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‘Let the bodies pile high’: Boris Johnson did make controversial remark despite ex-PM’s denials, veteran aide claims at COVID inquiry | Politics News

Boris Johnson said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than impose another lockdown in September 2020, according to one of his most veteran aides – despite the former prime minister denying making the remark several times.

Edward Udny-Lister made the revelation to the COVID inquiry today – and also told Lady Hallett that Mr Johnson asked to be injected with COVID live on TV in March 2020 to show the virus was not a threat.

The bodies comment backs up reports in The Daily Mail and allegations made by Dominic Cummings in 2021.

Mr Johnson denied making the remarks on numerous occasions – both on television and in the House of Commons.

Politics latest: Johnson wanted to be injected with COVID on TV

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Misleading the House of Commons was at the centre of Mr Johnson’s resignation from the Commons as an MP.

Lord Udny-Lister worked with Mr Johnson when he was mayor of London, as well as when he was the foreign secretary.

He was one of the most senior aides to Mr Johnson in Downing Street – alongside Mr Cummings – and ultimately replaced Mr Cummings as chief of staff.

Lord Udny-Lister’s statement to the inquiry said: “In September 2020, the R number was rising. A circuit breaker was proposed in response to this increase and the health secretary was pushing hard for this to take place.

“However, the opposition to any form of lockdown was intense.

“I recall the PM saying in September 2020 that he would rather ‘let the bodies pile high’ than impose another lockdown.

“Whilst this was an unfortunate turn of phrase, it should be born [sic] in mind that by this point the government was trying to avoid a further lockdown given the already severe impact on the economy and education.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the former prime minister would be giving evidence to the inquiry in due course.

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2021: PM asked about ‘bodies pile high’ comment

Unlike Mr Cummings, Lord Udny-Lister is a long-term ally of Mr Johnson.

His evidence was given on another illuminating day at the official COVID inquiry.

As well as the above claims, Lord Udny-Lister laid out the dysfunctionality of Downing Street – especially in the early days of the pandemic.

The adviser – who had a desk opposite Mr Cummings – said: “Some of the personalities made it very, very toxic… Dominic Cummings’s relationship with other people had become very strained.”

And messages released to the inquiry revealed that Mark Sedwill – then the head of the civil service – said in July 2020 that “it’s hard to ask people to [march] to the sound of gunfire if they’re shot in the back”.

Simon Case – who is now the head of the civil service – responded by saying: “I’ve never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country.”

Chief Strategic Advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sir Edward Lister, in Downing Street, Westminster, London.
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Lord Udny-Lister was a senior adviser to Boris Johnson

Read more:
Final message between Johnson and Cummings revealed
The moments you may have missed at the inquiry last week

He added that “top-drawer” potential recruits had refused to work in Downing Street because of the “toxic reputation” of the setup.

Lord Udny-Lister also spoke of a distrust or dislike within Downing Street for including devolved administrations within decision-making, as it was felt that that decisions would be briefing or introduced early by Scotland for “political” reasons.

Before the political appointee gave evidence, Simon Ridley – who was head of the COVID-19 taskforce within Number 10 – was before the lawyers.

At one point, he confirmed that the taskforce – which coordinated COVID policy – was “blindsided” by Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out announcement. He said the decision was instead made by the then chancellor and Mr Johnson.

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Another point to come out of Mr Ridley’s evidence was an email sent by Alexandra Burns, a Number 10 official, in April 2020. This asked if there was an “overall strategy” for care homes – adding that looking at Europe made it seem like one was necessary as “once someone gets [COVID] in one of these places many die”.

A diary extract from Sir Patrick Vallance, the former chief scientific adviser, wrote in his diary in October 2020 that he had a “very bad meeting” in Downing Street, in which Mr Johnson called for a “whisky and a revolver” and Mr Sunak was “using increasingly specific and spurious arguments against closing hospitality”.

Former top aide of Queen Elizabeth II to lead new memorial committee – with public asked to submit their ideas | UK News

A former top aide to Queen Elizabeth II is to lead a new committee looking at ways to commemorate the life and service of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

Lord Robin Janvrin, who served as private secretary to the sovereign from 1999 to 2007, will chair the newly established Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee.

