Government Ordered to Release Johnson’s COVID Chats
The UK government has been ordered by the High Court in London to disclose former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s unredacted chat messages, notebooks, and diaries as part of the COVID inquiry. Johnson himself supports this decision, leading observers to speculate it as a move against incumbent Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The High Court dismissed a claim by the central government agency Cabinet Office against the order from commission chair Heather Hallett, compelling the government to hand over the requested materials.
In this dispute, Johnson has sided with Hallett. Commentators interpret this as an attempt to undermine his internal party rival and current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. During the pandemic, Sunak served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Johnson, leading to suspicions that he may be referenced in the documents.
Documents already submitted to the commission in May
Johnson had already provided his documents to the Cabinet Office in May. However, the agency refused to disclose them, arguing that the commission did not have the authority to force the publication of documents and messages that were unrelated to the government’s handling of COVID. The COVID-19 Inquiry Commission countered that “these and future inquiries” would be undermined if the government itself decided on the relevance of the content.
The judges who decided on the Cabinet Office’s case stated that Johnson’s diaries and notebooks likely contain “information relating to decision-making” in connection with the pandemic. A spokesperson stated that the government will fully comply with the ruling and work on the investigation to ensure the privacy of those involved is protected. Assessing the UK’s preparedness for the COVID pandemic
The current inquiry aims to examine whether the UK was adequately prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. According to death certificates, approximately 227,000 people in the UK lost their lives to COVID-19. This is significantly higher than in Germany, despite the UK having a smaller population.
Led by former judge Hallett, the commission has the power to examine witnesses under oath and request documents but does not have the authority to make judgments. Johnson agreed to the inquiry in late 2021 regarding the government’s handling of the virus spread.