Boris Johnson has been accused of “the usual lies and bluster” ahead of his appearance before the Covid inquiry as unions and campaign groups respond to the former prime minister’s alleged “briefings” to the media, which he denies.
The former prime minister, who was at the helm throughout the pandemic, is facing a two-day grilling at the Covid inquiry.
The former PM is expected to apologise on behalf of the government about the early handling of the crisis, while insisting he got the big calls right.
It comes as previous witnesses, including former health secretary Matt Hancock, have conceded lockdown should have been introduced earlier than 23 March.
Others who have said that the lockdown should have come sooner include Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, then the chief scientific adviser, and Lord Sedwill, then the cabinet secretary
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, has claimed that the government’s original plan was “herd immunity by September”.
Matt Fowler, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, told the Guardian: “Boris Johnson’s team appear to have been leaking his witness statement left, right and centre ahead of his appearance tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, the claims he’s making are the usual lies and bluster.
“The inquiry has already entirely debunked the claim that ‘he got the big calls right’. In reality, when news of the pandemic first struck, Johnson treated it all like it was a joke, and as cases began to rise he delayed locking down, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths, such as my dad’s. Even worse, when the second wave came around he repeated all of the same mistakes, leading to even more people dying than in the first wave.”
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Nathan Oswin, who leads on the inquiry for the TUC, told the newspaper: “This inquiry is about learning the lessons of what went wrong so that we can save lives in the future. It shouldn’t be abused by politicians looking to salvage their legacies and rewrite history. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must play by the rules and put people above their own political fortunes.”
Briefings have been deemed to be not within the rules of the inquiry if they rely on any materials provided to the inquiry, such as witness statements.
Chair of the inquiry Heather Hallett warned against briefing out details of witness statements in October.
A source close to Johnson told the Guardian that the former PM’s team had not leaked any evidence in advance. “We are as upset about this as they are”, they said.
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