The message read: “I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on COVID fatalities. The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer.”
“Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 per cent) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.”
A second message said: “There are max 3m in this country aged over 80. It shows we don’t go for nation wide lockdown.”
The lockdown eventually came into force on early November.
Johnson also had to be persuaded not to visit the Queen for his regular weekly meetings as coronavirus spread around his office, Cummings claimed.
He told the BBC of his conversation with the prime minister: “I just said ‘if you give her coronavirus and she dies, what are you gonna, you can’t do that. You can’t risk that, that’s completely insane.'”
A Downing Street spokesperson did not directly respond to the BBC when asked about Cummings’ claims.
Instead they gave a general defense of Johnson’s conduct, saying: “Since the start of the pandemic, the prime minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.”
In a speedy U-turn in response to public backlash, the British Prime Minister will be isolating after being exposed to COVID-19.
On Friday, July 16th, Johnson had an in-person meeting with Sajid Javid, the newly-appointed UK health secretary.
The following day, Javid took to Twitter to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
On the morning of 18 July, Johnson was then “pinged” by the NHS COVID-19 app – a contact tracing app used to identify those exposed to Covid and therefore must isolate to stop the spread.
In contrast to common practice, 10 Downing Street announced that the Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak – Chancellor of the Exchequer – would not be isolating, and would instead be participating in a pilot scheme and going into his office to continue “essential Government business.”
However, mass public backlash caused this announcement to be reversed in less than two hours.
Sunak took to Twitter to announce that “I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong. To that end I’ll be self isolating as normal and not taking part in the pilot.”
When first announced on Saturday morning, Number 10 stated that the two Politicians would be participating in a pilot study to take daily COVID-19 tests rather than self isolate.
The announcement caused a significant fury on social media, with the topic of self-isolation already a sore subject with the British public as more than 500,000 people told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace in the last week alone.
In reaction to the news, #oneruleforthem was trending on Twitter, with people furious that the Prime Minister can bypass regulations that impact the public.
One teacher tweeted that her school class had to miss 10 days of school due to isolation following a COVID exposure.
Several workplaces – including 10 Downing Street – are reportedly participating in this pilot to see how the UK workforce can operate whilst the virus continues to circulate. However, the politicians will not be doing so.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Insider:
“The Prime Minister has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid.
“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.
“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”
This is the latest case in a string of Covid-related controversies involving the most senior of the UK Government.
On June 26, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancockstepped down from his positionafter leaked footage showed him kissing his aide in his office whilst Covid restrictions banned such intimate contact.
Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has an “unhealthy financial reliance” on donations from the property sector, campaigners have warned, as they revealed new figures setting out the scale of support given to the party.
The research by Transparency International UK found that between January 2010 and March 2020, £60.8 million was given to the Conservatives from individuals and companies within the property sector.
This figure is more than a fifth of the reportable donations received by the Conservatives, the highest ratio of any political party in the UK.
Much of that money came from a small number of individuals, with one in every ten pounds of reported donations to Conservative Party HQ between 2015 and 2019 coming from just ten donors.
Duncan Hames, a former Liberal Democrat MP and Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, told Insider: “While it is no secret that political parties receive much of their funding from a relatively small number of donors, the extent to which the Conservative Party depends financially on those with major property interests is of serious concern.
“An unhealthy financial reliance on those with vested interests in one sector puts ministers under pressure to provide exclusive access which creates a real risk that decisions are skewed in their favour. Breaking this dependence is key to removing the risk of undue influence and freeing government to explore bolder solutions to address the housing crisis.”
Ties between the Conservative Party and the property sector is not limited to donations, with hundreds of meetings reported between ministers and groups lobbying on property issues.
Transparency International UK’s analysis of government reports of ministerial meetings found there were 669 meetings to discuss housing issues between January 2017 and March 2020.
Individual Conservative MPs also have strong links to the sector. Insider reported last month that the former Welsh Secretary minister Alun Cairns held meetings with a Singaporean firm that owned a £500 million property empire leased to the UK government. Since leaving his ministerial post, he has taken a £30,000 a year job with the firm.
Anneliese Dodds MP, chair of the opposition Labour Party, said: “It’s no wonder the Conservatives are resisting more transparency on property ownership, when party coffers are stuffed full of so much cash from major overseas property tycoons.
“This is yet another example of how the rules around transparency for lobbying ministers aren’t fit for purpose. We need to know who is lobbying ministers, what they want from government and what is discussed when they meet.
“We need urgent reform. It cannot be the case that it is one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.”
Duncan Hames said: “Access and potentially influence in UK politics remains woefully opaque. We know more about those seeking to shape planning decisions in rural Ireland than we do about private interests trying to shape decisions and housing policy in Whitehall.
