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Response to abqtommy (Reply #4)

Mon Apr 26, 2021, 05:06 PM

9. The Guardian now has some analysis of the claims in its liveblog:

Why evidence suggests Johnson did say thousands of deaths would be better than third lockdown

It is all very well reporting that Boris Johnson said at a meeting in October, as he reluctantly ordered the second lockdown, that he would rather “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown, but is it actually true? Here is an assessment of the Daily Mail story taking into account the relevant factors.

How credible is the reporter?

The story was written by Simon Walters, who has been a political journalist since the 1980s and who is now assistant editor at the Daily Mail. For almost 20 years he was political editor at the Mail on Sunday. No one would describe Walters as a neutral journalist, but he is regarded by colleagues as an outstanding story-getter (he has won four British Press Awards) and the general lobby view is that, if Walters has written a story, it would be wise to take it seriously.

How credible is the source?

Recently Walters broke a series of stories about Boris Johnson wanting Tory donors to pay for the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. It is widely assumed that these came wholly or partly from Dominic Cummings, who is engaged in a vendetta against Carrie Symonds, the PM’s fiancee and the person held responsible for refurbishment being so expensive, and today’s story also looks like a Cummings operation.

Are the denials credible?

As of now, no. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary said this morning that the story has been “categorically denied by practically everyone”. But it hasn’t - at least, on the record. That may change as the day goes on.

Overall verdict

For all these reasons, the claim that Johnson made this remark at a meeting in October is extremely plausible. And it is probably more damaging to Johnson than other claims about the consequences of his lockdown decision making.

The one qualification to this would be that, because Johnson does have a such a well-established reputation for saying outlandish and provocative things, some readers will conclude he probably didn’t mean it.


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