Boris denies ‘let bodies pile high’ outburst branding allegation ‘total, total rubbish’
Boris Johnson is 'a man without morality' says Campbell
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The Prime Minister refuted claims he was prepared to tolerate thousands more deaths from the virus rather than plunge the country into a third lockdown. He branded allegations that he was ready to see “bodies pile high” as “total total rubbish”. Mr Johnson insisted voters are fed up with the poisonous spat engulfing Number 10. Families, he said, were desperate for Government to focus on tackling virus infections and rebuilding the economy. Mr Johnson’s denial followed days of extraordinary briefings and counter-briefings between his allies and his estranged former chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
The ex-Number 10 aide is expected to use an appearance at a Commons committee next month to challenge the Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.
One report yesterday claimed Mr Johnson said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown.
He was said to have made the remark in a moment of fury in a meeting after reluctantly agreeing to the second lockdown in England last autumn in a meeting with ministers and advisers.
Asked about the allegation during a local elections visit to Wrexham yesterday, the Prime Minister described it as “total, total rubbish” and maintained that he had “absolutely not” made the remark.
He said voters were not raising the issue with him or with Tory campaigners in the push for the May 6 local elections.
“I’m finding that a lot of this stuff that people are talking about is actually not what’s coming up on the doorstep or the issues that people are raising with me.
“What people want to know about is what is the Government doing to get on with our agenda to unite and level up across the country, to move cautiously but irreversibly through the steps of the road map to unlock and to get our country going.”
And the PM offered the most hope so far of lockdown freedom this summer, saying: “As things stand I think we’ve got a very good chance of opening up totally on June 21.”
As figures showed the daily Covid death toll down to six, with 2,064 new infection cases recorded yesterday, Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got the disease under control.”
He added: “We’ve built up what I think are some pretty robust fortifications against the next wave.
“We’ll have to see how strong they really are in due course.”
The row follows a series of jibes from Mr Cummings in recent days. He quit a key Downing Street role at the end of last year after falling out with the Prime Minister. The former Vote Leave campaign guru rejected claims from Number 10 that he leaked news of the second lockdown last year and accused Mr Johnson of resisting demands for travel bans to try to curb the pandemic.
He has also claimed he opposed an attempt by the Prime Minister to use funds from Tory donors to pay for refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
Labour sought to exploit the row yesterday.
Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s leader, called for “a full and transparent investigation into everything that’s going on”.Speaking on a visit to the West Midlands, he said: “Day after day there are new allegations of sleaze, of favours, of privileged access. We need a full investigation to get to the bottom of that and, most importantly, to make recommendations about changes, because we need to change the rules.”
In the Commons, Labour frontbencher Rachel Reeves called the reported remark “stomach churning” and hit out at claims of lobbying and cronyism in the Government.
Raising an urgent question on the row in the Commons, she said: “The Prime Minister is now corrupting the standards of public life expected in high office.”
But Tory ministers scrambled to defend the Prime Minister.
Responding to the urgent question, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said: “I was in the meeting that afternoon with the Prime Minister and other ministers as we looked at what was happening with the virus, the pandemic.”
He added: “We’re dealing with one of the most serious decisions this Prime Minister and any Government has had to face, people have been pointing out quite rightly that tens of thousands of people were dying.
“The Prime Minister made a decision in that meeting to trigger a second lockdown, he made a subsequent decision to trigger a third lockdown. This is a Prime Minister who was in hospital himself in intensive care. The idea that he would say any such thing I find incredible. I was in that room, I never heard language of that kind.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the reports of the outburst were “not true”.
“Look, it is not true, it has been categorically denied by practically everyone,” he said.
“We are getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories – unnamed sources, by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events.
“None of this is serious. The Prime Minister has been utterly focused on delivering, alongside Cabinet colleagues, the response to Covid.”
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