Michael Gove has backed the Prime Minister after he was accused of being willing to “pile corpses high” instead of ordering another coronavirus lockdown.
The Cabinet Secretary said in the House of Commons on Monday that he “never heard such language” at the session in which Mr Johnson ordered the second shutdown in England.
Mr Johnson was also forced to refuse to make the statement when he asked questions about the briefing war which hit number 10 in a row with former advisor Dominic Cummings.
The Prime Minister was accused of making the comment after agreeing to a second lockdown.
MPs grilled Mr Gove over the allegation after the Daily Mail cited a person “close” to the minister as one of the sources in its report on the allegation.
“The idea that he would say something like that is incredible,” Mr Gove told the Commons.
He said “I was in this room, I never heard such language,” in a defense that was on the verge of completely denying the comments.
However, a report in Spectator magazine suggested that Mr Johnson made the remark in his study shortly after he agreed to the second lockdown.
Robert Peston said today that sources also told him they heard the prime minister used the phrase.
The Daily Mail first made an allegation that after a decision on the second lockdown, Mr Johnson would rather see “dead bodies piling up in the thousands” than order a third.
The paper did not name the source for the allegation, which was later reported by the BBC, citing “sources familiar with the conversations”.
Ministers have been annoyed by “gossip” spread by “nameless advisors”.
When asked earlier today if he’d made the comments, Mr Johnson said to reporters in Wrexham, “No, but I think the most important thing I think people as a government want is to make sure the lockdowns are working .
“You have, and I really appreciate the people in this country, in all of our country, really pulled together, and working with the vaccination program has brought the disease under control.”
He insisted that “the things people talked about in Westminster” were not issues that would be brought up on the doorstep ahead of the May 6 elections.
The decision on the second lockdown last fall was leaked and is the subject of an investigation to find the so-called “talkative rat” who leaked the details to the press.
In an appearance before MPs, the UK’s senior civil servant declined to say whether Mr Johnson’s former advisor Dominic Cummings had been cleared of the leak, as the former aide has alleged.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) that it was “likely” that the culprit would not be identified.
But he said the prime minister made no attempt to block the investigation after his former voting leave ally claimed he was considering the move.