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Boris Johnson news – live: PM under mounting pressure as Labour calls for probe over flat refurb ‘cover-up’

Johnson denies saying he would rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than enter another lockdown

Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure as Labour has called for an investigation into a possible “cover-up” over the funding of the prime minister’s refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said a probe was needed to determine whether Mr Johnson’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton “knowingly misled” journalists over the funding of the refurbishment .

Meanwhile, No10 failed to deny on Tuesday that the PM told aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than impose a second lockdown.

Mr Johnson reportedly argued during a government debate in September that lockdowns were “mad” due to the severe impact on the economy, The Times reported.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson this afternoon said that the reports “distort” Mr Johnson’s actions, and that he was focused “on saving lives and livelihoods” during the pandemic.

However, when asked if he denied the comment had been made by Mr Johnson, the spokesperson did not say.

It comes amid a growing furore after a number of sources were reported to have told how Mr Johnson said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order a third shutdown.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent’s blog on UK politics, with minute-by-minute updates on the latest goings on in Whitehall.

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 08:25
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Labour calls on government to implement NHS recovery plan as hospital waiting lists grow

Ministers have been urged to implement a clear recovery plan to bring down the country’s patient waiting lists that have ballooned to record-breaking levels as a result of disruption from the pandemic.

Labour has warned that thousands of people waiting for hospital treatment are at risk of permanent disability and losing their livelihoods and has demanded government action.

The Independent’s science correspondent Samuel Lovett has the details

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 08:33
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MPs urge review as Covid fines branded ‘muddled, discriminatory and unfair’

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said the system “criminalises the poor over the better-off” and no Covid-19 fine should result in a criminal record.

“Significant concerns” about the validity of the fines, the inadequacy of the review and appeal process, the size of the penalties and the criminalisation of those who cannot afford to pay, were set out in a report.

Committee chairman Harriet Harman said: “Swift action to make restrictions effective is essential in the face of this terrible virus.

“But the Government needs to ensure that rules are clear, enforcement is fair and that mistakes in the system can be rectified.

“None of that is the case in respect of Covid-19 fixed penalty notices.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 08:37
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Johnson said ‘he would rather let Covid rip than impose second lockdown’

Boris Johnson has today been hit with a fresh set of allegations over his conduct after reportedly telling aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than impose a second lockdown.

The prime minister argued during a government debate in September that lockdowns were “mad” as he raised concerns about the economic harm they cause, as reported by The Times.

The allegation came to light after a growing number of sources were reported to have told how Mr Johnson said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order a third shutdown.

The Prime Minister said that allegation was “total rubbish”, before further details surfaced of how he is said to have paid for expensive refurbishments to his Downing Street flat.

A No 10 spokesman said: “These are gross distortions of his position. Throughout this pandemic we’ve done everything we can to save lives and protect livelihoods.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said: “This is yet another panicked attempt by the Conservatives to cover up the truth behind the original donors for the luxury refurbishment of the Downing Street flat.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 08:45
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Cabinet minister says it is ‘no surprise’ PM wanted to make flat renovations

“The Prime Minister has probably spent more time in the Number 10 flat than prime ministers normally would,” she told LBC.

“Also, the birth of his young son, having his family there, so I think it’s no surprise if people with a different sort of family atmosphere moving into a private residence in Number 10 want to make changes.”

Asked if she would spend £5,900 on an armchair, Ms Coffey said: “The point is that the Prime Minister has paid for those.

“I think it’s perfectly acceptable for people to spend their money how they wish, when they are considering their family in the residence where they spend a lot of time.”

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 08:56
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Boris Johnson has history of comparing himself to Jaws’ reckless mayor who kept beaches open

Boris Johnson has reportedly again compared himself to the feckless mayor in the film Jaws, during a row over Covid lockdowns last year.

In September, in the middle of intense debate within Downing Street over whether to introduced a second lockdown, Mr Johnson is said to have expressed regret over the first lockdown.

The prime minister likened himself to Larry Vaughn, the mayor of Amity in Jaws who orders the beaches to stay open despite the shark attacks.

Tim Wyatt reports

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 09:07
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Boris Johnson ‘broke electoral law’ if he failed to declare donation for flat makeover within one month

Boris Johnson has broken electoral law if he received a gift or loan for his expensive flat makeover and failed to declare it within one month, he has been warned.

The strict rules were set out amid claims that the Conservative Party secretly approved paying the £58,000 bill as long as nine months ago – a payment then covered by a Tory donor, according to a leaked email.

The Independent’s deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the details

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 09:21
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‘Correlation’ between postponed debt hearings and Iran’s action against Zaghari-Ratcliffe, says Labour MP

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to an additional year’s imprisonment yesterday and a further year-long ban on leaving Iran.

Ms Siddiq, who is Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family’s MP, told Sky News on Tuesday: “Whether she is called back into court, whether she’s told there’s another charge against her, or whether she’s told there’s one more year of prison time ahead of her, there seems to be a direct link between it, and there’s no point in the Government burying their heads in the sand and saying there’s no link.”

The Hampstead and Kilburn MP also said the link between the case and the money the UK owes Iran has never been acknowledged by ministers.

“Bear in mind that I have now raised this issue with three prime ministers and five foreign secretaries and no-one has ever admitted that there’s a link between the money we owe Iran, which is a historic debt, and the fact that Nazanin is still in prison,” she said.

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 09:31
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Indian doctor says UK donation of ventilators is meaningless at this point

Medical equipment sent by the UK to India to help the country cope with its huge surge in Covid-19 cases is merely a “political gesture” and will have little impact, a leading Indian doctor has claimed.

The UK’s Foreign Office said it was sending 600 pieces of life-saving kit to India – including ventilators and oxygen concentrators – with the first plane-loads arriving on Tuesday, writes The Independent’s Adam Forrest

Joe Middleton27 April 2021 09:47
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Joe Middleton27 April 2021 10:00