Boris Johnson did not deny saying ‘get Covid and live longer’ in a WhatsApp discussion with aides when grilled at today’s PMQs.
He also dodged demands for an apology when asked by Sir Keir Starmer in the Commons, nor did he make any effort to rephrase himself.
The opposition leader recalled an exchange with the PM on May 26 in which he denied ever saying words to the effect of ‘Covid is only killing 80 year olds’.
But Sir Keir pointed to recently surfaced messages from the Johnson to aides on October 15, discussing details he said show ‘we don’t go for nationwide lockdown’.
In them, the Prime Minister said: ‘I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities.
‘The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy.
‘So get Covid and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4%) and of those virtually all survive.
‘And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.’
Sir Keir said: ‘Remind the Prime Minister over 83,000 people aged 80 or over lost their lives to this virus.
‘Everyone, leaving behind a grieving family and loved ones. So will the Prime Minister now apologise for using those words?’
Skirting around the issue, the Tory leader responded: ‘Nothing I can do can make up for the loss and the suffering that people have endured throughout this pandemic.
‘There will of course be a public inquiry into what has happened. These are incredibly tough balancing decisions that you have to take.
‘You have to balance the catastrophe of the disease against the suffering that is caused by lockdowns – the impacts on mental health, the loss of life chances for young people.
‘What has changed since we were thinking in those ways is of course that we have rolled out vaccines faster than any other country in Europe – 96% of people over 50 now have had a vaccine, 68% of people have had two jabs’
The Prime Minister then encouraged as many people as possible to come forward and get their jabs.
Sir Keir replied: ‘I think we need to check that the line at Chequers is working because the Prime Minister’s answers have no resemblance to the questions I am actually asking him.’
Ripping into the recently surfaced message, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: ‘While doctors and nurses were fighting to contain the pandemic the Prime Minister was actively pushing to allow the virus to run rampant through towns and cities.’
It comes after Johnson’s former top aide Dominic Cummings shared the messages in question with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg in his first broadcast interview.
The political advisor has made a number of embarrassing claims about the Government since leaving Number 10 in November amid a bitter internal power struggle involving Johnson’s now-wife Carrie Symonds.
In his interview with the BBC, Cummings accused his one-time boss of putting ‘his own political interests ahead of people’s lives’.
He claimed that the prime minister believed the first lockdown had been a ‘disaster’ and repeatedly said in meetings that he should never have imposed it.
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The PM was too in thrall to Tories who opposed lockdown, as was as elements of the media, he claimed.
Cummings said the Prime Minister referred to the Telegraph, which previously employed him as a journalist, as ‘my real boss’.
A Number 10 spokeswoman responded: ‘Since the start of the pandemic, the Prime Minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.
‘The Government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.
‘The Government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better.’
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