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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”.

Veteran magician David Berglas dies aged 97 | Ents & Arts News

Magician David Berglas, one of the most influential of the 20th century, has died aged 97.

Also known as the International Man of Mystery, he was the first magician to have his own programme on British television, Meet David Berglas, in 1954.

He appeared frequently on TV and radio over six decades and became a household name for his stunts, including driving a car around London while blindfolded.

Berglas was renowned for a trick called the Berglas Effect, in which he could find a person’s chosen card at their chosen point in a deck of cards.

It is regarded as the holy grail of magic effects – and he never revealed the secret of how to do it.

Berglas was awarded an MBE in 2018 for his services to magic and psychology.

On receiving his award he said: “I am delighted to accept this honour but even more pleased that the art of magic has at last been recognised.

“I have spent over 60 years entertaining people in person, on radio and television – ‘reading their minds’ – but I certainly didn’t see this one coming.”

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Illusionist Derren Brown hailed Berglas as “one of our greatest living magical performers” when Berglas was awarded his MBE.

“Generations of magicians owe him a debt of gratitude,” Brown said.

“Each of my shows is indebted to his artistry and astonishing body of work. I thank him for his constant inspiration.”

As president of The Magic Circle from 1989 to 1998, Berger revitalised the society and was the driving force behind its decision to admit women in 1991.

His son Marvin Berglas, who was elected president of The Magic Circle in September this year, said: “My father was a giant in the magic fraternity, known for his originality, creativity and showmanship.

“His mysteries have not only baffled audiences but also his peers. However, to us, his family, he will always be best remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather.”

‘I owe them my life’: Army veteran rescued by coastguard after mayday call ends Rockall record attempt | UK News

An army veteran who hoped to set a world record for the number of days living on a remote North Atlantic islet says he owes rescuers his life after issuing an emergency mayday call.

Christopher “Cam” Cameron VR FRGS planned to remain on Rockall for 60 days and managed to make it to the halfway point before his charity challenge was scuppered by treacherous weather.

Much of his equipment was destroyed by wind and waves throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, and he was almost swept away at several points overnight.

After issuing the distress call to HM Coastguard on Wednesday evening, the crew of nearby ship MV Nassauborg kept in visual contact from the water as waves continued to crash over the islet.

Mr Cameron told Sky News: “I was reassured at all times that I was in safe hands and that I would return to see my family despite being in pain, exhausted and hypothermic.

“I’ll need a moment or two to take stock, decompress, and get home to see my family.”

Christopher “Cam” Cameron. Pic: Rockall Expedition/MPV HIRTA
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Pic: Rockall Expedition/MPV HIRTA

Christopher “Cam” Cameron. Pic: Rockall Expedition/MPV HIRTA
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Pic: Rockall Expedition/MPV HIRTA

Stornoway Coastguard responded to the alert. Mr Cameron was winched to safety via helicopter and then flown back to the Scottish town – the largest in the Outer Hebrides.

Mr Cameron said: “I’m safe and well after a good night’s sleep, courtesy of the hospitality and kindness from the people of Stornoway.

“I owe this all to the courageous and speedy extraction from Rockall by the professionalism of HM Coastguard.”

Rockall is an uninhabitable granite islet around 230 miles west of North Uist.

Mr Cameron had hoped to beat the world record of a 45-day stay on Rockall, set by Nick Hancock in 2014.

Christopher “Cam” Cameron. Pic: Rockall Expedition
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Pic: Rockall Expedition

Mr Cameron, who is usually based in Wiltshire, took on the challenge for The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

He has raised more than £12,000 for the causes so far.

He said: “I did it for the charities and we have raised some much needed money for them.”

Mr Cameron thanked all those who have sent kind words.

Christopher "Cam" Cameron. Pic: Stornoway Coastguard
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Pic: Stornoway Coastguard

Paying tribute to his rescuers, he said: “I would not be here were it not for the courageous efforts of HM Coastguard – in particular, Stornoway Coastguard and the pilots and crew of Rescue 22, and SAR Stornoway.

“A big thank you also to the captain and crew of MV Nassauborg, who maintained a sector screen around Rockall whilst I waited for the [helicopter]. I owe them all my life.”

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MV Nassauborg. Pic: Cam Cameron
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MV Nassauborg keeping watch. Pic: Cam Cameron

Christopher “Cam” Cameron. Pic: Rockall Expedition/Cam Cameron
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Rockall Expedition/Cam Cameron

Mr Cameron’s family said: “We are hugely proud of all his achievements, but also that he had the courage to make what must have been a very difficult decision in the face of such dreadful weather.

“We are looking forward to welcoming him home and hope that any future adventures will be a little less risky.”

They joked: “Why couldn’t he just have bought a sports car in the first place?”

Christopher “Cam” Cameron. Pic: Rockall Expedition
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Pic: Rockall Expedition

A documentary about Mr Cameron’s challenge, titled Rockall – The Edge of Existence, is currently being produced.

Aaron Wheeler, director of the documentary, said: “We’re glad Cam is safely back on dry land and look forward to watching through the footage that Cam recorded during his occupation to tell the story of his adventure.”