“Time and time again we see government departments failing to follow their own transparency rules while the limited statutory register of consultant lobbyists only paints a tiny part of this picture. A major overhaul of the UK’s lobbying rules is needed to increase transparency and ensure there are fewer corners for impropriety to hide.”
The group proposes an end to the influence of big donors in politics by introducing a £10,000 limit on donations from individuals and companies per donor per year.
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the Party receives – they are entirely separate.
“Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law. Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.
“The Conservative Party is delivering on its manifesto commitments to deliver more homes, with new housing supply having risen to its highest levels for 30 years. Working with the housing industry is an essential part of getting new homes built and regenerating brownfield land.”
The UK government is bringing in a new law that will make it much easier for British elections to be funded by tax exiles and non-domiciled Brits, campaigners have warned.
The Elections Bill, published on Monday, would allow UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years to join the electoral register, giving them a lifetime right to both vote in and fund elections in the UK.
Under the new rules, overseas voters would not have had to previously appear on any electoral register in the UK in order to vote or donate to political parties.
Since 2009, legislation has sat inactive on the UK’s statute books that would forbid donations from non-domiciled UK citizens.
However, the law has never been brought into force, as the non-domiciled tax status of individuals is confidential and so cannot be verified by regulators or political parties, the Times reported in 2019.
British citizens living abroad can already make donations through UK registered companies that are ultimately owned offshore – and anyone can donate through shadowy unincorporated associations without checks. However, overseas voters currently have to re-register on an annual basis.
The governing Conservative Party accepted more than £1 million from UK citizens living in tax havens ahead of the 2017 general election through existing methods, the Times reported. The new law will remove these barriers.
Cat Smith MP, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow Minister for Democracy, told Insider: “The Conservatives are using the cover of the pandemic to sneak through unprecedented changes to our foreign political donation laws.
“This is yet another example of the Conservatives bending the rules to benefit themselves, making it legal for rich Conservative donors living overseas to bankroll the Conservative Party.
“This loophole will allow foreign political donations to flood our system, undermining the integrity of our democracy. This is all about changing the rules to benefit the Conservative Party with overseas donors able to legally donate to bankroll their campaigns from their offshore tax havens or luxury second homes.
“Foreign donors should not be allowed to financially influence our democratic processes – that right is reserved for citizens living in this country.”
Campaigners warn the bill is being used as a “trojan horse” to funnel financial donations from non-domiciled sources and that it is opening up British politics to “outside influence”.
Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy and a former Liberal Democrat MP, told Insider: “The Elections Bill mustn’t be used as a trojan horse to allow foreign based money to distort UK election results. If wealthy non-doms start making substantial financial donations, questions will be asked about representation without taxation.”
Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society told Insider: “Extending the franchise for our elections is a positive move but the government must carefully consider the risks of removing restrictions on overseas electors – the consequence of which could see a rise in foreign political donations.
“There remain a number of loopholes in our election finance rules which leave the door open for foreign influence on our politics. This Elections bill fails to address these concerns whilst potentially creating new avenues for foreign financial donations.
The government defended the law change as an attempt to widen the voting franchise.
Chloe Smith MP, Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution, told Insider: “Our commitment to scrapping the arbitrary 15 year limit to overseas voting rights is a promise to citizens across the political spectrum. This is best exemplified by 99 year old veteran campaigner, Harry Shindler, who also happens to be the oldest serving member of the Labour Party.
“British citizens living overseas have an ongoing interest in politics in the United Kingdom and in our increasingly digital world, people living overseas are able to be more connected to their home country. It is only right that they are able to have their say in our democracy.”
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned from his position in the British government Saturday a day after he apologized for being photographed kissing a longtime friend he recently hired as an advisor.
The announcement came one day after British tabloid The Sun published photos that appeared to show Hancock kissing his longtime friend and aide Gina Coladangelo in his office at the Department for Health. The photos were captured May 6, according to The Sun, which claimed Hancock was having an affair with Coladangelo.
Cross-household contact was not yet permitted under the UK COVID-19 guidelines when the photos were taken last month.
“I’ve been to see the Prime Minister to resign as Secretary of State for Health and Social care… Those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them, and that’s why I’ve got to resign,” Hancock said in a video posted to Twitter.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done to protect the NHS at the peak, to deliver that vaccine rollout — one of the fastest in the world — and I look forward to supporting the government and the Prime Minister from the backbenches,” he added.
“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this,” Hancock wrote in a resignation letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to CNN.
The Sunday Times previously reported that Hancock, who is married to another woman, quietly hired Coladangelo to work in his office last year in a role that paid £15,000-a-year.
