Boris Johnson said 'F** you Daily Mail' about COVID rule-of-six - what you missed today

Johnson is facing more questions about the UK's response to the coronavirus pandemic

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry shows Britain's former Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving evidence at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, in west London, on December 7, 2023. The former UK leader, who has faced a barrage of criticism from ex-aides for alleged indecisiveness and lack of scientific understanding during the pandemic, is attending the second of two gruelling days in the witness box. (Photo by UK Covid-19 Inquiry / AFP) / XGTY / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Daily Mail had probably said something that wound him up.. (UK COVID-19 Inquiry/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson had said "f*** you Daily Mail" after he was criticised over the COVID 'rule of six'.

Pete Weatherby KC, who represents the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice, who are a core participant in the inquiry, has shown former prime minister Boris Johnson an extract from the diary of Patrick Vallance, his former chief scientific adviser, that talks about the rule of six for social gatherings during the pandemic.

It says: “PM ‘everyone says the rule of six is so unfair, punishing the young but F*** YOU Daily Mail – look this is all about stopping deaths. We need to tell them’.

Johnson apologised for his language but Wetherby interjected, saying: “Well, it’s in shouty capitals and underlined.”

Johnson replied: “Well not by me”. The former PM said he did not recall the tone of the extract being accurate, saying: “What I can tell you, if indeed it is accurate, is that what I would have been saying is that… this is September… you can see the risk that the virus is going to start taking off again and I’m extremely worried and, with great respect to you sir, it looks to me as though what I’m saying here is that the priority is to – and I am sorry to have said this about the Daily Mail – stop death.”

With Thursday's session now over, here are the highlights from Boris Johnson's tough day of questioning:

  • Johnson rejected a suggestion by his former chief of staff Lord Udny-Lister that he had “no real personal relationship” with then-Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

  • Johnson was accusing of backing “bulls**t ‘no surrender’ ideas” from his ministers then come to regret it later, WhatsApps between then-Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings and former Downing Street director of communications Lee Cain showed.

  • Johnson referred to the Government’s facemask policy in the summer of 2020 as “f***** up” in messages to Cummings.

  • The former PM said he could not be sure if institutional racism resulted in poorer COVID outcomes for BAME people.

  • Johnson said he regretted the hurt caused by his comments that older people "had a good innings" or "were going to die anyway", but argued he wanted people to speak freely and felt that by using such language he was encouraging this.

  • The former prime minister said that early on he was told that “we did have a very good test and trace system and ample preparations but that turned out not to be true”.

Day one: key moments

You can read more about Boris Johnson's testimony in our blog below.

Live coverage is over
  • Harriet Sinclair

    Tier system ‘didn’t work but was worth a try’, Johnson tells Covid inquiry

    The policy saw some parts of the country placed under heavy restrictions in the autumn of 2020, while other regions enjoyed more freedom.

    Read the full story from PA

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Former PM asked about 'malingering work-shy' comment

    Boris Johnson was asked about his comments that people should return to work, with record showing he said: "We can’t have the b******s of consulting with employees and unions. They need to all come back to work.

    “All the malingering work-shy people.”

    Johnson said he thought people would be slow to recognise the impact of the vaccine and return to work.

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Johnson denies being 'shamefully ageist'

    Boris Johnson rejected a suggestion that some of his language regarding older people had been “shamefully ageist”.

    The former prime minister faced questions from Danny Friedman KC on behalf of Disabled People’s Organisations: Disability Rights UK, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Wales.

    He said it was not ageist.

    “No. I was doing my best to reflect what was I’m afraid a debate that was very live and live I may say with a great number of older people, who would make these points to me. And I wanted to get the answers.”

    Lady Hallett intervened to say she had not given permission for the use of the “forensic flourish”.

  • Harriet Sinclair

    ‘Serious disrepute’: Grimsby locals react after Boris Johnson wears town’s football club hat

    Petition started after ex-PM wore GTFC bobble hat to arrival at COVID Inquiry, exposure residents say club can do without.

    Read the full story from The Guardian

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Johnson 'not sure' if institutional racism cased poor COVID outcome for Black and minority ethnic people in UK

    Boris Johnson was asked by Leslie Thomas KC, from the Federation of Ethnic Minority Healthcare Organisations (FEMHO), about poorer outcomes for Black and minority ethnic people in the UK - which Thomas said was a result of institutional racism.

    "I’m not certain of that," Johnson said, saying he did not believe any report had shown this conclusively. Thomas said there had been one done. Johnson replied that he had not read it.

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Watch the first moment Boris Johnson deliberately misled parliament

    Boris Johnson has been found to have lied to parliament in a scathing report by the privileges committee. Here is one of those key moments.

    Read the full story from Yahoo News

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Boris Johnson rejects suggestion Westminster was ‘high-handed’ in pandemic

    The former prime minister told the Covid inquiry that the overall performance of the UK in the pandemic as a single entity was ‘remarkable’.

    Read the full story from PA

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Boris Johnson’s second day at the Covid inquiry: key points

    The former PM addressed Partygate, ‘letting it rip’ and ‘eat out to help out’ in his second day of evidence.

    Read the full story from The Guardian

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Johnson says he had no ill will towards Nicola Sturgeon

    Boris Johnson rejected a suggestion by his former chief of staff Lord Udny-Lister that he had “no real personal relationship” with then-Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

    Taking questions from Claire Mitchell KC, who represents Scottish Covid Bereaved, the former prime minister said that he had “no ill will whatsoever” with Sturgeon.

    “When I have talked to her, we have got on very well and had a friendly relationship.”

    Asked why Lord Udny-Lister, a close aide, would have received that impression, Mr Johnson said: “Much as I love the SNP, politically there was a certain amount of toing and froing between the SNP and me as prime minister.”

  • Harriet Sinclair

    'Optically wrong' for PM to hold meetings with other devolved administration's ministers

    In his witness statement, the inquiry was told Boris Johnson has said: “It’s optically wrong for the UK prime minister to hold regular meetings with other devolved administrations’ ministers.”

    Explaining the remark to the probe, he said that one of the considerations was the “risk of pointless political friction and grandstanding because of the well-known opposition of some of the devolved administrations to the government and to avoid necessary leaks”.

    He added that he thought the “way to minimise divergence and tensions was to take the temperature down and to have a business-like and practical meetings between the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the DAs [devolved administrations]”.

London, UK. 6th Dec, 2023. Former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, leaves the Covid inquiry. This is the first day of his evidence. He will be back tomorrow for further questioning. Credit: Karl Black/Alamy Live News
Boris Johnson leaves the COVID inquiry following a six-hour grilling on Thursday. (Alamy)