Covid UK: Boris Johnson joked about not seeing in-laws at Christmas

Boris Johnson joked ‘Rule of Six’ would be an excuse to ‘not see the in-laws at Christmas’ in gag that fell FLAT during Zoom call to the 1922 Committee – sparking backlash from families facing festive period apart

  • Boris Johnson joked that Rule of Six would be an excuse not to seen in-laws
  • Ill-judged gag fell flat during meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers
  • PM was reportedly 15 minutes late and made ‘multiple jokes that landed badly’

Boris Johnson reportedly joked that the Rule of Six would mean families could escape celebrating Christmas with their in-laws as sceptical Tory MPs challenged his coronavirus strategy last night.

The Prime Minister last night appeared before his party for an impromptu meeting of the 1922 Committee, the influential group of backbenchers headed by Sir Graham Brady, to garner support ahead of the introduction of his three-tiered system of lockdown restrictions.

Mr Johnson is understood to have made the ill-judged gag while fielding questions from angry Conservative backbenchers over a Zoom call amid growing anger that the country is ‘going bankrupt’ as a result of the Government’s actions.

According to website Bloomberg, three sources claimed the Prime Minister was 15 minutes late to the virtual meting before making ‘multiple jokes that landed badly with his audience’.

He rubbished ex-premier Theresa May’s call to add business experts to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, suggesting it would have to be renamed ‘beige’. The Spectator magazine reports that he said this while laughing to himself.

Boris Johnson is engaged to Carrie Symonds, a former Tory communications chief. Together they have a son Wilfred, who was born earlier this year

Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds on a Zoom call with the midwives who delivered their son Wilfred

Yesterday Britain recorded more than 100 coronavirus deaths for the first time in four months as officials announced 143 more victims

The chat function on Zoom meant Mr Johnson could pick which questions to answer during the Q&A. When one MP asked ‘what can you tell me about Christmas’, the Prime Minister reportedly responded: ‘It’s a religious festival that’s been celebrated 2020 years’.

However, his joke about in-laws at Christmas was widely condemned, with shadow policing minister Sarah Jones saying: ‘We all have a sense of humour but that really isn’t funny right now.’

One Twitter user said: ‘I miss my in-laws terribly. They are excellent, loving people who have helped us stay afloat during all this. Johnson is such a mean-spirited person.’

Another said: ‘Covid is such a laugh isn’t it so far as Johnson is concerned? Families split apart. Some in-laws won’t be around for their children and grandchildren.’ 

‘I would love to see my mother-in-law at Christmas, but I won’t ever again as she died of Covid in June,’ one social media user commented. 

Mr Johnson is engaged to Carrie Symonds, a former Tory communications chief. Together they have a son Wilfred, who was born earlier this year. The Prime Minister’s in-laws will be journalist Matthew Symonds and Josephine Mcaffee.

However, his joke about in-laws at Christmas was widely condemned, with shadow policing minister Sarah Jones saying: ‘We all have a sense of humour but that really isn’t funny right now.’ One Twitter user said: ‘I miss my in-laws terribly. They are excellent, loving people who have helped us stay afloat during all this. Johnson is such a mean-spirited person’

The Prime Minister last night appeared before his party for an impromptu meeting of the 1922 Committee, the influential group of backbenchers headed by Sir Graham Brady, to garner support ahead of the introduction of his three-tiered system of lockdown restrictions

The Prime Minister is likely to celebrate Christmas at Chequers, the official country residence, this year, owing to the draconian Rule of Six.

London will enter lockdown as ‘one city’: Sadiq Khan says Tier Two restrictions ‘inevitable’ 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday warned it is ‘inevitable’ that London will be plunged into a Tier Two lockdown this week as he admitted he wants every borough to face the same coronavirus restrictions.

The UK capital is currently ranked as a ‘medium’ risk zone in the Government’s three-tier system of local alerts for England, and was expected to remain there when the restrictions come into force.

But the Mayor warned yesterday that London will ‘inevitably’ be moved upwards ‘this week’, setting off alarm bells among hospitality chiefs who fear their businesses could go to the wall if a second shutdown ensues.

Mr Khan said the city will pass a ‘trigger point’ to enter the Tier Two restrictions in the ‘next few days’, and insisted London should move as a whole into higher restrictions despite variable rates across the capital.

The tightening of restrictions, which would ban different households from mixing indoors, is likely to deal a hammer-blow to the hospitality sector, with hoteliers, restaurateurs and landlords all warning that their venues will go under if people are discouraged from socialising in pubs, bars or restaurants.

