Covid is good for your health, according to Boris Johnson. WhatsApp messages shared by Dominic Cummings with the BBC show the Prime Minister wrote that the “median age” of those dying from the virus was between 81 and 82, arguing: “That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer.” This was just two days after he rejected Keir Starmer’s call for a ‘circuit break’ lockdown as cases rocketed in October. The messages come alongside an interview with Cummings, to be aired this evening. The former chief adviser said Johnson thought the government should “basically just ignore [Covid] and just let the thing wash through the country and not destroy the economy”. He also told viewers the PM was adamant about visiting the Queen during the crisis and only grudgingly agreed not to – despite having gone on the telly to warn us to avoid all unnecessary contact, especially with the elderly. While health workers battled against the virus, Johnson apparently claimed: “I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff.”
Cummings’ comments fit perfectly with Keir Starmer’s accusations yesterday that Johnson’s “character causes chaos” and “his leadership causes mayhem”. As the government pressed ahead with ‘freedom day’ on Monday, the Labour leader described the lifting of restrictions as “reckless”, adding: “Doing so when the ‘Johnson variant’ is already out of control risks a summer of chaos.” He took particular aim at Johnson’s (un)fitness for office as he listed various mistakes made throughout the crisis: “The chaotic, incompetent way Boris Johnson conducts himself is dangerous.” Jonathan Ashworth later told parliament that “the mayor from Jaws has decided to reopen the beaches” by “recklessly throwing off all restrictions with no safety precautions in place”.
Labour’s national executive committee is meeting this afternoon, and there are several controversial points to be considered. Key among those is the proscribing of four groups: Socialist Appeal, Labour in Exile Network, Labour Against the Witchhunt and Resist. The action against Socialist Appeal is described by those close to the Labour leadership as a “tidying up exercise” because it is a successor to Militant. For the other three, the reasons are more related to antisemitism. The left has reacted angrily, arguing that the move is a slippery slope. Momentum said yesterday that it opposes “guilt by association” and that “claims that these proscriptions are being done only in the name of antiracism” are undermined by the “burying of the Forde report”. The proposal is expected to pass due to the NEC pro-leadership majority.
Receiving less attention is the new complaints process, which will also be considered by the ruling body. Rather than the final rule change on the party’s disciplinary procedure, LabourList understands that today will be a discussion on principles. Although there will be opportunities for adjustments over the summer, those wanting the new process to improve the handling of sexual harassment cases are disappointed, saying it is not independent enough. A Labour Women’s Network spokesperson told LabourList: “LWN has long campaigned for an independent process for sexual harassment complaints in the Labour Party, from first contact to final outcome. Sadly, we don’t believe these proposals represent that.”
Large-scale redundancies for Labour staffers are also on the agenda. The Guardian reported last night that at least 90 jobs at risk – or around a quarter of staff. NEC members will consider the findings of the Organise to Win report, which has examined how best to restructure the party. Labour is facing financial difficulties after fighting three general elections in six years, paying out on costly legal cases and the hoped for membership boost following Starmer’s election has not taken place. In an angry message to party staff after the leak, general Secretary David Evans said: “whoever has done this should be ashamed and they have let our party staff down.”
NEC members will also consider a hard-hitting Labour report on its own functioning in Liverpool, which found evidence of “bullying”, “misogyny” and a “toxic culture” locally, LabourList can exclusively reveal. Following government intervention announced earlier this year, it concluded: “Nothing less than a full reset of the Labour Party in Liverpool is needed.” The report recommends that Labour nationally takes over candidate selection processes in Liverpool until June 2026, and that it immediately fast-tracks outstanding complaints in the Liverpool City region, completing them within six months. Elsewhere, both Luton North and Luton South constituency parties have been placed under ‘special measures’ by the NEC due to allegations of ‘membership abuse’. Read the full write-up here.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.