Boris Johnson accused of fresh U-turn after refusing to meet Covid-19 victim's families

2 September 2020, 05:34 | Updated: 2 September 2020, 06:14

Boris Johnson has been branded "heartless" by campaigners
Boris Johnson has been branded "heartless" by campaigners. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has been branded "heartless" by campaigners representing coronavirus victim's families after he refused to meet them.

The Prime Minister is now being accused of making another U-turn after initially saying "of course I will meet the bereaved" when questioned last week.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group have been trying to secure a meeting with Mr Johnson, but yesterday shared a letter from him in which he "regrettably" declined to meet with the group.

The group are trying to secure a swift public inquiry into the Government's handling of the crisis.

"It's a U-turn followed by a U-turn," said campaign co-founder Jo Goodman, who lost her father Stuart to the virus.

"The Prime Minister has done a 360: dodging five letters, then agreeing on live TV to meet with us, and now quietly telling us he's too busy. It's heartless."

Mr Johnson, pictured with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, made his way back to work yesterday morning
Mr Johnson, pictured with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, made his way back to work yesterday morning. Picture: PA

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran had earlier written to the Prime Minister saying she was "shocked" to learn that he had "refused" to meet the group - which says it represents 1,600 families.

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson told Sky News: "I am not aware of those letters but I will of course write back to every letter we get.

"Of course I will meet the bereaved."

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But writing to Ms Goodman, the Prime Minister acknowledged "a letter will be of little comfort against the grief and heartbreak that families have suffered" as he declined a meeting.

"As much as I would wish to be able to offer my condolences in person to all those who have suffered loss, that is regrettably not possible and so I am unable to meet with you and members of Bereaved Families for Justice," he wrote.

Mr Johnson also said he understands the group have instructed solicitors who are in pre-action legal correspondence over an independent inquiry.

He said he will hold the inquiry "at the appropriate time" and urged all further correspondence to be dealt with by their respective legal teams.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister has responded to Bereaved Families For Justice to express his sincere condolences to all families who have sadly lost loved ones to this terrible disease.

"He remains committed to meeting with members of the public and families of key workers who have been bereaved as a result of Covid-19.

"The Prime Minister is resolute in his determination to beat this virus and prevent further families from suffering such dreadful loss."