Boris Johnson suggested he ‘thought Covid was nature’s way of dealing with old people’
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 argued.
The Government’s chief scientific adviser during Covid-19 wrote that the then-prime minister suggested he may have agreed with Conservatives that the “whole thing is pathetic”.
Sir Patrick hit out in his diaries about “quite a bonkers set of exchanges” featuring Mr Johnson, extracts shown to the official inquiry on Tuesday showed.
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 that the “public are with him (but his party is not)”.
“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’.”
Lee Cain, who was Mr Johnson’s communications director in No 10, 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”.
Mr Cain said his own research led him to believe that the public mood was more cautious, contrary to that of the Tory Party.
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, I guess.”
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