ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen explains the many questions piling up for the PM
Further allegations have emerged about Boris Johnson, as two witnesses told ITV News they would «speak under oath» that he did make the «bodies pile high in their thousands» comments.
The prime minister, who will address his Cabinet on Tuesday, has denied he said he would rather have “bodies pile high in their thousands” than implement a third coronavirus lockdown.
But ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston says witnesses are willing to come forward at some point, and even speak under oath, should the PM continue to deny the comment.
On Monday evening, Peston added there is evidence of a third source backing the claim Mr Johnson made the comment «in a fit of rage».
«The prime minister said it didn’t happen,» Peston said.
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston has details of the latest accusation the PM is facing – that he said he would let the virus ‘rip’
«My understanding is that two of the witnesses are prepared at some point to go on the record – in fact, swear on oath – that this happened.»
It comes as new allegations emerged, with Mr Johnson accused of telling aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than impose a second lockdown.
He was reported on Monday night to have argued during a government debate in September that lockdowns were “mad” as he raised concerns about the economic harm they cause.
Downing Street described the claims in the Times as “gross distortions” of Mr Johnson’s position.
A spokesman said: “These are gross distortions of his position. Throughout this pandemic we’ve done everything we can to save lives and protect livelihoods.»
Will claims of Tory sleaze stick? – Listen to the latest Calling Peston episode
Labour is calling for Mr Johnson to give a «full and frank» explanation, adding the «British public deserve honesty and transparency from the prime minister».
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told ITV News the allegations against the PM are «serious – because fundamentally this is about the integrity of Boris Johnson».
Asked on Monday if he made the «bodies» comments attributed to him, Mr Johnson denied he had.
“No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work.
“They have, and I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, really pulled together and, working with the vaccination programme, we have got the disease under control.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson needed to “make a public statement” about reports he is alleged to have claimed he would “let the bodies pile high” rather than have another lockdown.
The allegations join a growing list levelled at the PM since an incendiary blog post from his former top aide Dominic Cummings.
Mr Cummings released his onslaught after he was accused by No 10 of a series of damaging leaks including text message exchanges between Mr Johnson and the entrepreneur Sir James Dyson.
Ministers are now concerned at what he may say when he gives evidence to MPs investigating the government’s response to the pandemic next month.
In another potential scandal surrounding Mr Johnson, both Number 10 and the Conservatives have declined to deny ITV News’ reporting that the Conservative Campaign Headquarters paid the Cabinet Office to cover initial costs of the Number 11 flat refurbishments.
Mr Johnson is now repaying the party, Robert Peston reported on Monday.
A Downing Street spokesman said that the “costs of wider refurbishment have been met by the prime minister personally”, adding: “Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in transparency returns.”
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said the PM has asked him to review the matter, after Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson wanted donors to “secretly pay” for the work in a move which would have been “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal”.