‘Mind-boggling’: Covid victims’ families react to talk of Johnson comeback

For Jackie Green, whose mother died alone with Covid in hospital on the same day that No 10 held a boozy Christmas party, the thought of a Boris Johnson comeback is horrifying.

“It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that anybody could even be considering the fact that he should run again,” she said.

Green is one of many people whose relatives died during the pandemic who are outraged that Johnson is considering standing as prime minister again.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Green said. “It’s just unbelievable that a man who has continually lied to parliament, continually lied to the British public, disregarded his own rules and created a culture of entitlement within his government is now being considered once again as the leader of this country.”

Green, 60, last saw her mother, Beryl Harris, on a video call before she died. Because her mother was shielding in Warwickshire and Green lived in south London, they had not been able to see each other in person for 10 months.

Beryl had been in hospital for a relatively routine blood transfusion to treat anaemia when she caught the virus. “It seemed to me that there were no rules really for hospitals in terms of infection control measures,” Green said. “My mum was moved around five or six times in two weeks.”

Beryl seemed to be getting better, but the hospital called in the early hours of 18 December 2020 to say she had died alone. The news was hard to accept – and when Green later found out that on the same day, staff at No 10 had been guzzling wine and cheese and playing secret Santa – it only became harder.

“The fact that they were in close quarters having a great party, when only hours before I was told that my mum had passed away from Covid was just absolutely devastating to me. It was bad enough losing my mum, but then it was like being kicked in the teeth afterwards, just for good measure.”

While Johnson was not at the wine and cheese party himself, Green sees it as a failure of his leadership.

“He created that culture of entitlement within his own government,” Green said. “Regardless of whether he was attending all the parties that went on, that is irrelevant, he allowed them to go on. The man has absolutely no moral fibre whatsoever.”

Johnson is still under investigation by a Commons committee after being accused of misleading MPs about parties held in Downing Street during lockdown that flouted rules. He also has still yet to give evidence to the UK’s official public inquiry into Covid.

Lobby Akinnola, a spokesperson for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign, said: “It’s devastating for bereaved families to think that anyone in the Conservative party is considering bringing Boris Johnson back as PM.

“This is the man who oversaw the deaths of 200,000 British citizens to Covid-19 on his watch. The man who partied whilst we had to say goodbye to our loved ones over a screen, and then spent six months months lying to us about it. The man who joked about ‘letting the bodies pile high’ while he refused to learn lessons from the first wave and let even more people die in the second.”

Mike Handley, 55, from Chorley in Lancashire, was planning his father Ian’s funeral over Zoom on the day Johnson allegedly held an “Abba party” at his flat on 13 November 2020.

Ian, a former bus driver, died with Covid aged 76. Handley, who is now a carer for his mother, said: “I’d be appalled if they allow him to come back.”

Handley rejoined the Labour party this week and says he plans to tell the story of what his family went through during the pandemic to persuade people not to vote Conservative at the next election.

“I think if he comes back, I can honestly see civil unrest on the streets. I can see people marching on Downing Street, akin to the poll tax riots of the late 80s. I just can’t see the general public accepting him coming back.”

Handley has not been on marches in London before but said he would seriously consider it if Johnson re-entered No 10.

Lindsay Jackson, 64, was unable to see her mother, Sylvia, in the weeks before she died of Covid in a nursing home on 17 April 2020.

A retired civil servant from Bakewell in Derbyshire, Jackson said: “I’m staggered and horrified at the thought of him taking any role of responsibility in our country. We need an honest, capable, sober, reliable, competent, serious person to lead us out of the crisis that his and the subsequent government have left us in. Not a single one of those adjectives in my list applies to Johnson.”

She added: “At least Truss’s incompetence has only cost us money – so far. Johnson’s cost my mother her life and my family the human decency of being with her when she died and of mourning her properly. And he was so callous as to say he wanted the bodies to pile high rather than take the unpopular decision of locking down and protecting people.

“He is precisely the wrong person to take control in this crisis. Anyone would be better than him.”

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