Boris fights back tears and says 'we should have twigged sooner' as four hecklers ejected from Covid Inquiry

6 December 2023, 08:06 | Updated: 6 December 2023, 17:17

Boris Johnson gets emotional over 'tragic' 2020

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson today said 'we should have twigged sooner' about the dangers of Covid as he gave evidence to the inquiry.

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The former PM began by apologising to the inquiry and acknowledge the government did not get everything right when dealing with Covid - but will argue that its decisions ultimately saved lives.

He went on to say that the government should have 'twigged' about the dangers sooner and admitted he was 'rattled' by scenes coming out of Italy.

The inquiry is examining evidence relating to the government's preparedness and response to the Covid pandemic.

Listen to Boris Johnson's full evidence at the Covid Inquiry live on Global Player, the official LBC app

Read the highlights from day one of Boris Johnson's evidence below.

Key Updates:

Thank you for following along with LBC's coverage of the Covid inquiry

Join us again on Monday as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to give evidence at 10am. 

Read the latest:

Boris Johnson tells Covid Inquiry he 'could not have done more' to stop Downing Street parties

Johnson leaves Covid Inquiry

Following a two-day hearing, Boris Johnson has left the Covid Inquiry. 

Johnson 'sad' as Covid Inquiry ends

Johnson's time at the Covid Inquiry comes to and end and he is thanked for his time. 

Baroness Hallett says she knows "how hard it must be to have two days giving evidence". 

But the former PM replied: "No, I'm rather sad that it's over."

He then gives some final thoughts, saying that while it is outside of the Covid Inquiry's responsibility, there is a need to understand where the virus originated from. 

He also urged the Government to think more about health and social care.

Domestic abuse victims should have been given more consideration, Johnson admits

Asked why domestic abuse was not cited as a reason to leave home during lockdown in January 2021, Johnson said: "I think you're making a very good point and I think, in retrospect, we should have given consideration to mentioning that issue explicitly earlier.

"That didn't mean we were silent or inattentive to the problem." 

Johnson continued: "I hope that people would've understood that to report a criminal offence was also a reason to leave your home, but clearly it was something we should've made explicit."

Johnson also said he does not remember Priti Patel raising the need to refer to domestic abuse victims in public statments.

Johnson denies being 'shamefully ageist' against elderly

Johnson is now quizzed by Danny Friedman KC from the Disabled People Organisations.

It was previously reported that Johnson said the elderly should "accept their fate" as he debated "letting the virus rip".

He is asked by Friedman: "Were you not being shamefully ageist against those in later life and normalising their premature death?"

Johnson denies the accusation, claiming a number of elderly people agreed with him.

Only UK Govt should have announced Covid rules

Johnson has moved to criticise 'mixed messaging' that occurred after leaders from devolved administrations held their own press conferences. 

While press conferences from the UK Govt were most popular, Nicola Sturgeon also frequently hosted her own. 

It should be up to the UK Govt to announce all rules in any future pandemics, Johnson told the Inquiry. 

Johnson: Govt had 'excellent' communication with devolved administrations

Johnson has rejected the suggestion there was a "high-handed, incommunicative approach from Westminster" in the pandemic, insisting the Government had "excellent communications" with the devolved nations of the UK. 

 The former prime minister did however accept that there had been "blurred" messaging on occasion because of "a succession of press conferences from different parts of the UK". 

Johnson said there had sometimes been "a dissonance in the message" when ideally there would have been "complete coherence". 

 "I think we had excellent communications across all of the DAs (devolved administrations)" he said. 

"And I think that the overall performance of the UK in the pandemic as a single entity was remarkable, and every part of the UK played an important part in the effort. 

 "If you look at it, there was a huge amount of joined up work going on across the whole country." 

Focus shifts to devolved administrations

Johnson is now asked what he thought about England and Wales acting differently in implementing restrictions. 

In October and November 2020, Wales imposed a 'firebreak' lockdown. England did not. 

"I'm sure we were thinking the whole time about the choice between firebreak lockdowns and intensifying tiering and all the other stuff we have discussed today," he said.

"That might have meant England and Wales working together, or it might have not.

"I think it was striking that we ended up pretty much doing the same sort of thing. 

"I think that it was an illustration of how the UK... tended to move more in step than sometimes the politics seem to suggest."

Boris Johnson and his Grimsby Town FC bobble hat

Boris Johnson has been seen sporting a Grimsby Town bobble hat to the Covid Inquiry - but no-one really knows why as he has no connection to the club.

Mr Johnson was born in New York and spent his childhood near Oxford, before spending most of his life in London.

He has often been seen wearing the GTFC bobble hat - even though he’s never been seen at a Grimsby Town game.

He was asked by Grimsby Live in 2022 why he had the bobble hat. He responded: “It’s what I grab when I run out the house. There’s no particular science to it.”

He added: “It’s a very good hat. It’s lovely and warm. What I like most is that it comes down and covers my ears.”

Johnson says he 'could not have done more' to stop Downing Street parties

As the inquiry gets back under way, Boris Johnson is asked why he didn't do more to stop parties from taking place at 10 Downing Street. 

"I think that the trouble was, as I said, that people were working extremely hard in tough circumstances," he told the inquiry.

"Could you have done more to stop it?" he is then asked.

The former prime minister said: "Given what I knew at the time about what was going on, the answer to that is no."

Johnson admitted he maybe could have told staff to be more "mindful of the rules and how things would appear".

You can read more here.

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