Today’s the day. The start of one of the most highly anticipated evidence sessions at the Covid Inquiry sees former Prime Minister Boris Johnson take the hot seat. Here are the key points from his evidence so far:
Baroness Hallett reprimands those leaking Covid evidence
Baroness Hallett told Johnson that his statement is supposed to remain ‘confidential’, wrapping metaphorical knuckles as she continued: ‘Failing to respect confidentiality undermines the inquiry’s ability to do its job fairly, effectively and independently’.
But before today’s hearing could go much further, there was another halt to the proceedings. Just as Johnson launched into his apology, protestors off camera had made their presence known. After repeated warnings from the Baroness, four hecklers were forced out the room. A dramatic start to the day…
Johnson did not read Sage minutes
Ever the man of detail, Johnson has also admitted to the inquiry this morning that he only read minutes of Sage meetings ‘once or twice’ — before adding hurriedly that it was ‘maybe more than that’. Instead, the former PM said, he relied on chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance to distil the Sage findings. This is the same Patrick Vallance who only weeks ago said that Johnson was often ‘bamboozled’ by the science. How interesting to note that it was merely the summarised science that managed to vex Johnson…
Former PM admits he has apologised to recipient of WhatsApp ‘abuse’
A focal point of the inquiry has been the ‘toxic’ workplace culture at the heart of No. 10. Lead counsel Hugo Keith KC notes that while the inquiry is ‘not interested in…Cummings’ linguistic style’ but that the detail of Johnson’s former adviser’s messages paints ‘an appalling picture of incompetence and disarray’. Johnson rebuffs Keith’s conclusions, and instead compares his government to those of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, saying:
Any powerful and effective government has a lot of challenging and competing characters whose views about each other might not be fit to print but who get an awful lot done.