Britain’s Boris Johnson’s alleged Covid comments ‘leave bodies piling up’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he campaigns in Llandudno, North Wales, April 26, 2021.

PHIL NOBLE | AFP | Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing growing controversy this week over comments he allegedly made last year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

UK news headlines are dominated by reports that Johnson told aides in Downing Street he would rather see the ‘bodies piling up in the thousands’ than endorse a third national lockdown .

Johnson and Downing Street vehemently denied he used the phrase. On Monday, Johnson called the reports “absolute bastards” and, when asked if he had made the remark, he told reporters: “No, but again, I think the important thing… that people want us to get along and what we do as a government is make sure the lockdowns work, and they did.”

The alleged comments, first reported by the Daily Mail on Sunday citing unnamed Conservative Party sources, were said to have been made by the Prime Minister in mid-October after he reluctantly agreed to a second lockdown the country began in November.

The newspaper claimed the Prime Minister, frustrated at having to impose a second round of restrictions on public life and the economy, told his aides: ‘No more lockdowns ——let the bodies pile up by thousands!”

The BBC and ITV both backed the story on Monday, saying unnamed sources also confirmed to them that the comments were made.

Integrity under fire

The alleged remarks caused a frenzy among British tabloids, and hurt among the families of Covid victims after a difficult year for the country.

The UK has been hit hard by the pandemic; to date, it has recorded more than 4.2 million cases and more than 127,000 deaths. Yet its effective rollout of vaccination has enabled it to dramatically reduce the number of Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The reports come at a bad time for the prime minister, amid a host of stories that have put his conduct and integrity under the microscope. Over the past week questions have been raised about the source of funding for the renovation of the Johnson residence, Downing Street has been the subject of leaks to the press and contacts between senior officials and business leaders company.

Much of the scrutiny comes after a series of damaging allegations made by Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings last week also heightened speculation about power struggles in Downing Street the last year.

Members of the media surround former special adviser number 10 Dominic Cummings (R) as he leaves his residence in London on November 14, 2020.

JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | Getty Images

The BBC reported that Johnson will chair a cabinet meeting on Tuesday as he tries to distract from the growing furor. A Downing Street spokesman told CNBC on Tuesday: ‘The government is fully focused on delivering the people’s priorities as we continue our vaccination program and recover from coronavirus, creating new jobs and rebuilding better.”

Regarding the refurbishment of Johnson’s Downing Street residence, No 10 said ‘the costs of a wider refurbishment this year have been borne by the Prime Minister personally’.

“Boris on the Ropes”

However, Britain’s newspapers and political opposition are unlikely to let the Prime Minister off the hook so easily.

The Daily Mail – a right-wing paper that has previously backed Boris Johnson – headlined its newspaper with ‘Boris on the ropes’ on Tuesday, while the Metro newspaper led its front page with the phrase: ‘PM tainted with sleaze, say the voters,” citing a poll that showed half of those polled believed there was a ‘culture of sleaze’ in government.

The headlines came after Shadow Cabinet Minister Rachel Reeves said “we see the pipes bursting with the sewage of the allegations” against the government. She also described Johnson’s alleged comments, which have been interpreted as suggesting he would rather have authorized thousands of deaths rather than another lockdown, as “stomach ache”.

The left-leaning Guardian newspaper headlined its article on Tuesday with: ‘Pressure on Johnson after Covid death insult allegation’, while the right-wing Daily Express led with Johnson’s rebuttal: ‘Boris denies explosion to “let the bodies pile up”.

Further reports emerged on Tuesday, however, with The Times newspaper saying it had been “repeatedly repeated” – although it did not name sources – that Johnson said last September he would prefer let the coronavirus “rip” rather than impose a second lockdown because of the economic damage further restrictions would cause.

Comments are closed.