumably”, Shapps said.
Shapps acknowledged mistakes were made in the response to the pandemic but said the Government was responding to an unprecedented situation.
“There was no rulebook and of course there have been mistakes made,” he said.
He told Sky News that Cummings “has probably tweeted most of what he’s going to say already” ahead of the former No 10 adviser’s appearance before MPs.
“We were making decisions under an unprecedented situation, there’s no rulebook, there’s no textbook to open and see how to deal with a pandemic, the last time the world faced anything like this was 100 years ago with Spanish flu.
“It’s easy to be professors of hindsight.”
On the “very big calls” like the vaccine programme and developing mass testing, Shapps said “we got it right”.
Asked whether Cummings is a liar, Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “I will leave it to others to judge how reliable a witness that former adviser happens to be.
“What I can tell you is what’s happened: for example, previously it was said that the Prime Minister had made comments about not going into another lockdown.
“Not only did we go into a second lockdown in November, we went into a third lockdown in January – indeed we are still coming out of that third lockdown – and that will have saved many lives and given us the chance to get the vaccination into people’s arms in the meantime.”
Asked whether Cummings was a “trusted adviser”, Mr Shapps said: “He was certainly an adviser of the Government. It’s for others to decide the trusted part of it.”
Shapps, who defended Cummings after his trip to Country Durham during lockdown last year, admitted the former aide had undermined the Government’s public health message.
“I thought he was right at the time to stand by his family, to go into effective quarantine, and that’s what he did,” Shapps told the BBC.
“I accept it was a moment which actually in the public’s mind undermined the wider messages and I accept that.
“I thought he was doing what he thought was right by his family at the time.”
Shapps also dismissed the focus on Cummings as “Westminster bubble stuff” and added “I do find this obsession about one single adviser a bit odd”.