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Boris Johnson says he is ‘deeply sorry’ for pain and suffering experienced during Covid pandemic – UK politics live | Politics


Johnson says he is ‘deeply sorry’ for pain and suffering experienced during pandemic

Boris Johnson starts saying he is “deeply sorry” about the pain and suffering experienced during Covid.

He says:

I understand the feelings of these victims and their families and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and suffering of those victims and their families.

He also expresses his thanks “to the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, and many other public servants, people in all walks of life” for what they did to protect people.

Q: Why was your old phone missing around 5,000 WhatsApp messages when handed over to the inquiry?

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Johnson says he cannot give a technical explanation, but he thinks it is something to do with it being reset.

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Q: A technical report says there may have been a factory reset of the phone.

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Johnson says he does not remember any such thing.

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Q: Did you make it clear you wanted those messages disclosed?

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Yes, says Johnson. He says, for the avoidance of doubt, he wants to say he has not removed any WhatsApp messages.

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Boris Johnson starts saying he is “deeply sorry” about the pain and suffering experienced during Covid.

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He says:

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I understand the feelings of these victims and their families and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and suffering of those victims and their families.

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He also expresses his thanks “to the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, and many other public servants, people in all walks of life” for what they did to protect people.

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Lady Hallett starts by expressing her “concern” about the reports in the papers about what Boris Johnson will say.

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She says what witnesses say in witness statements is supposed to be confidential until those statements are published. She goes on:

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I wish to remind all those involved in the inquiry process they must maintain this confidentiality so as to allow the sharing of materials prior to hearings between those most involved in the inquiry process. Failing to respect confidentiality undermines the inquiry’s ability to do its job fairly, effectively and independently.

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As we report this morning, there has been plenty of coverage in the papers about what Boris Johnson is likely to say to the Covid inquiry. In fact, there has been more advance leaking than you get with a budget. Some of this seems to be authorised, although probably not all of it. (If the editor wants a story on what Johnson is expected to say, a resourceful journalist will provide one, regardless of whether or not the Johnson camp are cooperating.)

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If Johnson is trying to influence Lady Hallett, the inquiry chair, he is bound to fail; you can’t spin a judge. But if his team has been engaged in a pre-briefing operation, as seems likely, their target will be public opinion, not the inquiry team.

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Here is a round-up of what the papers have been saying.

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On Saturday

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The pre-hearing coverage kicked off with this story in the Times, in which Steven Swinford, Chris Smyth and Oliver Wright said Johnson would admit to mistakes. They said:

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Boris Johnson will next week admit that he “unquestionably made mistakes” over Covid but insist that the decisions he took ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

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In his evidence to the Covid public inquiry the former prime minister is expected to issue an unreserved apology and say that he and his government were initially far too complacent and vastly underestimated the risks posed by the virus.

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He will argue that he had a “basic confidence that things would turn out alright” on the “fallacious logic” that previous health threats such as BSE and Sars had not proven as catastrophic as feared.

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However, he is expected to say that, overall, the government succeeded in its central aim of preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed by making the “right decisions at the right times”.

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On Sunday

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There was plenty more on Sunday, of which the best article was probably Tim Shipman’s in the Sunday Times. He said Johnson would argue that the first lockdown was delayed because scientists argued that “behavioural fatigue” would stop people complying with lockdown measures after a while, which meant they should not start too early. Shipman said:

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Johnson has spent, aides say, almost a year preparing for his appearance in front of Baroness Hallett and her panel. He will make the case that many of the explosive WhatsApp exchanges that have left his government looking like it was in the middle of a civil war were simply conversations around the issues, or “dark humour” — but that the key decisions were made in formal meetings based on this official advice. One minister from the Johnson government who has read his written evidence said: “I think he gives a good account of himself, actually.”

