British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused Tuesday of trying to rewrite history for appearing to blame the deadly spread of coronavirus in care homes on the institutions themselves.
Britain has suffered the worst death toll in Europe from the virus, with more than 44,000 confirmed deaths, and care homes have suffered badly.
The government initially said it did not believe care homes were at particular risk, and has been slow to roll out testing of both staff and patients.
Critics also say the rapid transfer of elderly patients from hospitals to care homes at the start of the pandemic, to free up beds for coronavirus patients, helped spread the disease.
In an interview on Monday, Johnson said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have.”
The Conservative leader’s comments caused outrage among care providers, with one accusing Johnson on Tuesday of an “appalling” attempt to deflect from “an absolute travesty of leadership from the government”.
Mark Adams, chief executive of Community Integrated Care, which provides services for people with learning disabilities and dementia, told BBC radio that at best, the remarks were “clumsy and cowardly”.
“If this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering Kafka-esque alternative reality where the government sets the rules, we follow them, they don’t like the results, they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best,” he said.
Adams said he was “unbelievably disappointed” in Johnson’s comments, adding: “What we’re getting is history rewritten in front of us.”
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded 14,852 care home deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales in the year to June 26.
But that is likely to be an underestimate, as almost 30,000 more residents have died than in the same period last year.
– Action plan –
The National Care Forum membership organisation said Johnson’s comments about care homes were “neither accurate nor welcome”.
The Independent Care Group, another representative body, said the majority of providers had “done their absolute best in the face of slow and conflicting advice”.
But Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted Johnson was “certainly not blaming care homes” for the coronavirus outbreak.
“What he was actually pointing out was that nobody knew what the correct procedures were at the time, because quite frankly we didn’t know what the extent of the asymptomatic transition was,” he told BBC radio.
The government had put in place “very detailed action plans” for care homes, ensuring a “rigorous testing regime” and funds for infection control, he added.
It was not until April 15 — more than three weeks after the nationwide lockdown — that the government committed to testing all residents before they were moved from hospital, and all symptomatic residents.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s public support has suffered the sharpest fall for a Conservative party leader in a decade following the Dominic Cummings scandal, according to an opinion poll published Wednesday.
As the prime minister prepares to be quizzed by senior MPs later Wednesday over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the scandal, a YouGov poll for The Times newspaper showed the Conservative lead over the main opposition Labour party has been cut by nine points in a week.
The survey put the Tories on 44 percent — down four points — and Labour on 38 percent, up five points over the past seven days.
The last Tory leader to see his lead fall by the same amount was David Cameron during the 2010 general election campaign.
A poll in the Daily Mail newspaper showed Johnson’s approval rating had plummeted from 19 percent to minus one percent in just a few days — despite leading his party to a comprehensive general election victory just six months ago.
It adds to a sense of growing revolt over the government’s handling of Cummings, with nearly 40 Tory MPs demanding he lose his job, while one minister has quit in protest.
However, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, backed the PM’s top adviser on Wednesday.
“I think, is the time for us all to move on,” he told the BBC, adding that Cummings had not broken any government guidelines.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was hit by its first resignation on Tuesday over the controversy surrounding his top aide Dominic Cummings’ cross-country trip during the coronavirus lockdown.
Undermining attempts by ministers to move on from a crisis that has dominated British politics for days, Douglas Ross, a minister for Scotland, quit in protest.
“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government,” he said in a statement.
“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right.”
The government said it regretted his decision.
The resignation will pile more pressure on Cummings, who held a press conference on Monday to justify driving his wife and young son on a 264-mile (425-kilometre) trip from London to Durham in the northeast of England during the height of the coronavirus crisis.
Cummings said he had virus symptoms around the time of the trip and his wife was also suffering from COVID-19.
The Brexit campaign mastermind explained he wanted to drop off his four-year-old son at his parent’s house in case both he and his wife became incapacitated.
But many in Britain remain unconvinced.
A YouGov poll taken after Cummings’ press conference found that 59 percent of respondents thought he should resign, up from 52 percent.
More than two-thirds — 71 percent — thought he had broken the government’s lockdown rules.
– ‘Lack of credibility’ –
Hours after Ross resigned, Jackson Carlaw, the leader of Johnson’s Conservatives in Scotland, said the British prime minister’s most trusted adviser should think about quitting.
