War of Downing Street: Boris Johnson said he would rather see ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order third lockdown – after he reluctantly imposed the second one, sources claim
- Claims that Boris Johnson said he would rather ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown
- Allegedly came after Michael Gove warned soldiers needed to guard hospitals
- Downing Street has strongly denied that the Prime Minister made the comment
Boris Johnson said he would rather see ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown, it was claimed last night.
The explosive remark is said to have come after he reluctantly imposed the second lockdown, sources told the Mail.
Downing Street last night strongly denied the Prime Minister made the comment, insisting it was ‘just another lie’. But those who say they heard it stand by their claim.
It allegedly came after Michael Gove warned Mr Johnson that soldiers would be needed to guard hospitals overrun with Covid victims.
Boris Johnson (pictured)said he would rather see ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown, it was claimed last night
He agreed to fresh restrictions but his frustration is said to have boiled over after the crucial meeting at No 10 in October. ‘No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!’ he is alleged to have raged.
The Prime Minister is also reported to have made similarly blunt observations during the crisis.
The disclosure comes amid a spectacular public war of words between him and his former chief of staff Dominic Cummings.
Mr Cummings is expected to use his appearance before a Commons committee next month to challenge the Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.
He tweeted over the weekend that the failure to introduce travel bans more quickly was ‘a very important issue re: learning from the disaster’.
It allegedly came after Michael Gove (pictured) warned Mr Johnson that soldiers would be needed to guard hospitals overrun with Covid victims
The Prime Minister’s critics say the third lockdown he introduced in January could have been avoided had he yielded to pressure from Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make the second lockdown more stringent. Hopes of avoiding a fourth lockdown have been boosted by the success of the vaccine programme.
But Mr Johnson has still warned some restrictions may have to remain – or be reimposed – to safeguard against the risk of another Covid wave.
In other developments:
- Cabinet Secretary Simon Case prepared for a grilling by MPs today in which he is expected to deny clearing Mr Cummings of involvement in leaking plans for the second lockdown;
- Allies of Mr Cummings claimed he had kept audio recordings of sensitive conversations with senior ministers and officials after he left No 10;
- Environment minister Zac Goldsmith hit out at ‘sexist’ claims that the PM’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, who helped force out Mr Cummings, is acting as the power behind the throne;
- Mr Johnson also faces demands for an inquiry into the row over the lavish makeover for his and Miss Symonds’s Downing Street flat.
The disclosure comes amid a spectacular public war of words between him and his former chief of staff Dominic Cummings (pictured)
By October, Mr Sunak had moved closer to the stance of Mr Gove and Mr Hancock. Chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (both pictured) strongly backed the position of Mr Gove and Mr Hancock
Mr Johnson’s comments about lockdowns were said to have been made at the end of October when Britain was hit by a second wave of coronavirus.
The Prime Minister found himself outgunned when Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock led the demand for a new clampdown on the disease.
Earlier in the pandemic, he had been supported by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who warned of the dire economic consequences of national lockdowns.
By October, Mr Sunak had moved closer to the stance of Mr Gove and Mr Hancock. Chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance strongly backed the position of Mr Gove and Mr Hancock.
A well-placed source said: ‘The PM hates the idea of lockdowns. He kept saying “there’s no evidence they even work” and that “it goes against everything I’ve stood for”. But he was outnumbered – and ended up sitting in sullen silence as the others told him he had no choice.’
The Prime Minister found himself outgunned when Mr Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) led the demand for a new clampdown on the disease
The tipping point reportedly came after a passionate speech by Mr Gove at a meeting with Mr Johnson and senior ministers.
‘Michael said that if he didn’t impose a second lockdown there would be a catastrophe,’ a source close to Mr Gove said.
‘Hospitals would be over-run, people would be turned away from A&E and people would be dying in hospital corridors and hospital car parks.
‘He told the PM he would have to send soldiers into hospitals to keep people out.
‘TV film of that would be beamed around the globe. Was that the image of his post-Brexit Britain he wanted the world to see? It was devastating. The PM had no answer.’
