Johnson is facing a stream of allegations in newspapers – all of them denied – about everything from his muddled initial handling of the COVID-19 crisis to questions over who financed the redecoration of his official apartment.
The Daily Mail newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying that in October, shortly after agreeing to a second lockdown, Johnson told a meeting in Downing Street: “No more f***ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
Asked whether he had made the remark, Johnson told broadcasters: “No, but again, I think the important thing, I think, that people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work, and they have.”
Though Johnson has over the years repeatedly weathered gaffes, crises over Brexit and disclosures about his adultery, he is now grappling with an array of accusations which opponents say show he is unfit for office.
He or his supporters have denied all of them.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who has cast Johnson’s government as “sleazy”, said he was astonished to read the Daily Mail’s report.
“If he did say those things, he’s got to explain it,” Starmer said.
Johnson did impose a third lockdown in January although critics say it could have been avoided had he yielded to pressure from senior ministers to make the second lockdown more stringent.
The UK has the world’s fifth-largest official COVID-19 death toll, with 127,681 deaths, after the United States, Brazil, Mexico and India, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
Downing Street last week named Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings as the source of leaks against the prime minister.
But Cummings denied he was the source and cast Johnson as incompetent and lacking in integrity.
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