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In the Sun Sophia Sleigh also said Johnson would seek to deflect blame onto the scientists. She said:

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An ally of the ex-PM told The Sun on Sunday: “The only trolley involved were the trolleys full of vaccines Boris helped deliver for the UK. Boris only changed his views when the scientific advice changed. The experts kept changing their tune on issues.”

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And Glen Owen in the Mail on Sunday said Johnson wants more focus on whether the Covid virus was invented by the Chinese.

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On Monday

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On Monday Ben Riley-Smith in the Daily Telegraph said Johnson would deny Dominic Cummings’ claim that in February 2020 he was on holiday at Chevening trying to finish his book about Shakespeare instead of focusing on Covid.

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On Tuesday

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On Tuesday Steve Swinford and Chris Smyth in the Times said Johnson would suggest that Prof Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, was responsible for the first lockdown being delayed. They said:

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Boris Johnson will claim that he delayed implementing the first lockdown on the advice of Sir Chris Whitty amid concerns that people would tire of the restrictions and flout the rules.

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The former prime minister’s statement to the Covid inquiry is expected to say that given the “massive disbenefits” of lockdown it was “obviously right” to ensure that it was not implemented too soon.

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He will highlight a series of warnings from Whitty, the chief medical officer, about the risks of locking down too early.

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In the Telegraph Ben Riley-Smith and Blathnaid Corless said much the same thing, although they also quoted a source saying Johnson would not be “blaming” the scientists. They said:

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Asked how the former prime minister would respond to [criticism about the timing of the first lockdown] an ally of Mr Johnson told The Telegraph that he would point to shifting scientific advice.

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The source said: “The scientific advice was right up until the last minute that lockdowns were the wrong policy and herd immunity was the right policy. People might get lockdown fatigue so you had to do it at the right time.”

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The source added: “We are not seeking to blame the scientists. They were doing a good job. It is more about getting an accurate recall on how little certainty there was around lockdown in February and March 2020. The scientists have to deal with the changing facts.”

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Outside the Covid inquiry representatives of families who lost loved ones during the pandemic are holding a mini press conference ahead of Boris Johnson’s evidence. Aamer Anwar, lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, was the first speaker. He said the evidence presented to the inquiry so far had presented “a deadly culture of impunity, of incompetence, of arrogance and blaming everyone else but themselves”.

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UPDATE: Anwar said:

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Boris Johnson is expected to issue an apology this morning.

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Yet he will claim he saved thousands of lives.

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For many of the bereaved that will be a grotesque distortion of the truth.

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In Boris Johnson’s words, instead of solving a national crisis, his government presided over a total disgusting orgy of narcissism.

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He did let the bodies pile up and the elderly were treated as toxic waste.

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As a result, over a quarter of a million people died from Covid. They cannot speak for themselves but their families, the bereaved and all those impacted by Covid deserve the truth today.

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Johnson to claim he saved thousands of lives would be ‘distortion of truth’, bereaved families claim”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 6 Dec 2023 05.18 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Wed 6 Dec 2023 04.16 EST”},{“id”:”6570314e8f087d984051e4a0″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Good morning. Boris Johnson has never been known for his punctuality. As a journalist he was famous for submitting his articles well beyond the deadline, and as PM he was not one of those ministers obsessed with starting and finishing meetings on time.

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But this morning he arrived three hours early at the Covid inquiry, where he is due to start a two-day evidence session at 10am. Perhaps he’s got some last-minute reading to do. The fact that he managed to get in before relatives of people who died in the pandemic, who have been outside protesting at some hearings, were present may just have been a fortuitous bonus.

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Henry Zeffman from the BBC has a picture.

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When he left office, Johnson’s supporters used to claim that, on Covid, he got “all the big calls right”. More recently some of the briefing by his allies has settled on the line that he got most of the big calls right. The next two days will help to determine how the inquiry – and history – assesses his performance as a pandemic PM, and the final judgment is likely to be a bit closer to the “he didn’t get everything wrong” category.

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As Peter Walker, Pippa Crerar and Ben Quinn report in their preview story, Johnson has been criticised for the extensive briefing about what he is going to say that has already appeared in the papers.

