Boris Johnson ‘trying to rewrite history’ before Covid inquiry appearance | Covid inquiry #Boris #Johnson #rewrite #history #Covid #inquiry #appearance #Covid #inquiry

Boris Johnson has been accused of trying to rewrite history in advance of his appearance at the Covid inquiry on Wednesday, as unions and relatives of those who died said his team had been briefing favourable stories to newspapers.

The TUC and Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, both core participants for this module of the inquiry, said the briefings had been about trying to salvage his legacy and contained “the usual lies and bluster”.

Johnson’s team have apparently helped to provide newspapers with a string of favourable stories before his appearance.

While briefings are within the rules, this is not the case if they rely on any materials provided to the inquiry, including witness statements. Heather Hallett, the chair of the inquiry, explicitly warned against briefing out details of witness statements in October.

Allies of Johnson insist he has not done this and that apparent direct quotes from his witness statement appearing in one report must have been leaked from another source.

If Lady Hallett sees things a different way, an already uncomfortable 48 hours for Johnson being questioned by Hugo Keith KC, the inquiry counsel, could begin with a direct reprimand.

After the existence of “disgusting and misogynistic” WhatsApp messages involving Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief aide, was revealed in advance by the former chancellor George Osborne on his podcast, Hallett urged all those with access to evidence “to respect the terms on which it has been shared with them”.

It comes amid reports that six months-worth of Johnson’s own WhatsApp messages covering the start of the pandemic and lockdown cannot be retrieved due to “technical issues”.

Nathan Oswin, who leads on the inquiry for the TUC, said: “This inquiry is about learning the lessons of what went wrong so that we can save lives in the future. It shouldn’t be abused by politicians looking to salvage their legacies and rewrite history. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must play by the rules and put people above their own political fortunes.”

Matt Fowler, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said: “Boris Johnson’s team appear to have been leaking his witness statement left, right and centre ahead of his appearance tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, the claims he’s making are the usual lies and bluster.

“The inquiry has already entirely debunked the claim that ‘he got the big calls right’. In reality, when news of the pandemic first struck, Johnson treated it all like it was a joke, and as cases began to rise he delayed locking down, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths, such as my dad’s. Even worse, when the second wave came around he repeated all of the same mistakes, leading to even more people dying than in the first wave.”

A source close to Johnson insisted that the former PM’s team had not leaked any evidence in advance, adding: “We are as upset about this as they are.”

Bereaved relatives and others are expected to protest outside the inquiry venue in Paddington, west London, as Johnson arrives. He is the only witness this week for the current module, which examines decision-making and government structures during Covid.

Johnson is expected to admit that errors were made but try to argue that there were some successes, for example the speed of the initial vaccine rollout, and efforts to swiftly reopen the economy as the pandemic eased.

He has spent many hours been briefed by his own legal team but, like all witnesses, he will face Keith and barristers for core participants without any support or notes.

As well as a chronology of the decisions made, he is likely to also be asked about the structure and personalities of a Downing Street operation described by some previous witnesses as having a “culture of fear”, “poisonous” and “mad”.

#Boris #Johnson #rewrite #history #Covid #inquiry #appearance #Covid #inquiry

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