Boris Johnson often appeared “confused” when confronted by the scientists responsible for explaining the development of the Covid-19 pandemic to him, and it was “horrifying” to see him trying to understand the statistics, the former government scientific adviser.
As part of the public inquiry into the management of Covid-19, Patrick Vallance was forced to comment on extracts from his written record during the pandemic, in which he showcased the former Prime Minister’s scientific skills.
“The Prime Minister is clearly confused,” he wrote in one of his notes dated May 4, 2020. Ten days later, he says he is “still confused about the different types of tests (he gets it in the meeting, then he forgets it).”
Again, on 11 June 2020, Patrick Vallance wrote that “seeing the Prime Minister trying to comprehend the statistics is appalling”, adding that on several occasions he put his head in his hands to show his annoyance.
Before the committee, he made this point, recalling that Boris Johnson “gave up science when he was 15, and I think he would be the first to admit that that is not his strong point.”
However, he says his counterparts in other countries may have faced the same difficulties with their leaders.
Since the start of this public inquiry, the former Prime Minister has been overshadowed by further testimony from Boris Johnson’s former advisers, describing him as overwhelmed by events and showing little concern for the victims, in a country hit hard by the pandemic with more than 230,000 deaths.
Boris Johnson was finally forced to resign in the summer of 2022, after he was swept up by the “Partygate” scandal, the parties organized by Downing Street during the pandemic in full lockdown.
After studying how the country prepared for the health crisis, the investigation committee, which is expected to last at least three years, and which is chaired by Judge Heather Hallett, is currently looking into the governance and political management of the emergence of the virus.
During the hearing, Patrick Vallance, who was particularly rebuked for defending early confinement in London at the start of the pandemic, explained the sometimes difficult relationships between scientists and the executive.
This is evidenced by another memo dating back to July 2020, in which the previous government’s scientific adviser claims that during a meeting in July 2020, the finance minister at the time, Rishi Sunak – the current Prime Minister – said: “It’s all about management.” Scientists, not the virus.”
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