“Given the furore, given the distraction, this is… if I were Mr Cummings I would be considering my position,” he told STV News.
Meanwhile, a host of smaller opposition parties wrote to Johnson to call for Cummings to be fired.
“There cannot be one rule for those involved in formulating public health advice and another for the rest of us,” the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and others said in the letter.
The main opposition Labour party has stopped short of backing that call but demanded an internal government inquiry.
Dozens of Conservative lawmakers have also called on Cummings to quit.
Mark Pawsey said he had acted “against the spirit of the lockdown” while William Wragg tweeted that the government was throwing away “political goodwill” over the scandal.
But cabinet heavyweight Michael Gove defended Cummings, arguing the controversial aide had not broken the law.
Gove said Cummings had acted reasonably in driving from London to Durham and then taking a separate journey to a local beauty spot, Barnard Castle, to — as Cummings claimed — test his eyesight.
“What’s clear is that he didn’t break the law, he didn’t break the rules, he sought to protect his family,” Gove told the BBC on Tuesday.
– No regrets –
Much of the fury in Britain has focused on Cummings’ decision not to apologise for his actions, and claiming that he was being misunderstood because many of initial UK media reports about his travels were false.
He also resisted calls to resign, telling reporters he acted “reasonably and legally”.
“I don’t regret what I did,” he added.
The prime minister called Cummings’ actions “plausible”.
Johnson’s spokesman said on Tuesday that “from the PM’s point of view, he has set out that he believes Dominic Cummings acted reasonably, legally and with integrity and care for his family and others”.
Also on Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics said the number of deaths in Britain involving the coronavirus had risen above 46,000, far higher than the 36,914 deaths officially confirmed in the government’s count.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not face a criminal investigation over claims that he channelled public funds towards a US businesswoman with whom he was suspected of having an affair, the police complaints body said Thursday.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said police would not be asked to investigate claims Johnson used his position while mayor of London to “benefit and reward” Jennifer Arcuri, but it did find “there may have been an intimate relationship” between the two.
There was also evidence to suggest that those responsible for handing out grants “thought that there was a close relationship between Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri, and this influenced their decision-making”.
It concluded that Johnson should have declared a conflict of interest, but that not doing so did not amount to a potential criminal offence and was now a matter for the Greater London Authority (GLA).
Johnson’s Downing Street office said it welcomed “that this politically motivated complaint has been thrown out”.
“This was not a policing matter, and we consider this was a waste of police time,” it added.
Arcuri was given more than £125,000 ($153,000, 139,000 euros) in public money and invited on trade missions led by Johnson during his time as mayor between 2008 and 2016, sparking multiple investigations.
British media reported the two were having an affair. Arcuri did not deny the claims, saying it was “really categorically no one’s business what private life we had, or didn’t have”.
But any grants were “purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman”, she said at the time.
The IOPC said it found “no evidence indicating Mr Johnson influenced the payment of any sponsorship monies to Ms Arcuri or that he influenced or played an active part in securing her participation in trade missions”.
Johnson’s role as mayor meant he was also head of the Office for Policing and Crime and open to investigation of potential misconduct by the professional complaints body.
The allegations were referred to the IOPC by the GLA in September 2019, two months after he became prime minister.
The IOPC reviewed nearly 900 documents, including eight years of emails, it said.
“We also interviewed and took statements from a number of witnesses in the UK and abroad during the process.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday the country will have 25,000 virus tracing staff recruited by June so the country can “make progress” in its strategy to keep easing the nationwide lockdown.
The government is under pressure to get the recruits in place to operate alongside a smartphone tracing app to allow large-scale testing and tracing tactics to start next month.
“We have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating and… it will be in place by June 1,” Johnson told parliament.
“Already we have recruited 24,000 tracers. By June 1 we will have 25,000,” he added, noting the staff will be able to trace the contacts of 10,000 new cases daily.
Britain’s official coronavirus death toll is at least 41,000, with almost 10,000 dead in care homes in England and Wales alone, according to an update from the Office for National Statistics released on Tuesday.
The government’s official rolling daily count of fatalities, which is less comprehensive, stands at 35,341.
By both measures, the figures are the highest in Europe and second only to the United States in the global rankings.
