Boris Johnson will appear before the COVID inquiry this week to face scrutiny about the decisions he made during the pandemic.
The former prime minister is expected to issue an apology on behalf of the government about the early handling of the crisis but insist he got the big calls right.
He is expected to face difficult questions on multiple issues – including the partygate scandal and evidence heard at the inquiry so far.
Here are some of the things he could be asked.
Why wasn’t lockdown implemented sooner?
Mr Johnson will likely be asked about whether he initially took the threat of the virus seriously enough and should have acted sooner.
Previous witnesses including Matt Hancock have conceded lockdown should have been introduced earlier than 23 March, with the former health secretary saying “many lives” would have been saved had the action come three weeks beforehand.
Others have accused him of dither and delay, with witnesses to the inquiry describing how he often “oscillated” over key issues and wanted to be like the mayor from the movie Jaws who kept the beaches open, even as he faced warnings the NHS would be overwhelmed.
Did he go on holiday at a crucial time?
Mr Johnson is likely to be asked why he took a 10-day break in February 2020, when cases had been confirmed in the UK. The inquiry has heard that during this time the prime minister received no information from his staff on the virus, including from the two COBRA meetings that took place, and that he did not take personal charge of emergency COBRA meetings until early March.
His former chief aide Dominic Cummings has said he wanted to disappear to finish writing a book about Shakespeare – something Mr Johnson has denied – and that his boss was distracted from his duties with a “divorce to finalise”, “financial problems” and his then girlfriend wanting to “finalise the announcement of their engagement”.
Did ‘toxic culture’ affect decision making?
The inquiry has also laid bare a “toxic culture” of backstabbing and contempt behind the scenes of Number 10 while COVID ripped through the nation. Mr Johnson is likely to face questions on this and what role in particular Mr Cummings played in fuelling it.
Explosive texts released to the inquiry reveal the-then top adviser derided a cabinet of “useless f***pigs”, wanted people sacked, complained about Mr Johnson’s own behaviour and spoke of “dodging stilettos from that c***” in reference to senior civil servant Helen MacNamara.
Mr Cummings insisted he was not misogynistic because he was “much ruder about men”, but Ms MacNamara said that Downing Street under Mr Johnson, was “sexist”, “toxic” and “awful” in a way she had never experienced in government before.
She said this affected decision making as issues including how to help domestic abuse victims, childcare problems and access to abortions were largely ignored.
She also said the “macho, confident” nature of people in Mr Johnson’s No 10 team meant the government was “unbelievably bullish” early on, with people “laughing at the Italians” when they started to impose restrictions and believing the UK would “sail through” the pandemic.
Did Johnson really say ‘let the bodies pile high’?
Mr Johnson is also likely to face questions on his attitude to older people and whether he really said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than go back into a lockdown in autumn 2020. Reports he said this first emerged in 2021, but they were rubbished by Mr Johnson at the time.
However last month his one-time chief of staff Lord Udny-Lister told the inquiry that Mr Johnson did make the statement in September 2020, during discussions about implementing another lockdown. He called it an “unfortunate turn of phrase” but said the government was trying to avoid further restrictions “given the already severe impact on the economy and education”.
Similar comments suggesting a cavalier attitude to the elderly have also been attributed to Mr Johnson, including a claim by the former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance that he had suggested “COVID is nature’s way of dealing with old people” and was obsessed with them “accepting their fate”.
Were you bamboozled by the science?
One of the most extraordinary claims made by Mr Cummings to the inquiry was that Mr Johnson struggled to understand the science and asked advisers whether COVID could be eliminated by blowing a hairdryer up your nose.
Sir Patrick told the inquiry Mr Johnson would be the first to admit science was not his “forte”, while an extract from his contemporaneous diary said the prime minister was at times “bamboozled” by the data.
Was Carrie Johnson really in charge?
One of the most damaging claims about Mr Johnson’s leadership abilities was that his wife Carrie “was the real person in charge”. This was said by Simon Case, head of the civil service, in heated texts to Mr Johnson’s top aides amid discussions about imposing circuit breaker lockdowns in autumn 2020.
Mr Johnson is likely to face questions on this and other assessments about his leadership, including that he “cannot lead”, was indecisive, allowed Mr Cummings to have too much influence and blew “hot and cold” on major issues.
Do you regret partygate?
Mr Johnson could also face questions on the partygate scandal that triggered his downfall as prime minister and eventual exit from parliament.
While news of lockdown-busting parties did not emerge until after restrictions were lifted, he may be asked if he regrets presiding over a culture of rule-breaking and whether this impacted his decision making.
Why did Matt Hancock stay in post?
