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Covid inquiry: 'Absurd' claim Boris 'didn't understand the science' blasted by Guto Harri

NewsCovid inquiry: 'Absurd' claim Boris 'didn't understand the science' blasted by Guto Harri

Boris Johnson‘s former communications chief has blasted Sir Patrick Vallance’s claim the ex-PM was “bamboozled” by the science presented to him during the Covid pandemic.

Diary entries written by Sir Patrick were shown to the COVID-19 inquiry on Monday (November 20) with the former chief scientific adviser describing the former prime minister as “weak”.

It heard how Mr Johnson sometimes struggled to retain scientific information, and was “clutching at straws”. At one point he queried whether Covid was spreading “because of the great libertarian nation we are”.

One of Sir Patrick’s diary entries from May 4, 2020 said: “Late afternoon meeting with the PM on schools. My God, this is complicated. Models will not provide the answer. PM is clearly bamboozled.”

Guto Harri defended Mr Johnson during an appearance on Sky News earlier this evening.

Asked if his old boss had been “bamboozled” by data, he said: “I just don’t recognise that at all… He (Boris Johnson) can get his head around just about everything.

“Whatever else you think of him, whatever else we think of his policies, his decisions, the idea that this is not a highly intelligent man who can get his head round a lot of things is ridiculous.”

Asked how Sir Patrick could have made up such a claim, Mr Harri told the broadcaster: “Well, I hesitate to say the arrogance of the unelected.

“I hesitate to say somebody who is looking at one tiny piece of the jigsaw – a big jigsaw and a very important piece of the jigsaw.”

He explained how Mr Johnson had “much bigger” considerations to weigh up during the pandemic, which was an “unprecedented” situation facing the country.

Mr Harri continued: “The Prime Minister has got to, a. answer to the electorate; b. pick up the pieces today, where we spent £400billion locking down… There are much bigger considerations that (Mr Johnson) had to think about.

“He had to weigh up lives as well as livelihoods as well as legacy as well as everything else. So to turn up as the expert witness and just sort of slag off everybody else because they don’t just agree with your narrow piece of the jigsaw as the only piece of the jigsaw…

“I’m sure he’s a brilliant scientist – I worked with him last year – but he’s not looking at the big picture. The idea Boris is not capable of understanding the science is ludicrous.”

His backing for the former PM comes after Sir Patrick was questioned by Andrew O’Connor KC, counsel to the inquiry.

Sir Patrick told the Inquiry: “I think I’m right in saying that the (former) prime minister gave up science at 15. I think he’d be the first to admit it wasn’t his forte and that he struggled with the concepts and we did need to repeat them. Often.”

However, Sir Patrick said this issue was not unique to the UK and advisers in other European countries had suggested at least one other leader had also struggled.

He said: “So I do not think that there was necessarily a unique inability to grasp some of these concepts with the prime minister at the time, but it was hard work sometimes to try and make sure that he had understood what a particular graph or piece of data was saying.”

The Inquiry also heard in July 2020, Sir Patrick wrote then-chancellor Rishi Sunak said “it is all about handling the scientists, not handling the virus” during an economics meeting.

It went on to hear that Mr Johnson had been in favour of letting the virus “rip” in October 2020, acknowledging people would die, while former senior adviser Dominic Cummings said “Rishi (Sunak) thinks just let people die and that’s OK.”

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