Boris Johnson accused of saying “Covid is only killing 80-year-olds”

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Dominic Cummings began a highly anticipated four-hour session of select committee appearances this morning. Downing Street has been bracing for the former political adviser to reveal a series of failures and damning comments from inside government throughout the handling of the pandemic. Among the claims, Cummings is expected to tell committee members that Boris Johnson argued “Covid is only killing 80-year-olds” when delaying lockdown last autumn, saying he would not repeat what he saw as a mistake earlier in the year, adding: “I’m going to be the mayor of Jaws, like I should have been in March.”

Talking of things Johnson has said, the long-awaited review into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party specifically criticised language used by the PM. The report found that anti-Muslim sentiment “remains a problem” at local association and individual levels within the party. It also singled out “high-profile incidents”, including comments made during Zac (now Lord) Goldsmith’s 2016 London mayoral campaign and Johnson’s comparison of women wearing the burqa to letterboxes. Johnson said yesterday that he would not “use some of the offending language” now that he is PM.

Reacting to the report, Tory figures described its conclusion that there was no evidence of institutional racism as a “whitewash”. “The report concludes that from the top, from the Prime Minister at one level, to local associations at the bottom, there is an attitude issue and a problem and a behaviour issue in terms of Islamophobia,” former Tory Party chair Lady Warsi told Sky News. “So on each of those counts it satisfies the definition of institutional racism.” Labour’s Marsha de Cordova said the report is a “damning indictment of the discrimination rife in the Conservative Party” and called for Boris Johnson to take “meaningful action to rebuild trust, especially among Muslim women”.

Labour has launched a ‘just transition’ working group with unions, industry leaders and members of the climate movement to ensure fairness is at the heart of the party’s approach to decarbonisation, LabourList can reveal. Shadow minister Matthew Pennycook, heading up the group, said transitioning to net zero cannot be left to “the whims of the market, as was the case with the deindustrialisation of the 1980s”. The body, meeting for the first time today, will provide a forum for dialogue with workers and trade unions, NGOs, business and industry leaders as well as communities. It will consider “practical, feasible, affordable and fair policy responses” with a focus on what transition means for individual sectors such as oil and gas, steel, offshore wind, hydrogen, heat and buildings and agriculture.

Labour’s national executive committee met yesterday, discussing the results of the elections in May, policy-making and the prospect of in-person local meetings. You can read Alice Perry’s full report here. Meanwhile in parliament, Jonathan Ashworth accused ministers of deploying “lockdowns by stealth” after it emerged that the government changed Covid guidance last week for certain areas without any official announcement or notification of local leaders or councils.

The LabourList team sends its best wishes to Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who announced yesterday that she would be taking some time away from work for health reasons.

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