Mr Hancock has been criticised by a number of witnesses who have accused him of being overconfident and saying things that weren’t true (something Mr Hancock has denied).
Mr Johnson may be asked why he kept him in post, given both his chief adviser and the head of the civil service Mark Sedwill, at the time, believed he should be sacked.
Lee Anderson suspended from Conservative Party after ‘Islamophobic’ comments
Lee Anderson has been suspended from the Conservative party after ‘Islamophobic’ comments.
A spokesperson for Chief Whip Simon Hart said: “Following his refusal to apologise for comments made yesterday, the Chief Whip has suspended the Conservative whip from Lee Anderson MP.”
Speaking on GB News this week, Mr Anderson, MP for Ashfield, said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”
Earlier today Sadiq Khan accused the prime minister of being “complicit” in racism for failing to condemn Mr Anderson‘s comments that “pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.
Mr Khan said the claim by the former deputy chairman of Tory party were Islamophobic and sent the message that Muslims were “fair game” when it came to racism.
The remarks prompted criticism from Labour and some Tories, including former cabinet minister Sajid Javid who branded them “ridiculous”.
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King Charles shown chuckling at get well card featuring dog in a head cone
The King has been shown having a chuckle at cards sent by well-wishers, including one of a dog with the caption “at least you don’t have to wear a cone!”.
The 75-year-old monarch has been sent around 7,000 messages of support from around the world since his cancer diagnosis.
Newly released images and footage show King Charles looking through some of them at his desk in Buckingham Palace’s Belgian Suite.
He seemed particularly tickled by a card featuring an illustration of a terrier-like dog in a head cone, recovering from medical treatment.
Pets often wear plastic collars after an operation, to stop them aggravating a wound or stitches.
Other cards spread out in front of the King include one that reads “Your Majesty Get Well Soon”, while a number appear to be hand-drawn by children.
Many have related their own experience of cancer, with messages such as: “Chin up, chest out, remain positive and don’t let it get you down.”
“Never give up. Be brave. Don’t push your limits. Get Well Soon,” says one note from a child.
Those who’ve included their address will be sent a message of thanks.
The King was pictured reading the cards on Wednesday – the same day he met the prime minister for their weekly audience.
He told Rishi Sunak that he’d been “reduced to tears” by the public’s support.
“I’ve had so many wonderful messages and cards, it has reduced me to tears most of the time,” King Charles told the prime minister.
He added: “I hear there has been a lot more potential attention on those main, wonderful cancer charities, many of which I have been a patron of for years.”
The King had been mostly staying at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk following his first round of treatment in London.
Buckingham Palace announced on 5 February that cancer had been discovered while undergoing a procedure for an enlarged prostate.
The Palace has not released details about the type of cancer or the treatment.
Professional golfer Georgia Ball can ‘see the funny side’ after ‘mansplaining’ TikTok video goes viral
Professional female golfer Georgia Ball has said she can “see the funny side” after a video of an amateur player “mansplaining” to her about her swing went viral.
Ball, a certified PGA pro and instructor, also told Sky Sports she did not put the man in his place during the “awkward” conversation because she is a “humble person”.
The TikTok video of the incident she shared earlier this week has had more than 10 million views and over 26,000 comments, with many social media users mocking the man for “mansplaining”.
In the clip, Ball, who regularly shares instructional videos on her account, is seen practising her swing at a driving range near Liverpool.
A man off camera then says: “Excuse me, what you’re doing there, you shouldn’t be doing that… swing and follow through.”
He goes on to tell her that she is “too slow on the way up”.
Ball explains she is going through a “swing change” – something golfers regularly do to improve their technique.
However, the man continues: “I know, but what you’re doing there is you’re coming back too slow.
“I’ve been playing golf for 20 years, what you need to do is follow through a lot quicker than what you’re doing there right now.”
She explains again that she is going through a swing change, but the man continues to advise that she needs to move her club quicker.
Ball then cleanly strikes the ball into the distance before the man says: “See how much better that was?”
The professional golfer explains once again that she is practising a swing change, before the man repeats that he “has been playing for 20 years” and that she should carry on playing the way he has advised her to.
Ball then laughs, before sarcastically adding: “Thanks for your advice.”
Asked by Sky Sports how she felt during the interaction, Ball said: “It was an awkward conversation at the time but I was just concentrating on what I was doing… I am glad I can look back on it now and see the funny side to it.”
When asked if she was ever tempted to put the man in his place, she said: “To be honest, I am a humble person, it is not in me to call him out or say I am a PGA pro, it is just not in me to do that.”
Ball added that she never got the chance to see the man hit a ball, so was unable to pass comment on his swing.
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