Boris Johnson responded directly for the first time today to a claim he had said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order another coronavirus lockdown, denying he had made the remarks.
But it comes after days of pressure on the PM after his former chief advisor Dominic Cummings made a series of iincendiary claims on his blog which questioned Mr Johnson’s integrity.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves accused the Prime Minister today of “corrupting the standards of public life expected in high office”.
But Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told MPs he was in the meeting when Mr Johnson is alleged to have made comments about lockdowns and said he “never heard language of that kind”.
Mr Johnson was accused of having made the remarks after agreeing to a second lockdown, suggesting he was prepared to face a mounting death toll rather than order a third set of tough restrictions.
Asked if he made the comments, Mr Johnson told reporters in Wrexham: “No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a Government is to make sure that the lockdowns work.
“They have, and I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, really pulled together and, working with the vaccination programme, we have got the disease under control.”
The decision on the second lockdown last autumn was leaked and is the subject of an inquiry to find the so-called “chatty rat” who tipped off the press.
Appearing before MPs, the UK’s most senior civil servant declined to say whether Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings had been cleared over that leak, as the former aide has claimed.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) that it is “probable” that the culprit will never be identified.
But he said the Prime Minister did not try to block the investigation, after his former Vote Leave ally alleged he had considered the move after learning that a close friend of his fiancee Carrie Symonds had been implicated, a claim the Prime Minister denied.
However it has been reported that Mr Cummings has recordings which would back up many of his allegations, while other reports say he was not the source of the comments.
Officials are now concerned at what he may say when he gives evidence to MPs investigating the Government’s response to the pandemic next month.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was time for “a full and transparent investigation into everything that’s going on” at Downing Street.
Speaking on a visit to the West Midlands today, he said: “We’ve got lots of investigations.
“But we haven’t got anything looking at the pattern of behaviour.
“Day after day there are new allegations of sleaze, of favours, of privileged access. We need a full investigation to get to the bottom of that.”
Mr Case today set out a series of reviews which were ongoing but said he could not give any details on them due to the fact they were currently being carried out.