The UK government has backed a campaign for schoolchildren to come together and sing a song for “One Nation, One Britain day”, as the country marks five years since the vote to leave the European Union.
The Education Department on Tuesday tweeted a link to the campaign, which has been championed by Conservative members of Parliament.
The call was met with widespread mockery on social media, with thousands of responses to the tweet by the department headed up by Gavin Williamson.
Downing Street figures have since distanced themselves from the call, Politico reported on Wednesday.
It comes as the UK marks five years since the vote for Brexit. Marking the occasion, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday that: “The decision to leave the EU may now part of our history, but our clear mission is to utilise the freedoms it brings to shape a better future for our people.”
A poll published on Tuesday suggests that a narrow majority of British people now oppose Brexit.
51% of people told pollsters Savanta/Comres that they would vote to Remain in the EU, as opposed to 49% who would still back Britain’s exit.
Separate polling released by NatCen and What the UK thinks this week found limited enthusiasm for the terms of Britain’s exit, however.
Just 21% in Britain said the UK had left the EU with a good deal, compared with 36% who said it had secured a bad deal.
Cummings has released a series of potentially damaging claims about his former boss in recent weeks, including suggestions that the prime minister said that he would rather have bodies “pile up” than allow a further coronavirus lockdown.
Downing Street has largely refused to either confirm or deny the most damaging specific claims made by Cummings.
Boris Johnson called his Health Secretary Matt Hancock “totally f*****g useless,” according to bombshell messages published by the prime minister’s estranged former chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
Hancock last week accused Cummings, who left Downing Street acrimoniously last year, of failing to produce evidence to support his claims that Hancock had lied frequently to the prime minister throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Cummings told MPs that Hancock should have been sacked for dishonesty on multiple occasions, and said the former secretary Mark Sedwill had told the prime minister in mid-April that he had “lost confidence” in the health secretary.
Cummings on Wednesday said he had felt compelled to publish official documents and screenshots of WhatsApp messages between himself and the prime minister to verify those claims, saying that Downing Street and Hancock himself had “openly” lied last week to protect Hancock’s reputation.
In a blog post, Cummings alleged that Johnson had frequently been frustrated with Hancock’s performance throughout the coronavirus pandemic last year.
“Hancock gave a fictitious account to MPs last week and portrayed himself as a heroic figure who had been in agreement with the PM throughout the crisis,” Cummings said in the blog post, which was published on Substack.
In one screenshotted exchange apparently between himself and the prime minister, Cummings appeared to highlight the urgent need for the government to ramp up COVID-19 testing across the country, and criticising Hancock for missing targets he had previously set.
Johnson replied: “Totally f*****g hopeless.”
In another, later the same day, Cummings said that officials had “totally f****d up” procurement of medical ventilators – which were needed to treat COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
Johnson replied: “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless.”
“The PM has supported this fiction and ordered the No 10 press office to support many arguments he knows are lies,” Cummings said in the blogpost.
“If No 10 is prepared to lie so deeply and widely about such vital issues of life and death last year, it cannot be trusted now either on covid or any other crucial issue of war and peace.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is delaying lifting COVID-19 restrictions until more people get vaccinated against the virus.
He said at a press briefing on Monday that the restrictions will be in place until at least July 19. The restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21, but reopening has now been pushed back by four weeks.
“By Monday the 19 of July we will aim to have double jabbed two-thirds of the adult population,” Johnson said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seen correcting US President Joe Biden at this weekend’s G7 Summit in Cornwall, England, after the president interrupted him to wrongly suggest that Johnson had failed to introduce South Africa’s president at a roundtable of world leaders.
Johnson appeared to twice wave away Biden’s interruptions on Saturday, while he was hosting a roundtable of world leaders at the G7 summit.
The UK prime minister welcomed India’s prime minister Narendra Modi via video-link and then introduced South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa, who joined the leaders of the G7 grouping, which comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“And the president of South Africa,” Biden added to Johnson.
“And the president of South Africa, as I said earlier on,” Johnson replied.
“Oh, you did,” Biden said.
“I did, I certainly did,” Johnson said.
It was not clear from footage of the incident whether Biden had not heard Johnson introduced President Ramaphosa or whether he was unaware of his name and therefore had not realized that Johnson had already introduced him.
World leaders agreed at the summit – the major first in-person meeting of the G7 since the coronavirus pandemic – to donate one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries over the next 12 months.
They also agreed to take more action on climate change and renewed a pledge to raise $100 billion a year to help poor countries cut carbon emissions.
However, some charities and campaign groups said the commitments were vague in their wording did not go far enough.
“Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world,” said Oxfam’s head of inequality policy Max Lawson in a statement cited by the Guardian.
“We don’t need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see.”