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I will be focusing mostly on the Covid inquiry today. But I will break away to cover PMQs at noon, and if there are any other big political stories, they will feature too. We are still waiting for the government to finalise and publish its legislation intended to enable Rwanda deportation flights to go ahead, and that is expected before the end of the week.

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If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

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Key events

Johnson cannot explain why some WhatsApp messages missing from old phone, but says he did not remove them

Q: Why was your old phone missing around 5,000 WhatsApp messages when handed over to the inquiry?

Johnson says he cannot give a technical explanation, but he thinks it is something to do with it being reset.

Q: A technical report says there may have been a factory reset of the phone.

Johnson says he does not remember any such thing.

Q: Did you make it clear you wanted those messages disclosed?

Yes, says Johnson. He says, for the avoidance of doubt, he wants to say he has not removed any WhatsApp messages.

Hugo Keith KC is questioning Johnson.

He asks if Johnson’s approach has been to give all relevant material to the inquiry.

Johnson says that has been his view.

Keith shows WhatsApp exchanges, shown to the inquiry at a previous hearing, which implied that Johnson did not expect his messages to be disclosed.

Johnson says he does not remember that.

Johnson says he is ‘deeply sorry’ for pain and suffering experienced during pandemic

Boris Johnson starts saying he is “deeply sorry” about the pain and suffering experienced during Covid.

He says:

I understand the feelings of these victims and their families and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and suffering of those victims and their families.

He also expresses his thanks “to the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers, and many other public servants, people in all walks of life” for what they did to protect people.

As Boris Johnson starts, there seems to be some protest in the room.

The cameras are not showing us what is happening, but Lady Hallett tells someone that unless they sit down, they will be asked to leave.

She then says they will have to leave.

Inquiry chair Lady Hallett issues reprimand over advance reports about what Johnson likely to say

Lady Hallett starts by expressing her “concern” about the reports in the papers about what Boris Johnson will say.

She says what witnesses say in witness statements is supposed to be confidential until those statements are published. She goes on:

I wish to remind all those involved in the inquiry process they must maintain this confidentiality so as to allow the sharing of materials prior to hearings between those most involved in the inquiry process. Failing to respect confidentiality undermines the inquiry’s ability to do its job fairly, effectively and independently.

What Johnson is expected to tell Covid inquiry, according to newspaper reports published in advance

As we report this morning, there has been plenty of coverage in the papers about what Boris Johnson is likely to say to the Covid inquiry. In fact, there has been more advance leaking than you get with a budget. Some of this seems to be authorised, although probably not all of it. (If the editor wants a story on what Johnson is expected to say, a resourceful journalist will provide one, regardless of whether or not the Johnson camp are cooperating.)

If Johnson is trying to influence Lady Hallett, the inquiry chair, he is bound to fail; you can’t spin a judge. But if his team has been engaged in a pre-briefing operation, as seems likely, their target will be public opinion, not the inquiry team.

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Here is a round-up of what the papers have been saying.

On Saturday

The pre-hearing coverage kicked off with this story in the Times, in which Steven Swinford, Chris Smyth and Oliver Wright said Johnson would admit to mistakes. They said:

Boris Johnson will next week admit that he “unquestionably made mistakes” over Covid but insist that the decisions he took ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

In his evidence to the Covid public inquiry the former prime minister is expected to issue an unreserved apology and say that he and his government were initially far too complacent and vastly underestimated the risks posed by the virus.

He will argue that he had a “basic confidence that things would turn out alright” on the “fallacious logic” that previous health threats such as BSE and Sars had not proven as catastrophic as feared.

However, he is expected to say that, overall, the government succeeded in its central aim of preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed by making the “right decisions at the right times”.

