THE UK’s top civil servant has apologised for his “raw, in-the-moment” WhatsApp messages about Boris Johnson and Downing Street colleagues at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

Simon Case sent messages saying former PM Johnson “cannot lead” and calling officials “basically feral” at the height of the pandemic.

At the time, Case was the prime minister’s chief adviser and told the UK’s Covid-19 Inquiry he “deeply regretted” the messages.

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Case was previously absent from other hearings when senior Westminster figures gave evidence due to medical leave.

In WhatsApp messages shown to the inquiry, Case said the following:

  • Johnson “cannot lead” and “changes strategic direction every day”
  • The then-PM and “the people he chooses to surround himself with are basically feral”
  • “I’ve never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country” in a message to Mark Sedwill, the civil service chief at the time
  • He found it “hilarious” that people travelling had to isolate in quarantine hotels and had “no sympathy” for airlines going bankrupt
  • Referred to Johnson as a “distrusted figure,” expressing concerns the public wouldn’t follow isolation rules under his leadership

Case told the inquiry: “They are very raw, in-the-moment human expressions – they’re not the whole story but I recognise they’re part of the story.

“Many of them now require apologies for things that I said and the way I expressed myself.

“Those are examples that I obviously now deeply regret of expressing my in-the-moment frustrations with the former prime minister.”

He further admitted that his WhatsApp message “crisis + pygmies = toxic behaviour” was likely a comment on the abilities of people in the Cabinet Office and Number 10.

He added that civil servants were being “smashed to pieces” by poor working practices including duplication of effort and overlapping of meetings, he said.

“Good people were working incredibly hard in impossible circumstances with choices where it seems there was never a right answer,” he said.

“But that lack of sort of a team spirit, the difficult atmosphere, we were trying to run everything from the centre of government, trying to run the response to a global pandemic.”