‘Macho’ attitude in Number 10 led to coronavirus entering Downing Street, claims Tory MP

PUBLISHED: 10:56 10 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:06 10 April 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson alongside chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance (right) and chancellor Rishi Sunak during a daily news conference amid the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty Images

Prime minister Boris Johnson alongside chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance (right) and chancellor Rishi Sunak during a daily news conference amid the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty Images

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Officials in Boris Johnson’s inner team failed to take the coronavirus seriously enough, a Tory MP has claimed.

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In Bloomberg’s analysis of the coronavirus outbreak on how it led to a number of ministers, aides and the prime minister becoming infected, one Tory MP hit out at the attitudes within Downing Street.

There are fears that privately “a trail of errors” led the prime minister to “critical risk”.

At the start of March journalists were turning out for daily briefings, the presenters were not following social distancing, and the prime minister was still attending large events.

He was also notably telling people he was shaking all of their hands in a hospital where coronavirus had struck.


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Just over a week later the health secretary, England’s chief medical officer, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were self-isolating.

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One Tory MP suggests the attitude of Johnson himself did not help change the culture.

They blame the “macho culture and an attitude of denial” for leading to the outbreak hitting the heart of government.

“Do not underestimate the macho nature of the Westminster political establishment. Boris will not have wanted to look weak.”

The analysis is supported by Johnson’s own biographer, who says that the prime minister views himself as “invulnerable”.

“Boris from an early age wanted to make himself invulnerable,” Andrew Gimson told the news organisation. “Part of that was not taking illness seriously — showing that you were tough enough to work through any possible thing that you might get, and that you certainly didn’t need to be wimpish about it and go and lie down. I doubt there’s a single case of him telling someone ‘Look, you really must go home.’”

Even after diagnosis, Boris Johnson was said to carry on working, with his officials trying to play down the impact on his health until he was eventually taken to hospital and then moved to intensive care.

Asked if the government had ignored the advice it was giving to ordinary people, chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We’re all trying our absolute best but none of us superhuman and impervious to getting sick. People are appropriately following all the guidance. That doesn’t mean we can completely eliminate the spread of infection.”

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