Boris Johnson arrived at the Covid inquiry in central London three hours early this morning. It means he managed to avoid the groups of protesters who have now gathered outside.
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.
Other officials who have said lockdown should have come in sooner are 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”.
In a written statement to the inquiry, extracts from which were published in November, Johnson said: “It is true that I have reflected (no doubt out loud and no doubt many times) about whether the lockdowns would do (and did do) more harm than good.”
09.27 am — Aamer Anwar, a lawyer from Scottish Bereaved Families, says evidence so far has exposed a culture of “incompetence, of arrogance, of blaming everyone else but themselves.”
He said: “In recent days as predicted, the UK Covid inquiry has come under sustained and orchestrated attacks from sections of the media. This has been to defend Boris Johnson. But for the families we represent, this inquiry has robustly acted without fair or favour.
“Boris Johnson is expected to issue an apology this morning, yet he will claim he saved thousands of lives. For many of the bereaved that will be a grotesque distortion of the truth.
“In Boris Johnson’s words, instead of solving a national crisis his government presided over a total disgusting orgy of narcissism. He did let the bodies pile up, and the elderly were treated like toxic waste.”
08.32 am — Previously at the Covid inquiry: Matt Hancock admits he didn’t read SAGE meeting minutes at start of Covid pandemic
Matt Hancock: I didn’t read SAGE meeting minutes at start of Covid pandemic
08.28 am — Boris Johnson was ‘trying to do the best he could’ through pandemic, minister insists.
Policing minister Chris Philp told Sky News: “None of us had seen a pandemic on that scale before. The last time it happened was the Spanish influenza epidemic, I think, in about 1918.
“We were in uncharted territory. He was trying, as far as I could see, to make the right decisions in a very difficult, fast moving situation.
“There’s no doubt, looking back with hindsight, you can look back and point to things that could have been done better, or that could have been done better.
“These are really difficult decisions. Even with hindsight, it’s not completely clear what the answer is.”
08.26 am — Boris Johnson accused of ‘the usual lies and bluster’ ahead of Covid inquiry appearance
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”.
Boris Johnson accused of ‘the usual lies and bluster’ ahead of Covid inquiry appearance
08.20 am — Good morning and welcome back to “Politics Live”, politics.co.uk‘s rolling coverage of the day’s key moments in Westminster and beyond. Here you can keep up to date with today’s major parliamentary debates, press conferences and news events in real time.
Here’s what’s happening today:
- Boris Johnson faces a two-day grilling at the Covid inquiry
- Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak face-off, as usual, at prime minister’s questions from noon
Stay with us and we’ll bring you all the latest developments as they unfold.