During a meeting with Rishi Sunak on Monday, the Covid inquiry revealed that Boris Johnson questioned the decision to harm the economy during the pandemic for those who are expected to pass away soon.
As the week begins, the former prime minister is bracing for a difficult time as former aides and high-ranking government officials testify about his administration’s response to the pandemic. In March 2020, a former private secretary’s diary was revealed, containing detrimental statements.
During a meeting, Johnson reportedly made a statement that could be interpreted as: “We are sacrificing the well-being of many people in order to address a single problem. Why are we damaging the economy for those who will likely pass away soon anyway?”
During the investigation, Imran Shafi, the author of the memo, stated that he believed Johnson was the one who made the remarks. This was revealed after multiple diary entries and WhatsApp messages indicated that top advisors had a negative opinion of the former Conservative leader.
The UK inquiry into the pandemic heard complaints from Simon Case, the top civil servant in Whitehall, about Johnson’s inability to lead and his desire to make reckless decisions regarding how to handle Covid-19 in the UK.
The cabinet secretary sent a WhatsApp message to Dominic Cummings, who was Johnson’s chief adviser at the time. The message revealed the cabinet secretary’s frustration with the government’s inconsistent handling of the pandemic: “I have reached my breaking point.”
Case stated that the strategic direction is constantly changing. On Monday, the focus was on the fear of the virus resurging in Europe and March. However, today we are shifting to a “let it rip” mentality due to the UK’s inadequate response, with the need for a reality check. Case will be testifying at the Inquiry in the future.
Martin Reynolds, who was Johnson’s chief private secretary at 10 Downing Street, was questioned about why he had activated the disappearing messages feature on a WhatsApp group that included Johnson and his top advisors, just weeks before the former prime minister announced an inquiry into Covid-19.
Reynolds informed Hugo Keith KC, the main lawyer of the investigation, that he did not think he had done anything in April 2021 to hide the messages in a WhatsApp group called “PM Updates”. He stated, “It could have been due to concerns about screenshots or the possibility of exchanges being leaked.”
During the Covid inquiry, it was revealed that Case had sent Reynolds a WhatsApp message stating that Johnson would be upset if he didn’t think his messages would be made public.
Reynolds appeared as the investigation entered its seventh day of crucial and potentially damaging testimonies, which may expose the inner workings of Johnson’s government in a harsh manner. This week, Cummings and former No 10 communications chief, Lee Cain, are expected to provide their testimonies.
Reynolds, who was nicknamed “Party Marty” after it emerged he had invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” event during the first lockdown, told the inquiry that he wished to “apologise unreservedly to all the families of all those who suffered during Covid for all the distress caused”.
Several individuals were fined as a result of the event. Keith informed Reynolds that he would not be questioned about whether he had also received a fixed-penalty notice.
However, the barrister disputed his claim that the event did not significantly affect the public during the pandemic. This was based on the fact that details of the event were not reported in the media until 15 months later.
Keith informed Mr Reynolds, “The news about the events at Downing Street in December 2021 came out while we were still in the midst of the pandemic, did it not?”
Following the hearing on Monday, labor unions criticized the way the Johnson administration has been handling the pandemic. This came after an additional WhatsApp message, authored by Case, revealed that then-education minister Gavin Williamson and Johnson had dismissed requests for masks in schools, citing a “no surrender” approach towards unions.
Amid discussions about students wearing face masks in schools during the pandemic, Case sent a WhatsApp message suggesting that Johnson consider implementing “permissive guidance” on the matter to avoid a potential “drama”.
However, he also stated, “At that time, the Unions were pushing for masks without any scientific evidence. Gavin was in a state of refusing to back down and was unwilling to compromise with the unions.”
In a list of “conclusions”, he stated: “Prime Minister continuously supports absurd ‘no surrender’ concepts from Hancock/Williamson/Shapps, only to regret it completely later.”
The TUC released a statement on Monday, stating that the Conservatives prioritized their political agenda over the well-being of the people during a national crisis. Leaders in education expressed valid concerns about ensuring the safety of school staff and students, but these concerns were disregarded due to animosity towards unions.
New information has brought to attention and sparked inquiries about the relationship between Johnson and Evgeny Lebedev, who was given a life peerage in a controversial manner in 2020.
According to the records, he had a meeting with the owner of a Russian newspaper and also called him during a 10-day “crisis” regarding a change in strategy leading up to the initial lockdown.
Keith inquired of Reynolds why he was devoting time to the prime minister, when there were more pressing issues at hand. Reynolds replied that he couldn’t remember, but he may have questioned the decision to pursue this matter.
On March 18, 2020, there was a phone call and a 41-minute meeting with the contacts. According to Labour, this occurred after the House of Lords Appointment Committee advised the PM not to grant Lebedev the honor.