The committee will put forward proposals for a permanent memorial for the former monarch, as well as a national legacy programme.

The ideas will centre around Queen Elizabeth II’s public service across her 70-year reign, as well as the causes she supported.

The committee will also engage with the public to bring in ideas and suggestions from across the UK.

Lord Robin Janvrin makes a speech before a Platinum Jubilee beacon is lit at Coutts bank in central London, on day one of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Over 3,000 towns, villages and cities throughout the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Oversea Territories, and each of the capital cities of Commonwealth countries are lighting beacons to mark the Jubilee. Picture date: Thursday June 2, 2022.
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Lord Robin Janvrin. File pic

Previous royal memorials include the statue of King George V opposite the Houses of Parliament and the memorial statue of King George VI on The Mall.

National legacy programmes for previous monarchs include the creation and protection of 506 parks, playing fields and green spaces in honour of King George V, and a bursary for youth leadership training to mark the life of King George VI.

The plans will be unveiled to coincide with what would have been Her Late Majesty’s hundredth birthday year in 2026.

Read more:
The Queen through the years – a life of service in pictures
Tributes to Elizabeth II as King attends Braemar Gathering

The committee will be jointly supported by the Royal Household and the UK government – which will consider funding options as proposals develop.

A range of senior figures and experts will be appointed to develop ideas and bring recommendations to The King and the prime minister.

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Lord Janvrin said: “It is an honour to be asked to chair the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee.

“It will be a unique challenge to try to capture for future generations Her Late Majesty’s extraordinary contribution to our national life throughout her very long reign”

Who is Lord Janvrin?

A former Royal Navy officer and later a diplomat, Robin Janvrin is best known for his two decades of service to the Royal Household.

He first joined as the Queen’s press secretary in 1987, later taking on the role of assistant private secretary and then deputy private secretary.

In February 1999, he stepped up to the position of the Queen’s private secretary – the keeper of the sovereign’s official programme and the chief line of communication between monarchs and the governments of the Commonwealth.

He stayed in the role until his retirement in September 2007, after which he was knighted and appointed a life peer.

Since leaving the Royal Household, Lord Janvrin has served as Chairman of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, and a trustee of the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

He stepped down from all three roles in 2016, but remains a member of the British Library Board, a trustee of the Normandy Memorial Trust and Secretary of the Order of Merit.

Lord Janvrin also sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said: “Queen Elizabeth II was our longest reigning monarch and greatest public servant.

“Lord Janvrin will now begin the important work of designing a fitting tribute to her legacy of service to our nation and the Commonwealth.”

Top aide questioned Boris Johnson’s plan to say ‘all COVID guidance was followed’ over partygate | Politics News

A senior civil servant questioned whether Boris Johnson should say COVID guidance had been followed at all times in Downing Street, according to new evidence published by MPs investigating whether he lied over partygate.

In written evidence from Martin Reynolds, the former principal private secretary, he said he questioned whether it was “realistic” to make this claim, given the nature of the working environment in No 10.

He said he asked Mr Johnson about the line proposed for PMQs on 7 December, adding: “He did not welcome the interruption but told me that he had received reassurances that the comms event was within the rules. I accepted this but questioned whether it was realistic to argue that all guidance had been followed at all times, given the nature of the working environment in No 10.”

Mr Reynolds said he agreed to delete the reference to guidance.

The evidence has been published ahead of Mr Johnson being questioned by the privileges committee this afternoon on whether he misled parliament over partygate denials.

Evidence
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Evidence

Ahead of its publication, a source close to the former prime minister said his team believe the new documents are generally helpful to them.

But they have criticised the fact that not all of the evidence Mr Johnson wanted published has gone into the bundle.

All seven committee members, led by Labour veteran Harriet Harman but with a Tory majority, will use Mr Johnson’s appearance to determine if he deliberately misled the Commons when he told MPs no COVID rules or guidance had been broken.

On the eve of his appearance, the former prime minister repeated his denial that he had not done anything wrong and said he was looking forward to the hearing.