Fury as Labour MP Valerie Vaz suggests Boris Johnson pretended to be more seriously ill with coronavirus claiming ‘he was not quite at death’s door’
- Labour MP Valerie Vaz appeared to question how seriously ill PM was with Covid
- Ex-frontbencher said he was ‘not quite at death’s door’ as public ‘led to believe’
- Tory MP Simon Clarke condemned remark as ‘genuinely wrong’ during TV clash
Labour’s Valerie Vaz issued a grovelling apology tonight after suggesting Boris Johnson pretended to be seriously ill with coronavirus.
The former frontbencher, axed by Keir Starmer earlier this month, said during a TV appearance that the PM was ‘not quite at death’s door’ despite what the public was ‘led to believe’.
Confronted by Tory MP Simon Clarke over the comment on the BBC‘s Politics Live show, Ms Vaz refused to withdraw the claim completely, saying: ‘I don’t know. None of us were in the room.’
The exchanges came as the panel discussed stinging criticism of the government’s response from Dominic Cummings – who is due to give bombshell evidence to a Commons committee on Wednesday.
But after a backlash Ms Vaz issued a statement this evening saying: ‘I wish to clarify my remarks and apologise if any offence was caused. I never intended to give the suggestion that the Prime Minister was not seriously ill.’
As she spoke about Mr Cummings’ Twitter condemnation of the stance taken by ministers in March last year, Ms Vaz said: ‘The PM was in hospital for a while, not quite at death’s door that we were led to believe… ‘
An incredulous Mr Clarke broke in to ask here to withdraw the remark.
‘That is an extraordinary thing to say,’ the former minister said. ‘Are you impugning the PM’s integrity about that?’
Labour’s Valerie Vaz sparked fury today as she suggested Boris Johnson pretended to be seriously ill with coronavirus
Confronted by Tory MP Simon Clarke over the comment on the BBC’s Politics Live show, Ms Vaz refused to withdraw the claim completely, saying: ‘I don’t know. None of us were in the room.’
Mr Johnson tested positive for Covid-19 on March 27, 2020, and was later admitted to intensive care
He added later: ‘It is genuinely wrong, Valerie, to question how sick the PM was. He was in intensive care and very very ill.’
Timeline of PM’s coronavirus scare
March 27, 2020: Boris Johnson tests positive for Covid-19.
April 5: Downing Street says the Prime Minister has been admitted to hospital for tests as a ‘precautionary step’ as his symptoms persist.
April 6: Downing Street says Mr Johnson’s condition has worsened and he is moved to St Thomas’ Hospital’s intensive care unit.
April 7: Downing Street says the PM’s condition remains ‘stable’ and he is in ‘good spirits’. He is later moved from intensive care back to the ward.
April 12: Mr Johnson is discharged from hospital to continue his recovery at Chequers.
Under pressure from Mr Clarke and presenter Jo Coburn to take back the jibe, Ms Vaz said: ‘I don’t know. None of us were in the room. None of us were in the room.’
When Mr Clarke again pointed out that the PM was in intensive care, she said: ‘OK, so he was in intensive care.
‘I don’t know, honestly, I’m not his doctor… I am just saying people have died.’
Ms Vaz insisted the point she was trying to make was that Mr Cummings was in a key position with huge influence over government policy.
Ms Vaz was shadow Commons leader until Sir Keir reshuffled his team in the wake of the disastrous Hartlepool by-election this month.
Mr Johnson and Matt Hancock both tested positive for Covid-19 on March 27, 2020, just four days after the country entered the first lockdown.
On April 5 Downing Street announced that the PM had been admitted to hospital for tests as a ‘precautionary step’ as his symptoms persist.
The following day his condition worsened again and he was moved to St Thomas’ Hospital’s intensive care unit.
On April 7 his condition stabilised and he was moved back to the ward. He was discharged five days later and continued his recovery at Chequers.