HUNDREDS of civil servants and other ministers could have been fined for breaking lockdown rules, a former senior official has said.

Helen MacNamara, who was deputy cabinet secretary during the first lockdown, suggested breaches of lockdown rules were rife as she was questioned at the Covid inquiry on Wednesday.

She was the subject of what Hugo Keith, lead counsel to the inquiry, the day before had described as “misogynistic” abuse from Dominic Cummings (below), Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser.

The National: Dominic Cummings

MacNamara, who left government in 2021, had provided a karaoke machine to a lockdown-busting party in Downing Street but denied she had been “partying”.

She told the inquiry: “I definitely wasn’t partying in Number 10, I was either at work or at home.

“I think that acknowledging what had happened, acknowledging that some of it was a symptom of the situation, being honest about the fact that – actually, I would find it hard to pick one day when the regulations were followed properly inside that building.”

She said there was “one meeting where we absolutely adhered to the guidance to the letter” – the Cabinet meeting – “and everybody moaned about it and tried to change repeatedly”.

“So, I know how exceptional it was to really, really, really properly follow the guidance.

“I think that, in retrospect, obviously, all sorts of things were wrong.”

Asked about where police had drawn the line for finable offences – such as Johnson’s birthday party – MacNamara said: “I am certain that there are hundreds of civil servants and potentially ministers who in retrospect think they were the wrong side of that line”.

“I really hope there’s been some mature conversation about that, because that sort of thing, if it’s not addressed, is corrosive, actually, in a culture.”

Responding to the comments made about her by Cummings – who had texted Johnson he wanted to “handcuff her and escort her” out of Downing Street and called her a “c**t” – the former official said she had been disappointed by the lack of reprimand for the adviser.

READ MORE: Dominic Cummings confronted over 'misogynistic' texts at Covid inquiry

She said: “The way in which it was considered appropriate to describe what should happen to me, yes, as a woman, but, yes, as a civil servant, it is disappointing to me that the prime minister didn’t pick him up on the use of some of that violent and misogynistic language.”

MacNamara described the culture within Johnson’s No 10, as “toxic”, something echoed by Cummings when grilled at the inquiry the day before.

She said: “There was definitely a toxic culture.”

On the WhatsApp messages from Cummings, she said: “It’s horrible to read, but it is both surprising and not surprising to me, and I don’t know which is worse, actually.

“I think that he was frustrated with me at the time, I would absolutely own that.

“I would also say all I was doing was actually working in the service of the then prime minister and defending his interests.”

And she said there was a “bullish” attitude from senior politicians and officials about Covid in the weeks leading up to the eventual lockdown.

The National: Boris Johnson

She said meetings before Johnson (above) realised he must shut the country down involved people “sitting there and saying it was great and sort of laughing at the Italians was just … it felt how it sounds".

She added: “I would say that undoubtedly the sort of unbelievably bullish, we’re going to be great at everything approach is not a smart mentality to have inside a government meeting.”