Boris Johnson COVID evidence live: Johnson arrives three hours early – as insiders reveal what he’s expected to argue | Politics News


Boris Johnson is set to apologise for mistakes the government made during the pandemic, but insist he got the big calls right, when he gives evidence to the COVID inquiry. 

The former prime minister is the most highly-anticipated witness, and will be questioned for two days about decisions he made which took the country into three national lockdowns.

Those familiar with his arguments say he believes that the government “didn’t get everything right” but that he will robustly defend the timing of restrictions, and what he believes are his successes – including the vaccine rollout.

Guto Harri, who served as his director of communications in 2022, told Sky News Mr Johnson had to balance conflicting advice from scientists and conflicting priorities from ministers and that “no country got this entirely right”.

Mr Johnson is not expected to dwell on personalities – although witnesses are not told in advance what the lawyers will focus on – and will instead try to steer the answers back to policy decisions.

Key figures such as Rishi Sunak and Dominic Cummings are not expected to feature heavily in his testimony, we are told.

Mr Johnson, who started receiving official papers a year ago and has now studied 6,000 pages of them with his lawyers, is defensive about the timing of the March lockdown – which other witnesses have said was too late.

It’s understood he will point to evidence that chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty was among those arguing that imposing restrictions too early may lead to people tiring of them; and that the herd immunity strategy was still being considered by scientists until mid-March.

Another person close to him said it “was not the case that the system was screaming for a lockdown and that we had our fingers in our ears”.

The former prime minister is expected to take full responsibility for all the decisions the government made – and point out that a multilayered democracy like the UK, with local and devolved government, cannot take the kind of lockdown decisions that countries like China did.

He is also understood to be adamant that the UK’s performance in terms of excess deaths and the recovery of the economy is far from the worst among advanced nations.

You can read more from our political correspondent Tamara Cohen below:

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