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Boris Johnson denies making ‘bodies pile high’ comment over third UK lockdown

The claim was first reported in the Times, but Downing Street dismissed it as a “gross distortion” of Johnson’s position at the time.

2.59423978 Source: PA Images

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has denied saying that he would rather see “bodies pile high” than implement another lockdown in October.

It follows allegations first published in the Daily Mail on Monday – and later reported elsewhere – that Johnson said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order a third lockdown.

The latest allegation levelled at the Prime Minister claims that he argued during a Government debate about the issue last September that lockdowns were “mad” as he raised concerns about the economic harm they cause.

The claim was first reported in the Times, but Downing Street dismissed it as a “gross distortion” of Johnson’s position at the time. 

Speaking in the Commons today, Johnson said he did not say that he would rather see “bodies pile high”.

Opening PMQs, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “It was reported this week, including in the Daily Mail, the BBC and ITV – backed up by numerous sources – that at the end of October the Prime Minister said he would rather have, and I quote, ‘bodies pile high’ than implement another lockdown.

“Can the Prime Minister tell the House categorically yes or no, did he make those remarks or remarks to that effect?”

Johnson replied: “No. And (Keir) is a lawyer, I am given to understand, and I think if he is going to repeat allegations like that he should come to this House and substantiate those allegations, and say where he heard them and who exactly is supposed to have said those things.”

He added: “Lockdowns are miserable, lockdowns are appalling things to have to do, but I have to say that I believe we had absolutely no choice.” 

Video available: PM tells Commons he did not make ‘bodies pile high’ comment

It comes after it was announced that the  refurbishment of Johnson’s Downing Street flat will be investigated by the Electoral Commission as the watchdog said it is satisfied there are “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”.

Johnson’s troubles over the renovations dramatically deepened today when the commission said it would begin a “formal investigation” to see if any rules had been broken.

Questions have been mounting for Johnson since former aide Dominic Cummings accused him of wanting donors to “secretly pay” for the renovations to his No 11 residence in a “possibly illegal” move.

Downing Street has refused to say whether Johnson received an initial loan from the Conservative Party to cover renovations to the flat at No 11.

Announcing its investigation, the Electoral Commission said it had “conducted an assessment” of information provided by the Conservative Party since contact began late last month.

“We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred,” a statement from the watchdog said.

The commission can issue fines of up to £20,000, with most cases deciding whether to impose a sanction if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has occurred.

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But it can also refer investigations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to the police or prosecutors.

Investigators can demand documents, information and explanations, and could potentially seek a statutory interview with the Prime Minister as part of the process.

Crucially, the watchdog said the investigation will “determine whether any transactions relating” to the renovations “fall within the regime regulated by the commission and whether such funding was reported as required”.

“We will provide an update once the investigation is complete. We will not be commenting further until that point,” a spokeswoman added.

2.58394714 11 Downing Street Source: Aaron Chown/PA

Prime ministers get a budget of up to £30,000 per year to renovate their Downing Street residency, but newspaper reports have suggested Johnson has spent up to £200,000.

Last week, the Daily Mail published details of an email from Tory peer Lord Brownlow in which he said he was making a £58,000 donation to the party “to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed ‘Downing Street Trust’”.

A No 10 spokeswoman has said that the costs “have been met by the Prime Minister personally” and that party funds “are not being used for this”.

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