Insiders say that from that point Mr Johnson ‘gave in to the inevitable’ – and agreed to a second lockdown. But he also made it clear that it was to be the last, and under no circumstances world he agree to a third lockdown.
Mr Johnson also faces demands for an inquiry into the row over the lavish makeover for his and Miss Symonds’s Downing Street flat
One said: ‘You have understand how difficult this has been for the PM. The free spirit libertarian and journalist mischief maker in him wanted to join the lockdown sceptics revolt. But faced with being told by his Cabinet and experts that he would be held responsible for tens of thousands of deaths he knew he had no choice.’
Mr Case may face questions about Mr Johnson’s reported comments when he appears in front of the public administration committee this afternoon.
Mr Cummings is expected to accuse the Prime Minister of putting lives at risk by blocking Priti Patel’s plan to close the borders at the start of the Covid crisis.
He is expected to tell MPs he backed the Home Secretary’s move to ban flights from coronavirus hotspots.
A No 10 spokesman last night insisted the PM would not be distracted by the row, adding: ‘The Government is totally focused on delivering the people’s priorities as we continue our vaccination programme and recover from coronavirus, creating new jobs and building back better.’
Cummings ‘has key No 10 tapes’
Dominic Cummings kept audio recordings of key conversations in government, an ally claimed last night
Dominic Cummings kept audio recordings of key conversations in government, an ally claimed last night.
The former chief adviser is locked in an explosive war of words with Boris Johnson after Downing Street accused him of a string of damaging leaks.
No 10 attempted to rubbish his claims on Friday night, saying it was not true that the Prime Minister had discussed ending a leak inquiry after a friend of his fiancée Carrie Symonds was identified as the likely suspect.
But an ally of Mr Cummings said the PM’s former chief adviser had taken a treasure trove of material with him when he left Downing Street last year, including audio recordings of discussions with senior ministers and officials.
‘Dom has stuff on tape,’ the ally said. ‘They are mad to pick a fight with him because he will be able to back up a lot of his claims.
‘He used to tell advisers to record things all the time – discussions with officials. He has also kept a lot of his correspondence.’
A Whitehall source yesterday said officials did not know the full extent of the material
Mr Cummings has. He has denied leaking and has already told MPs that aspects of the Government’s approach to Covid went ‘catastrophically wrong’.
Johnson ‘took out a loan’ to pay for lavish makeover of his flat
By Jason Groves Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Britain’s top civil servant will be quizzed over the lavish refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat today amid claims that the Prime Minister has had to take out a personal loan to pay for it.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case will be grilled by MPs this afternoon about a string of explosive allegations made by Dominic Cummings.
Mr Case is expected to deny claims that he cleared Mr Cummings over involvement in the ‘chatty rat’ leak last year, which led to revelations in the Daily Mail that Mr Johnson was poised to order a second national lockdown.
A government source said last night the inquiry, conducted with the assistance of MI5, was ongoing, adding: ‘It has neither found anyone responsible, nor ruled anyone out.’ But Mr Case is also expected to face detailed questions about the refurbishment of the flat above Number 11 Downing Street used by Mr Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds.
Adding to the controversy, one senior Tory said last night: ‘Boris had to take out a personal loan to cover the cost. You have to be pretty wealthy to have £60,000 lying around. He has just emerged from an expensive divorce.’
Britain’s top civil servant will be quizzed over the lavish refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat today amid claims that the Prime Minister has had to take out a personal loan to pay for it
The Electoral Commission said yesterday it was still seeking answers from Tory chiefs about whether party funds or donations were used.
Labour last night wrote to the commission calling for a full investigation. On Friday, Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson wanted ‘donors to secretly pay for the renovation’ – which he said was ‘unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules’.
The Mail had revealed that Mr Johnson asked Tory donors to help with the cost of the makeover which is said to run to six figures. On Friday, the Cabinet Office said the cost of ‘painting, sanding and floorboards’ had been paid from a £30,000 maintenance allowance, but ‘any costs of wider refurbishment have been met by the Prime Minister personally’.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the claims made by Mr Cummings were ‘tittle-tattle’ and the PM had ‘met the cost of the flat’.
Downing Street made no comment last night.
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