On Sunday

There was plenty more on Sunday, of which the best article was probably Tim Shipman’s in the Sunday Times. He said Johnson would argue that the first lockdown was delayed because scientists argued that “behavioural fatigue” would stop people complying with lockdown measures after a while, which meant they should not start too early. Shipman said:

Johnson has spent, aides say, almost a year preparing for his appearance in front of Baroness Hallett and her panel. He will make the case that many of the explosive WhatsApp exchanges that have left his government looking like it was in the middle of a civil war were simply conversations around the issues, or “dark humour” — but that the key decisions were made in formal meetings based on this official advice. One minister from the Johnson government who has read his written evidence said: “I think he gives a good account of himself, actually.”

In the Sun Sophia Sleigh also said Johnson would seek to deflect blame onto the scientists. She said:

An ally of the ex-PM told The Sun on Sunday: “The only trolley involved were the trolleys full of vaccines Boris helped deliver for the UK. Boris only changed his views when the scientific advice changed. The experts kept changing their tune on issues.”

And Glen Owen in the Mail on Sunday said Johnson wants more focus on whether the Covid virus was invented by the Chinese.

On Monday

On Monday Ben Riley-Smith in the Daily Telegraph said Johnson would deny Dominic Cummings’ claim that in February 2020 he was on holiday at Chevening trying to finish his book about Shakespeare instead of focusing on Covid.

On Tuesday

On Tuesday Steve Swinford and Chris Smyth in the Times said Johnson would suggest that Prof Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, was responsible for the first lockdown being delayed. They said:

Boris Johnson will claim that he delayed implementing the first lockdown on the advice of Sir Chris Whitty amid concerns that people would tire of the restrictions and flout the rules.

The former prime minister’s statement to the Covid inquiry is expected to say that given the “massive disbenefits” of lockdown it was “obviously right” to ensure that it was not implemented too soon.

He will highlight a series of warnings from Whitty, the chief medical officer, about the risks of locking down too early.

In the Telegraph Ben Riley-Smith and Blathnaid Corless said much the same thing, although they also quoted a source saying Johnson would not be “blaming” the scientists. They said:

Asked how the former prime minister would respond to [criticism about the timing of the first lockdown] an ally of Mr Johnson told The Telegraph that he would point to shifting scientific advice.

The source said: “The scientific advice was right up until the last minute that lockdowns were the wrong policy and herd immunity was the right policy. People might get lockdown fatigue so you had to do it at the right time.”

The source added: “We are not seeking to blame the scientists. They were doing a good job. It is more about getting an accurate recall on how little certainty there was around lockdown in February and March 2020. The scientists have to deal with the changing facts.”

In a recent edition of his The Rest is Politics podcast, which he co-hosts with Rory Stewart, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former communications chief, recalled giving evidence to one of the Iraq inquiries. (I don’t think he was clear whether it was Hutton or Chilcot.) There were going to be protesters outside, and Campbell said he was offered the chance of going in by the back door. He refused, he said, and insisted on going in through the main entrance, ignoring the shouting.

This is what he posted on X this morning about Johnson dodging the protests at the Covid inquiry this morning.

What a coward. When the pandemic came he couldn’t be arsed to get from his bed in Chequers to Cobra meetings. But when there is a risk of being confronted by the consequences of his inactions he sneaks in as early as he can. Contemptible

What a coward. When the pandemic came he couldn’t be arsed to get from his bed in Chequers to Cobra meetings. But when there is a risk of being confronted by the consequences of his inactions he sneaks in as early as he can. Contemptible https://t.co/5iUmbN6rA2

— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) December 6, 2023

nn”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/campbellclaret/status/1732317233244766347″,”id”:”1732317233244766347″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”270e9b92-9fee-4714-a81c-15e966b6e347″}}” config=”{“renderingTarget”:”Web”,”darkModeAvailable”:false}”>

What a coward. When the pandemic came he couldn’t be arsed to get from his bed in Chequers to Cobra meetings. But when there is a risk of being confronted by the consequences of his inactions he sneaks in as early as he can. Contemptible https://t.co/5iUmbN6rA2

— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) December 6, 2023

Asked about Boris Johnson arriving three hours early for the Covid inquiry this morning, Chris Philp, the policing minister, joked “it’s the first time Boris has ever been early for anything”.

