Bereaved families group accuse Johnson of ‘usual tricks of deflection and blaming others’

Boris Johnson deflected and blamed everyone but himself as he faced questions over partygate, a campaign group representing families bereaved in the pandemic said.

It was described as “especially galling” that the ex-prime minister appeared not to fully understand the rules he was setting and communicating to the country, Rivka Gottlieb from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said.

Ahead of the former Tory leader’s appearance before the Privileges Committee, the bereaved group joined fellow campaigning organisation 38 Degrees in driving an ad van around Westminster displaying messages directed at Mr Johnson.

They included: “For once in your life, Mr Johnson, will you please tell the truth about partygate?”

The MP has accepted he misled the House of Commons when he insisted in December 2021 that all pandemic rules were followed, but has denied doing so deliberately, saying he was acting “in good faith” on the advice of his senior team.

He swore “hand on heart, I did not lie to the House” as the committee hearing got under way.

He told the MPs: “When those statements were made, they were made in good faith and on the basis on what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”

He said if it was so “obvious” that rule-breaking was going on in No 10, as the committee argues, then it would also have been “obvious” to others, including Rishi Sunak.

Ms Gottlieb, who lost her father Michael to Covid aged 73 during the first lockdown in April 2020, described Wednesday as “a new low for Boris Johnson”.

She said: “It’s clear he lied when he said to our faces that he’d done ‘all he could’ to protect our loved ones, he lied again when he said the rules hadn’t been broken in Number 10, and he’s lying now when he denies that was the case.

“He claims it was ‘his job’ to say goodbye to colleagues, that he ‘would have needed an electric fence’ around him to stick to the rules, and that social distancing only applied ‘when possible’.

“Did any of this apply when we couldn’t be with our loved ones for weeks as they suffered alone in care homes and hospitals, or even be there to hold their hands in their dying moments?

“Bereaved families found it painful to watch him pull his usual tricks of deflection, self-pity and blaming everyone but himself. The fact that it appears he didn’t fully understand the rules he was setting and communicating to the nation is especially galling.

“He isn’t fit for public office and if had any respect he’d resign as an MP and quietly reflect on the pain and suffering he has inflicted on so many.”

Retired nurse Sue Shrapnell, who lives in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, said the parliamentarian had broken the trust voters should be able to have in their MPs.

The 73-year-old said: “How can he possibly claim that he didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong when he was the one making the rules? It beggars belief, it’s absolutely impossible that he didn’t know.

“You would have to be very stupid not to know that what was going on was against the rules, and Boris Johnson is a foolish man, but he isn’t a stupid man.”

Another member of the public accused Mr Johnson of being a “privileged person” who had not made the sacrifices others did during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

In a message to Mr Johnson, Sandra Lambie, from Paisley, said: “You are a privileged person, you received privileged care while having Covid.

“My father did not receive the same treatment and passed away in hospital alone, while we made sacrifices asked of us, you did not. You actually risked spreading this dangerous virus around by your sense of entitlement, by thinking that you were above the law, above the rules made by you and your incompetent government.”

Linda Sherwood, from Scarborough, said she was not able to see her dying mother “because of regulations your Government imposed while you were enjoying the company of others at alcohol-fuelled parties”.

She added: “Your hypocrisy disgusts me, you are unworthy to remain as a representative of the people.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) House Of Commons / PA.