Covid inquiry: Boris Johnson claimed virus just 'nature's way of dealing with old people', Sir Patrick Vallance said
Boris Johnson suggested he believed the coronavirus pandemic was “nature’s way of dealing with old people” as he resisted lockdown measures, Sir Patrick Vallance claimed.
An extract shown to the UK Covid inquiry on Tuesday showed Sir Patrick was deeply critical of Mr Johnson, describing “quite a bonkers set of exchanges” in his diaries. The adviser wrote in August 2020 that Mr Johnson was “obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and the economy going”.
“Quite bonkers set of exchanges,” he said, referring to the “PM WhatsApp group”.
Then, in December 2020, Sir Patrick wrote that Mr Johnson said he believed he had been “acting early” and the “public are with him (but his party is not)”.
He added: “He says his party ‘thinks the whole thing is pathetic and Covid is just nature’s way of dealing with old people – and I am not entirely sure I disagree with them. A lot of moderate people think it is a bit too much’. Wants to rely on polling. Then he says ‘we should move things to Tier 3 now’.”
It follows evidence from Lee Cain, Mr Johnson’s communications director in No.10, who said the-then PM was indecisive over whether or not to impose a circuit-breaker lockdown in September 2020 because it was “very much against what’s in his political DNA”.
Counsel to the inquiry Andrew O’Connor asked: “And was this one of the factors that underpinned the prime minister’s indecision later in 2020, September/October time, whether or not to have a circuit-breaker lockdown?”
Mr Cain said: “Yes, it was. I think the prime minister was torn on this issue. I think, if he was in his previous role as a journalist, he would probably have been writing articles saying we should open up the beaches and how we should get ahead and be getting back.
“I think he felt torn where the evidence on one side and public opinion and scientific evidence was very much caution, slow – we’re almost certainly going to have to do another suppression measure, so we need to have that in mind – where media opinion and certainly the rump of the Tory Party was pushing him hard [in] the other direction.
“So I think that was partly the reason for the oscillation because the rigid measures were very much against what’s in his political DNA.”
Mr Cain also claimed Mr Johnson’s erratic decision-making was “rather exhausting”. Messages between Mr Cain and Dominic Cummings, who served as the-then prime minister’s chief adviser, showed them venting their frustrations on WhatsApp.
“Get in here he’s melting down,” Mr Cummings wrote on March 19, 2020, days before the first lockdown, adding Mr Johnson was “back to Jaws mode w**k”.
“I’ve literally said same thing ten f****** times and he still won’t absorb it,” he added.
Explaining the Jaws reference, Mr Cain told the inquiry that Mr Johnson would refer to the mayor from the Jaws film “who wanted to keep the beaches open”.
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