‘All the indicators I have, hospital admissions, ICU occupancy, the numbers of older people with cases, the prevalence of the disease, the positivity are all going the wrong direction,’ Mr Khan said.

‘Which means, I’m afraid, it’s inevitable over the course of the next few days London will have passed a trigger point to be in the second tier.’

‘We’re keen to go as one as we can see the complexities and the confusion caused by some boroughs having additional restrictions and other boroughs having less. Many Londoners work in one borough, live in another borough, study in another borough, go to a restaurant in another borough so we’re really keen to go as one city.’

Downing Street has not ruled out moving London into Tier Two. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘There’s a process for considering whether further measures are needed in all parts of the country and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to pre-empt that.

‘We look at a wide range of different data and take advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and local health officials on the ground, so we look not only at infection rates but also the rate of positive tests, admissions to hospitals, and admissions to intensive care units.

‘We continue to closely monitor the data in all parts of England and I think we have shown that if it’s judged additional measures are necessary we haven’t hesitated to act.’

It comes as hospitality chiefs warned that London’s hotels, pubs and restaurants could be ‘decimated’ by new coronavirus restrictions if the capital is plunged into a second tier lockdown.

 

Yesterday Britain recorded more than 100 coronavirus deaths for the first time in four months as officials announced 143 more victims.

However, the Government faced a small rebellion from Tory lockdown sceptics last night as 42 Tories, including the former cabinet members David Davis and Esther McVey, rejected the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.

MPs approved the three-tiered lockdown system announced on Monday, but used a separate non-binding vote on the closing time of hospitality venues to register their fury at the direction of travel.

At the 1922 meeting, Mr Johnson used his opening address to paint his coronavirus strategy as the ‘balanced approach’, calling it the middle ground behind Keir Starmer’s calls for a national lockdown and ‘letting the virus rip’.

However, his plea did little to assuage fears, as Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, said that steps such as binning the 10pm curfew could mitigate some of the worst effects of lockdown.  

In bruising clashes with his own side during the Commons debate last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded the curfew was a ‘matter of policy choice’ in order to keep schools and workplaces open, rather than something driven by the science.

He claimed there was ‘direct and approximate evidence’ for the positive impact of the limits on pubs and restaurants, citing a fall in alcohol-related A&E admissions late at night.

MPs were also warned they should have ‘no confidence’ of ever reaching herd immunity against the virus, even if everyone caught it.

But Imran Ahmad Khan, Tory MP for Wakefield, warned the tiered restrictions would ‘break’ his constituents.  

Former minister Sir Christopher Chope referred to evidence from Sweden, saying their approach was ‘clear and simple, it is to trust the people and make them responsible for their own health and welfare’, and added: ‘The collateral damage which is being caused is going to actually reduce life expectancy further.’ 

Foreign Affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat complained about the lack of consistency in the Government’s approach.

He said: ‘At the moment it’s off the bus, on the bus, off the bus, on the bus, and for those of us who served in uniform, you know how much time that wastes.’ 

Sir Graham Brady said: ‘This half-alive state that we have come to inhabit cannot be allowed to become permanent.’

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, claimed: ‘We are going bankrupt as a nation. There won’t be the money to pay for the NHS or pensions.’  

It comes as Cabinet splits were raging today as ministers denied Mr Johnson will impose a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown over half-term — despite claims one is now ’80 per cent’ likely to happen.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey defied escalating fury from SAGE scientists as she said new nationwide measures are not on the cards before the end of the month, insisting the focus is on the new ‘Tiered’ local restrictions.

But the Prime Minister is being assailed on both sides by ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ in his own team. Meanwhile Keir Starmer has ramped up the pressure by explicitly backing a ‘circuit breaker’, with No10 accusing him of ‘playing politics’ with the pandemic.

Two senior SAGE experts have produced estimates that a short sharp shock lockdown from October 24 could reduce deaths by between 3,000 and 107,000. Another, Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, lashed Mr Johnson for achieving the ‘worst of all worlds’.

There are mounting signs of anxiety within Downing Street about its approach, after it emerged publicly that Mr Johnson has been defying his scientific advice for weeks.

There are reports that Mr Johnson is considering a ‘circuit breaker’, a form of which is already in place in Scotland, to coincide with half-term. One source told the Telegraph he was 80 per cent likely to order the closure of pubs, restaurants and some other firms next week. 

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