UK’s Boris Johnson provokes fury over alleged ‘let bodies pile high’ Covid comments

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he campaigns in Llandudno, north Wales on April 26, 2021.

PHIL NOBLE | AFP | Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing mounting controversy this week over comments he allegedly made last year during the height of the country’s coronavirus pandemic.

News headlines in the U.K. are dominated by reports that Johnson allegedly told aides in Downing Street that he would rather see the “bodies pile high in their thousands” than approve a third national lockdown.

Johnson and Downing Street have vehemently denied that he used the phrase. On Monday, Johnson described the reports as “absolute rubbish,” and when asked whether he had made the remark, told reporters: “No, but again, I think the important thing … that people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work, and they have.”

The alleged comments, first reported by the Daily Mail Sunday citing anonymous Conservative Party sources, were reportedly said by the prime minister in mid-October after he had reluctantly agreed to a second lockdown that the country began in November.

The paper claimed the prime minister, frustrated over having to impose a second round of restrictions on public life and the economy, told aides: “No more —-ing lockdowns — let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”

The BBC and ITV both backed the story Monday, saying unnamed sources had also confirmed to them that the comments were made.

Integrity under fire

The BBC reported that Johnson will chair a cabinet meeting Tuesday as he attempts to deflect attention from the growing furor. A Downing Street spokesperson told CNBC Tuesday: “The government is totally focused on delivering the people’s priorities as we continue our vaccination programme and recover from coronavirus, creating new jobs and building back better.”

On the refurbishment of Johnson’s residence at Downing Street, No.10 said the “costs of wider refurbishment in this year have been met by the Prime Minister personally.”

‘Boris on the ropes’

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