Boris Johnson taking the British public for fools, say bereaved campaigners
Boris Johnson has been accused of “taking the British public for fools” and pouring salt into people’s wounds after his apology in Parliament for attending a Downing Street garden gathering during the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown.
Campaigners branded the Prime Minister a “walking public health hazard”, saying he had broken the rules and should resign.
Hannah Brady, from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said that if Mr Johnson does not step down then his MPs have a “moral duty” to remove him.
Ms Brady’s father, Shaun Brady, 55, died just a few days before the “bring your own booze” event on May 20 2020, having contracted Covid on the way to his job as a key worker in Wigan.
His death certificate was signed on the day it was held.
While Mr Johnson apologised at Prime Minister’s Questions for attending the event, and acknowledged the public’s “rage” over the incident, he insisted he thought it could technically have been within the rules.
He told MPs he went to the gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff”, adding that he “believed implicitly that this was a work event”.
But, speaking on behalf of the campaign group, Ms Brady rejected his explanation.
She said: “The Prime Minister’s lies have finally caught up with him. Not content with kicking bereaved families like mine in the teeth by breaking the rules he set and then lying to us about it, he’s now taking the British public for fools by pretending he ‘didn’t know it was a party’.
“Every time he lies to us, he pours more salt into the wounds of those who have already lost so much to this pandemic, but that doesn’t stop him.
“He’s incapable of telling the truth and he needs to go.
“The Prime Minister is now a walking public health hazard who has lost the trust, respect and good faith of the public.
“If restrictions are needed to protect lives in the future, people will simply laugh at him.
“He has no moral authority and will cost lives.
“He has broken his own rules and if he had any decency he would now resign, rather than hide behind an internal ‘inquiry’.
“If he doesn’t, his MPs should remove him. They have a moral duty to do so.”
Ms Brady was among bereaved relatives who met Mr Johnson in the Rose Garden at Downing Street last year, where she said the Prime Minister looked her in the eyes “and told me you had done everything you could to save him”.
Fran Hall, whose husband Steve Mead died in October 2020 aged 65, just three weeks after the couple were married, was also there and said she saw in Mr Johnson someone “who is out only for himself”.
The 60-year-old, from Buckinghamshire, told the PA news agency: “I saw that in him when he was listening to our stories and I asked him to look us in the eyes and he did and I could see nothing there.
“So I didn’t have much hope (for today), but I expected that, with the eyes of the entire nation on him today, that he would have done the right thing and stepped down from his position as leading us because there is no trust. Nobody trusts him anymore. Everybody thinks he’s lying.”
Jackie Green, whose mother Beryl Harris died alone in hospital with Covid on December 18 2020 – the day of an alleged Downing Street Christmas party – said Wednesday’s apology was “completely insincere”.
The 59-year-old, who is based in South East London, told PA: “(The apology was) only given because he’s been backed into a corner and finally run out of rope. There are no excuses anymore.”
She said the apology was “caveated”, adding: “How stupid does he think the British public are?”
And she said Mr Johnson’s suggestion he thought the event had technically followed the rules was “absolutely ridiculous”.
Both Ms Hall and Ms Green said they hope the Metropolitan Police will investigate the gathering.
Ms Green accused the force of “dragging its heels on this” as evidence has emerged, adding: “Now they really must act.”
Jean Adamson, who lost her father to Covid in April 2020 and had only a “handful of family” at his funeral the following month, described Mr Johnson’s apology as “grossly offensive and insulting”.
The 58-year-old, who lives in Brentwood, Essex, told PA: “He is devoid of any integrity. I’m going to call it a performance today because that’s what it was – a shameless, self-serving performance and woefully inadequate. I’m not impressed at all.”
Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West, also told of his own personal experience and how he was affected by the recent revelations.
He told PA: “I do not accept the Prime Minister’s so-called apology.
“While he and his team were partying I couldn’t attend my brother’s funeral. He died alone because we knew that the health of the nation depended on us playing our part.
“Any financial penalty he receives will not repair the damage he has done but there have to be legal consequences or the rule of law means nothing.”