A van displaying a protest banner parked outside the Covid inquiry this morning. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Protesters outside the Covid inquiry this morning.
Protesters outside the Covid inquiry this morning. Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA
Protesters outside the Covid inquiry this morning.
Protesters outside the Covid inquiry this morning. Photograph: Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters

For Johnson to claim he saved thousands of lives would be ‘distortion of truth’, bereaved families claim

Outside the Covid inquiry representatives of families who lost loved ones during the pandemic are holding a mini press conference ahead of Boris Johnson’s evidence. Aamer Anwar, lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, was the first speaker. He said the evidence presented to the inquiry so far had presented “a deadly culture of impunity, of incompetence, of arrogance and blaming everyone else but themselves”.

UPDATE: Anwar said:

Boris Johnson is expected to issue an apology this morning.

Yet he will claim he saved thousands of lives.

For many of the bereaved that will be a grotesque distortion of the truth.

In Boris Johnson’s words, instead of solving a national crisis, his government presided over a total disgusting orgy of narcissism.

He did let the bodies pile up and the elderly were treated as toxic waste.

As a result, over a quarter of a million people died from Covid. They cannot speak for themselves but their families, the bereaved and all those impacted by Covid deserve the truth today.

Aamer Anwar reading his statement to the media.
Aamer Anwar reading his statement to the media. Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

Boris Johnson arrives early at Covid inquiry and is expected to say he got ‘most of the big calls right’

Good morning. Boris Johnson has never been known for his punctuality. As a journalist he was famous for submitting his articles well beyond the deadline, and as PM he was not one of those ministers obsessed with starting and finishing meetings on time.

But this morning he arrived three hours early at the Covid inquiry, where he is due to start a two-day evidence session at 10am. Perhaps he’s got some last-minute reading to do. The fact that he managed to get in before relatives of people who died in the pandemic, who have been outside protesting at some hearings, were present may just have been a fortuitous bonus.

Henry Zeffman from the BBC has a picture.

Boris Johnson has just arrived at the Covid inquiry.

We’re expecting him to apologise that the government wasn’t as prepared for the pandemic as it should have been but to argue he got the big calls right.

More on @BBCBreakfast shortly pic.twitter.com/i4jPtRExzR

— Henry Zeffman (@hzeffman) December 6, 2023

“,”url”:”https://twitter.com/hzeffman/status/1732294637614723501″,”id”:”1732294637614723501″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”72de5e96-b4db-4b31-bad4-8debaed4c4a7″}}” config=”{“renderingTarget”:”Web”,”darkModeAvailable”:false}”>

Boris Johnson has just arrived at the Covid inquiry.

We’re expecting him to apologise that the government wasn’t as prepared for the pandemic as it should have been but to argue he got the big calls right.

More on @BBCBreakfast shortly pic.twitter.com/i4jPtRExzR

— Henry Zeffman (@hzeffman) December 6, 2023

When he left office, Johnson’s supporters used to claim that, on Covid, he got “all the big calls right”. More recently some of the briefing by his allies has settled on the line that he got most of the big calls right. The next two days will help to determine how the inquiry – and history – assesses his performance as a pandemic PM, and the final judgment is likely to be a bit closer to the “he didn’t get everything wrong” category.

As Peter Walker, Pippa Crerar and Ben Quinn report in their preview story, Johnson has been criticised for the extensive briefing about what he is going to say that has already appeared in the papers.

I will be focusing mostly on the Covid inquiry today. But I will break away to cover PMQs at noon, and if there are any other big political stories, they will feature too. We are still waiting for the government to finalise and publish its legislation intended to enable Rwanda deportation flights to go ahead, and that is expected before the end of the week.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.




www.theguardian.com

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