Boris Johnson issues warning against ‘another wave’
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The ITV political editor has lifted the lid on the ongoing briefing war which has erupted at the heart of Government. Boris Johnson has been accused of telling a Number 10 meeting he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” rather than order a third national lockdown – something he denies.
The alleged remarks, first reported in the Daily Mail, are said to have taken place last autumn after the Prime Minister agreed to a second lockdown – the UK would eventually enter a third national lockdown at the beginning of January.
Writing in his ITV blog, Mr Peston claims the alleged comments on the death toll by Mr Johnson were “shouted” in his study after he announced a second lockdown “in a rage”.
He added the doors to the Cabinet room were said to be left open and the remarks were allegedly heard by a number of people.
Mr Peston wrote: “To be clear, Downing Street has issued a straight denial that the Prime Minister ranted in that extreme way about how there would never be a third lockdown (which of course there has been).
“That said, I am told he shouted it in his study just after he agreed to the second lockdown ‘in a rage’.
“The doors to the Cabinet room and outer office were allegedly open and supposedly a number of people heard.
“I am bothering to repeat this assertion about what the prime minister said because two eyewitnesses – or perhaps I should say ‘ear witnesses’ – have corroborated the Daily Mail’s account to me.
“Also these sources insist they did not brief the Mail, so that suggests there are three sources.”
The Prime Minister denied making the comments when challenged by reporters in Wrexham this afternoon.
When asked if he made the comments, Mr Johnson said: “No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a Government is to make sure that the lockdowns work.
“They have, and I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, really pulled together and, working with the vaccination programme, we have got the disease under control.”
The decision on the second lockdown announced last October was leaked to the media and is the subject of an inquiry.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a “full and transparent investigation into everything that’s going on” in Number 10.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has this afternoon told a committee the so-called “chatty rat” leak inquiry is ongoing and added “this is clear indication that the source or sources haven’t been identified”.
Last week, Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings, said Mr Case had told Mr Johnson that neither he nor the then-No 10 director of communications, Lee Cain, was the culprit.
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Appearing before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Mr Case said: “I hope the committee will understand I’m very constrained in what I can say given the security classification of the exercise, of the leak inquiry.
“What I can say is the investigation is ongoing and this is a clear indication that the source or sources haven’t been identified.
“In the time that has now passed, I think it is probable that the team will not successfully identify the source or sources but work is ongoing.”
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