LONDON — Boris Johnson said he was “epileptically annoyed by COVID” in 2022 as he considered scrapping free testing for the virus, according to his former communications chief.
Guto Harri, who served as Johnson’s senior aide in 2022, told his Global podcast series that the then British prime minister grew to view the pandemic as ‘irrelevance’, and made those points known. of view during tense government debates over whether to keep using state money to provide Britons with free tests for the virus.
Harri said there was “an almighty row” over the issue between Johnson and his health secretary Sajid Javid, who eventually resigned in the summer of 2022 in a move that dealt a deathblow to the Johnson’s struggling administration.
According to Harri, Johnson feared the provision of free tests would “eclipse the budgets of entire departments”, and argued that the UK should instead focus on trying to “spot the next COVID”.
The former director of communications added: “Boris at the time said he was ‘epileptically annoyed by COVID. What people are getting now doesn’t kill them,” he thought. “It’s a matter of prodigious irrelevance, as long as we have a good pair of eyes in the crow’s nest, then we won’t miss another iceberg.”
He added of Johnson: “That was basically what he was looking for, just to be able to spot the next COVID, if, God forbid, that happened. He took it on this occasion and saved a fortune.
In February last year, Johnson announced the end of free mass testing. Instead, free tests would target those most vulnerable to the virus.
Johnson’s spokesperson said the former prime minister did not acknowledge Harri’s account of his premiership as detailed in the podcast, and stressed that Johnson had no role in creating the series .
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Harri – who has made a series of revealing statements in recent weeks about his time working for Johnson – also used his latest podcast to shed light on tensions between Johnson and Rishi Sunak. Sunak is now Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but at the time he was the Chancellor who ran the mighty Treasury. He quit right after Javid last summer.
According to Harri, Johnson pounced on Sunak as the Cabinet began to discuss the possibility of a recession in the UK.
“Fuck that shit,” Johnson said. “We have to empty the treasury. Start over as Singapore-on-Thames. The department basically became a bank manager.
“If the whole government hadn’t imploded soon after, I doubt the chancellor would have lasted the summer,” Harri added.