Johnson, who himself was hospitalised for coronavirus in April and spent three days in intensive care, has been criticised for largely abandoning a testing and tracing strategy on March 12, as the virus took hold.
A cross-party parliamentary committee on Tuesday said it was clear a lack of capacity determined government strategy, and the testing regime had been “inadequate” in the early stages.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil an alert system on Sunday to monitor the nationwide coronavirus outbreak, with different levels informing how and where the lockdown could be eased.
He will set out the plan in a televised address to the nation at 7:00pm (1800 GMT), as part of a wider strategy on how stay-at-home measures imposed in late March might be gradually eased.
The alert system will be monitored from a new centre for biosecurity and have five levels, informing the public and policy makers of the status of the outbreak across the country.
“At the moment we believe the country is at four on a scale of five, with five being the most concerning,” Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News television.
“Our aspiration is to bring that down as swiftly as we can to three.
“And at each stage, at each of those milestones, we will be in a position to open up and restart more aspects of the economy and of our lives.”
The prime minister warned this week he would proceed with “maximum caution” in easing the lockdown as the number of virus deaths, at more than 31,500, has become the highest in Europe.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged from hospital on Sunday, the country estate of British prime ministers, officials said, a week after being admitted for treatment for coronavirus and spending three days in intensive care.
The 55-year-old leader will not be immediately returning to work, on the advice of his medical staff, a Downing Street spokesman said.
“The PM has been discharged from hospital to continue his recovery at Chequers,” he said.
“He wishes to thank everybody at St Thomas’ (Hospital) for the brilliant care he has received.
“All of his thoughts are with those affected by this illness.”
Johnson, who was admitted to the state-run central London hospital last Sunday and spent Monday to Thursday in its intensive care unit, had earlier voiced his gratitude to his carers there.
“I can’t thank them enough. I owe them my life,” he said in a first public statement since being hospitalised.
The news of his continued improvement contrasted with the overall picture across Britain, as it braces to pass the grim milestone of 10,000 hospital deaths from COVID-19.
The country is now seeing daily death tolls to match those previously seen in Europe’s hardest-hit nations Italy and Spain, after recording nearly 1,000 fatalities on each of the last two days.
British Prime Minister Theresa May steps down as leader of her Conservative Party on Friday, formally triggering the race for a successor who will try where she failed to deliver Brexit.
May will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July, but has relinquished control over the direction of Britain’s tortuous departure from the European Union.
Brexit is still scheduled for October 31 but while her rivals thrash it out, the project remains stuck, with the only divorce plan agreed with Brussels stuck in parliament.
May took office after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU and has spent the past three years working on the plan, delaying Brexit twice to try to get it through.
But she finally acknowledged defeat in a tearful resignation speech last month, the culmination of months of political turmoil that has slowly sapped all her authority.
Eleven Conservative MPs are currently vying to replace her, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, but some are expected to drop out before Monday’s deadline for nominations.
The winner will have only a few months to decide whether to try to salvage May’s plan, delay Brexit again — or sever ties with Britain’s closest trading partner with no agreement at all.
They are under pressure from eurosceptic figurehead Nigel Farage, who has called for a “no deal” option and whose Brexit party topped European polls last month.
His party suffered a setback on Friday after narrowly missing out on winning its first parliamentary seat, losing to Labour in a by-election in the eastern city of Peterborough.
Despite winning, Labour’s vote share fell by 17 percent while the Tories plummeted by 25 percent, highlighting the task facing May’s successor.
Polling guru John Curtice told the BBC that the result showed Britain was now in a “different political world”.
“A lot of constituencies are now looking at four-party politics, and perhaps in others five-party politics,” said a disappointed Farage.
– Power shift –
May will formally relinquish her leadership in a private letter to her party on Friday, but no official events are planned to mark the day.
She put on a brave face this week when hosting US President Donald Trump for a state visit, before joining him and other world leaders to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings.
But Trump used the trip to speak with Johnson and other candidates to replace her, emphasising where the political power in Britain now lies.
“She remains prime minister for a good few weeks yet,” May’s spokesman insisted, noting that any successor must meet Queen Elizabeth II and assure the monarch they have the support of enough lawmakers to take over.
He said May would focus on domestic issues, but “in relation to Brexit, the prime minister said it wouldn’t be for her to take this process forward”.
