Boris Johnson denies saying he'd rather see 'bodies pile high' than have third lockdown

26 April 2021, 13:01 | Updated: 27 April 2021, 09:30

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has denied saying he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than go into a third coronavirus lockdown.

The Prime Minister called the allegation "total, total rubbish" during an election campaign visit to Wrexham on Monday.

Mr Johnson added: "What I certainly think is that this country has done an amazing job with the lockdowns. And they've been very difficult. And they've been very tough for people. And there's no question about that.

"Nobody wants to go into a lockdown but they've helped us. The discipline the public has shown has helped us to get the numbers of cases down very considerably."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: PM's alleged 'bodies piled high' comment is 'all too believable'

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The Prime Minister insisted the public wanted the Government to focus on tackling coronavirus as he faced questions about the bitter briefing war that has hit No 10.

He said the "stuff that people are talking about" in Westminster were not issues being raised on the doorstep ahead of the May 6 elections.

The Daily Mail reported the allegation on Monday although the paper did not give a source.

Asked separately whether anyone else in No 10 made the remark, the PM’s official spokesman said: "No. All I can confirm is that the Prime Minister did not make that statement.

"I'm not aware of anyone else making that statement."

And pressed on suggestions that Mr Johnson shouted the comment while in his study and that a number of people overheard it through an open door, the No 10 official added: "We are denying it, that the Prime Minister said that.

"He has made that clear that he did not say it."

It comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson needed to "make a public statement" about the reports.

Sir Keir said: "I think, like everybody reading that, I was astonished to see those words.

"It's for the Prime Minister, I think, now, to make a public statement about that.

"If he did say those things then he's got to explain it, if he didn't, go on the record and publicly explain what was said and what wasn't said.

"I think everybody will be deeply concerned, not least those all families that have lost someone during this pandemic."

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the accusation as "all too believable".

The PM’s remarks were reportedly made after he agreed to a second lockdown, and suggest he was prepared to face a mounting death toll rather than order a third set of tough restrictions, something he was eventually forced to do.

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.

The UK's most senior civil servant is expected to indicate he has not cleared Mr Johnson's former adviser Dominic Cummings over that leak, despite the ex-aide's claims to the contrary.

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, is expected to say his inquiry is still "live" when he appears before the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) later on Monday.

Mr Cummings has accused Mr Johnson of seeking to block the investigation after learning that a close friend of his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, had been implicated, a claim the Prime Minister denied.

In an incendiary blog post, Mr Cummings went on to say Mr Case had told Mr Johnson that neither he nor the then No 10 director of communications, Lee Cain, was the culprit.

However, officials familiar with the investigation said it had neither "landed" on any one individual nor exonerated anyone.

The disclosure is likely to further anger Mr Cummings, who released his onslaught after he was accused by No 10 of a series of damaging leaks, including text message exchanges between Mr Johnson and the entrepreneur Sir James Dyson.

Ministers are now concerned at what he may say when he gives evidence to MPs investigating the Government's response to the pandemic next month.

Mr Cummings is widely known to have been critical of Mr Johnson's delay in launching a second lockdown in England when cases began rising last autumn, and there is speculation he will seek to blame him for the high death toll.