Boris Johnson has been accused of telling aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than impose a second lockdown.
It was claimed he 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 Johnson’s position, as he battled a bitter briefing war that has engulfed No 10.
The allegation surfaced after a growing number of sources were reported to have told how Johnson said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order a third shutdown.
The prime minister said that allegation was “total rubbish” before further details surfaced of how he is said to have paid for expensive refurbishments to his Downing Street flat.
No 10 and the Tories declined to deny an ITV report stating that the Conservative Campaign Headquarters paid the Cabinet Office to cover initial costs of the refurbishments, with Johnson now repaying the party.
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.”
But Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said: “This is yet another panicked attempt by the Conservatives to cover up the truth behind the original donors for the luxury refurbishment of the Downing Street flat.”
Johnson is set to tell the cabinet that the government must “stay totally focused on the public’s priorities, on fighting Covid, delivering vaccines and creating jobs as we proceed on the path back to normality”, according to reports.
A No 10 spokesman said: “These are gross distortions of his position. Throughout this pandemic we’ve done everything we can to save lives and protect livelihoods.”