Trump has been highly critical of May’s Brexit strategy and ahead of his visit to Britain, urged her successor to leave the bloc with no deal if necessary.
Johnson, a leading campaigner in the 2016 referendum who quit the government last year over May’s plan, is among several would-be candidates who say they are willing to do this.
But Environment Secretary Michael Gove, another frontrunner, is open to another Brexit delay, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said leaving with no deal is “political suicide”.
Trump had a phone call with Johnson this week and met both Hunt and Farage, although a planned meeting with Gove never materialised.
Nominations for the contest must be submitted on Monday, and the 313 Conservative MPs — including May — will hold the first of a series of secret ballots on June 13.
With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by June 20. They will then be put to a ballot of an estimated 100,000 party members.
The contest should be completed by the week commencing July 22.
The leader of the party automatically becomes prime minister.
May, who took charge in the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum, was forced to make way following a mutiny in her cabinet and Conservative Party over her ill-fated strategy to take Britain out of the European Union.
She will become one of Britain’s shortest-serving post-WWII prime ministers, remembered for presiding over one of the most chaotic periods in the country’s modern political history and for her inability to deliver Brexit.
“I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold — the second female prime minister but certainly not the last,” May said.
“I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love,” she said, appearing close to tears as she turned back abruptly and walked back into her office.
Brexit in limbo
May was pushed into the humiliating spectacle of announcing her departure from office following a meeting with the head of the Conservative Party committee in charge of leadership elections.
She had previously said she would step aside once her unpopular EU divorce deal had been passed by parliament, and this week launched a short-lived bid for lawmakers to approve it in early June, that has now been postponed.
MPs have overwhelmingly rejected the withdrawal agreement she struck with European Union leaders last year three times, brutally weakening May on each occasion.
With her resignation, the manner of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union appears more uncertain than ever.
She had been under growing pressure to quit following months of political paralysis over Brexit, which have intensified in recent weeks following disastrous results in the May 2 English local elections.
The Conservatives are expected to fare similarly badly in this week’s European Parliament elections when the results are announced late Sunday.
‘One last roll of the dice’
May’s latest effort to force through her despised Brexit deal, which included giving MPs the option of holding a referendum on the agreement, proved her final undoing.
The move prompted a furious reaction from Conservatives — including cabinet members.
“I thought she deserved one last roll of the dice. But she took those dice and threw them off the table,” a senior minister told The Times.
The clamour for her to stand down reached fever pitch after Andrea Leadsom — one of cabinet’s strongest Brexit backers — resigned on Wednesday from her post as the government’s representative in parliament.
She became the 36th minister to quit May’s dismally dysfunctional government — a modern record.
In her resignation letter Leadsom told the prime minister she no longer believed her approach to Brexit would deliver on the 2016 referendum result to leave the EU.
Several senior cabinet ministers reportedly then held “frank” talks with May on Thursday.
May’s departure will kickstart a Conservative Party leadership contest — already unofficially underway — that is expected to encompass more than a dozen candidates and favour a Brexiteer.
That could lead to Britain, which has already twice delayed its departure from the European Union, opting to leave the bloc without a deal on October 31, the extended deadline agreed with Brussels last month.
Tory MPs will hold a series of votes to whittle the contenders down to a final two that will be put to the party’s more than 100,000 members.
Former foreign secretary and gaffe-prone Brexit cheerleader Boris Johnson is the membership’s favourite, but a considerable number of Conservative MPs are thought to hold serious reservations about his suitability for the top job.
He has repeatedly said Britain should not fear a so-called no-deal Brexit.
May was the surprising victor in a 2016 leadership contest to replace predecessor David Cameron after he resigned in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum
Despite having campaigned to stay in the EU, she embraced the cause with the mantra “Brexit means Brexit”.
However the decision to hold a disastrous snap election in June 2017, when she lost her parliamentary majority, left her stymied.
May will leave office without any significant achievements to her name — other than the bungled handling of Brexit, according to political analysts.
“She doesn’t really have a legacy that she can call her own other than just having to manage what is a very difficult issue,” said Simon Usherwood, from the University of Surrey’s politics department.
“I think anybody in her position would have had great difficulty.”
Others were more brutal in their assessment.
“It was only an impossible job because she made it one,” said Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday compared her Brexit battle with Brussels to Liverpool footballers’ stirring Champions League comeback against Barcelona — risking ridicule from the left-leaning city.
