Boris Johnson is expected to tell the Covid inquiry that he “unquestionably made mistakes” in his handling of the pandemic.
But the former Prime Minister will also argue that the decisions he took, including ordering three lockdowns in England, ended up saving “tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives”, according to at the time.
Johnson is expected to say that without such restrictions, thousands more people would have suffered “miserable and unnecessary deaths, some in car parks and hospital corridors”, due to health services being overwhelmed by the virus.
Johnson is due to appear next week before the inquiry, which he set up while still in Downing Street. The former Conservative party leader’s aides said the newspaper briefing did not come from them.
A spokesperson said: “Boris Johnson will take part in the Covid inquiry next week and looks forward to contributing to the inquiry’s important work. »
The Times said Johnson’s written statement, which is likely to be published after he appears before the public inquiry, is expected to barely mention his former senior aide, Dominic Cummings.
Cummings, who was his de facto chief of staff at Downing Street until late 2020, has been an outspoken critic of Johnson since their acrimonious split.
Johnson is expected to back former health secretary Matt Hancock, criticized by many of the inquiry’s witnesses, saying he did a “good job in very difficult circumstances”.
Rishi Sunak, who served as chancellor during the pandemic and whose resignation in July 2022 helped trigger the end of Johnson’s premiership, is expected to be largely absent from his predecessor’s written testimony, according to the newspaper.
The Times said Johnson planned to defend Sunak’s ‘eat out to help out’ scheme, a government-backed cutback provision designed to support the hospitality sector after the first lockdown.
Johnson reportedly said the proposal had been “properly discussed” with England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, although both said they did not were unaware of it until it was announced.
The former prime minister is also expected to say that the UK’s obesity problem was making tackling the pandemic more difficult, the Telegraph reported. The newspaper said that in the draft of his written statement to the inquiry, Johnson said a number of health problems affecting the UK had put the country at a disadvantage.
Johnson is likely to be questioned over accusations that his No 10 operation was dysfunctional – a claim made this week by former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid at the inquiry.
Javid said he felt like “key decisions were being made by Mr Cummings and not the Prime Minister”, something he had not seen before under other prime ministers.
In written evidence to the inquiry released on Friday, Hancock said Johnson apologized for hiring Cummings to work in Downing Street. He said “the then Prime Minister apologized to me for the appointment of his senior adviser and for the damage he caused to the Covid-19 response”. It is unclear when exactly the so-called apology was made.
Johnson is also likely to be asked about the lockdown-breaking parties that took place in Downing Street. The Partygate scandal triggered Johnson’s departure from high office last year and his final decision in June, after an investigation by lawmakers into whether he misled Parliament about the rallies, to resign from his position as deputy.
Sunak is expected to give evidence in person before Christmas.