LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – A British minister on Monday flatly denied a report that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would rather bodies piled “high in their thousands” than order a third social and economic lockdown to stem coronavirus infections.
Johnson is facing a stream of allegations in newspapers about everything from his muddled initial handling of the COVID-19 crisis to questions over who financed the redecoration of his official apartment.
The Daily Mail newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying that, in October, shortly after agreeing to a second lockdown, Johnson told a meeting in Downing Street: “No more fucking lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News: “It’s not true.”
“We’re getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories. You know – unnamed sources by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events. You know – look – none of this is serious,” Wallace said.
The Daily Mail did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said he was astonished to read the newspaper’s report.
“If he did say those things, he’s got to explain it,” he told broadcasters.
Johnson did impose a third lockdown, in January, though critics say it could have been avoided had he yielded to pressure from senior ministers to make the second lockdown more stringent.
Britain has the world’s fifth worst official COVID-19 death toll, with 127,681 deaths, after the United States, Brazil, Mexico and India, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
JOHNSON UNDER FIRE
After Downing Street named Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, as the source of leaks against the prime minister, Cummings hit back on Friday, denying he was the source and casting Johnson as incompetent and lacking in integrity.
The row pits two the most influential Brexiteers against each other: Johnson, 56, who in 2019 won the biggest Conservative Party majority since 1987 versus Cummings, 49, the campaigner behind the successful 2016 Brexit campaign.
Cummings left Johnson’s staff suddenly late last year, having previously been his most influential adviser on Brexit and the 2019 election campaign.
Cummings said Johnson had planned to have donors pay secretly for the renovation of his Downing Street apartment, adding that was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal – and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations”.
Wallace on Monday declined to confirm or deny that Johnson had been given money from political donors to pay for the renovation of the flat through an undeclared loan. What mattered now was that Johnson had borne the cost himself, Wallace said.
“Do I think the prime minister is sleazy? No, I don’t,” he told BBC radio.
Asked last month about the refurbishment plans, Johnson’s spokeswoman said all donations, gifts and benefits were properly declared, and that no party funds were being used to pay for the refurbishment.