The English club lost the first leg of the semi-final clash 3-0 in Spain and seemed headed for certain defeat after their injured stars Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were ruled for Tuesday’s return fixture at Anfield.
But Liverpool staged one of the greatest comebacks in their storied history by winning 4-0 at home and getting through to their second successive Champions League final.
May appeared for her weekly question-and-answer session in parliament on Wednesday with both Brexit and football on her mind.
Liverpool’s win “shows us that when everyone says it’s all over, that your European opposition have got you beat, the clock’s ticking down, it’s time to concede defeat, actually we can still secure success if everyone comes together,” May said to rousing cheers from her fellow Conservative Party members.
Her comments came in response to what was meant to be a football-themed zinger from opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“In view of the amazing Liverpool result last night, perhaps the prime minister could take tips from Jurgen Klopp on how to get a result in Europe,” Corbyn said in reference to Liverpool’s charismatic German manager.
The unlikely exchange at the very top of May’s appearance highlighted both Britain’s obsession with football and the gripping nature of Liverpool’s performance on Tuesday night.
But they are not the most obvious team for May to suddenly embrace.
Liverpool is a historically liberal port city that likes to buck convention and was the home of Labour’s annual party conference last year.
Its suspicion of the Conservatives deepened when a magazine edited by Boris Johnson — May’s former foreign minister and current leadership rival — accused the city of wallowing in “victim status” over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 people died.
Johnson initially defended the 2004 article before backtracking and calling it “a kick in the pants for me”.
“I am not sure that (May’s comments) will warm the cockles of the people of Liverpool,” ITV television’s political editor Robert Peston wrote on Twitter.
“Jesus wept,” The Guardian newspaper’s football columnist Sid Lowe agreed in his own tweet.
“Talk about inviting yourself in where you’re not wanted. Embarrassing.”
May has been labouring to emulate the footballers’ never-say-never spirit for months as she defends her handling of Brexit.
The beleaguered British premier has been forced to ask EU leaders to give her more time to get the deal she struck with Brussels on ending the sides’ 46-year partnership through the UK parliament.
Brtain was originally meant to have left the EU on March 29. The new deadline has been set for October 31 — and might yet be extended again.
The delays prompted May’s government to admit Tuesday that the nation will have no choice but to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23.
The decision has drawn fury and scorn from EU opponents who voted in favour of Brexit in a 2016 national referendum.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she would be “armed with a fresh mandate and new ideas” when she meets European Union negotiators over her Brexit deal.
EU officials have insisted that the deal is not open for renegotiation.
But May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that she would be “battling for Britain and Northern Ireland” in her efforts to get rid of the agreement’s unpopular backstop provision.
“If we stand together and speak with one voice, I believe we can find the right way forward,” she said.
The backstop is intended to ensure there is no return to a hard border with Ireland, but Brexit supporters fear it will keep Britain tied to the EU’s customs rules.
MPs voted last week to send May back to Brussels to renegotiate the clause, suggesting her deal would then be able to pass after it was roundly rejected in parliament last month.
“I am now confident there is a route that can secure a majority in the House of Commons for leaving the EU with a deal,” she wrote.
“When I return to Brussels I will be battling for Britain and Northern Ireland, I will be armed with a fresh mandate, new ideas and a renewed determination to agree a pragmatic solution”.
The EU insists that the deal “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal,” but with the clock running down until the March 29 exit date the risks of a no-deal Brexit for both Britain and the bloc are coming into sharp focus.
May said opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn “also believes the potential indefinite nature of the backstop is an issue”, and that the EU has “already accepted the principle of ‘alternative arrangements’ superseding the backstop should it ever be required.”
The backstop would kick in if Britain and the EU have not agreed a trade deal on their future relationship after a time-limited transition period of up to two years.
The prime minister rejected accusations that plans to reopen the backstop talks risked upsetting the Irish peace process.
“Nor do I have time for those who believe the verdict passed by the British people in 2016 should be overturned before it is even implemented,” she added, referring to the rump of MPs calling for a second referendum.
“I’m determined to deliver Brexit, and determined to deliver on time –- on March 29, 2019,” she wrote.
May has promised MPs that she will bring any revised deal back to be voted on by MPs on February 13.