Contemporaneous notes suggest that Boris Johnson questioned the impact of destroying the economy for individuals who would soon die from Covid-19. The notes, taken by Imran Shafi, the prime minister’s former private secretary for public services, were made during a meeting between Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, in March 2020. One line in the notes stated, “We’re killing the patient to tackle the tumour,” while another questioned why the economy was being destroyed for people who would die soon anyway. When asked about the comments at the Covid Inquiry, Shafi said he couldn’t be certain if they were made by Johnson. These revelations were part of the ongoing inquiry into Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
The inquiry also revealed private messages between key government figures. Simon Case, the UK’s most senior civil servant, expressed frustration with Johnson’s leadership in a WhatsApp message, stating that the prime minister “cannot lead” and was making it impossible to tackle Covid-19. Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser at the time, criticized Johnson’s “ridiculous flip-flopping” and inconsistency. These messages highlight the internal frustrations and doubts surrounding Johnson’s approach to the pandemic.
The inquiry also disclosed that Johnson met with Lord Lebedev, a friend since his time as mayor of London, just four days before announcing the first lockdown. The prime minister is expected to give his own testimony to the Covid Inquiry later this year.
Overall, these revelations provide a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes discussions and criticisms of Johnson’s handling of the pandemic. The inquiry aims to shed light on the decision-making process and actions taken by the government during this critical period.