We have a sense of how the Comeback Kid plans to approach the COVID inquiry – but will it work?


You can’t write him off.

Boris Johnson has found his way back into the public’s good books before and if his hopes of a political comeback are still alive, the coming week could be a decisive moment.

The preparations are under way. The former prime minister has spent many hours with barristers, studying 6,000 pages of material to put together a testimony that reflects favourably on his leadership during the pandemic.

The early drafts have been briefed to The Times. These do not provide a full account of what Mr Johnson is preparing to say but do offer a glimpse into his redemption strategy.

That strategy is two-pronged. On the one hand, he will wholeheartedly apologise for his mistakes – perhaps realising that some of his former colleagues have come off badly after failing to show contrition.

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Cummings says PM was known as a ‘trolley’

However, the mea culpa will only go so far. Like others who have gone before him, Mr Johnson wants the history books to remember him favourably.

His argument will be that his government got the big calls right: increasing hospital capacity at speed, procuring ventilators and, of course, the vaccine rollout.

He will also carefully position himself in the division that is forming between the scientific and medical advisors and his former cabinet colleagues.

Like Matt Hancock, Mr Johnson will avoid criticism of Rishi Sunak and his controversial Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. He will claim that Sir Patrick Vallance and Sir Chris Whitty were consulted before it was launched. That is something they both reject.

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Mr Johnson has the advantage of going after many of his former colleagues. It means he has time to prepare his response to the unflattering depictions that have been made by former colleagues.

Dominic Cummings, his former advisor, described him as a “trolley”, constantly veering from side to side and incapable of taking decisive action. As apologetic as he is feeling, Mr Johnson is unlikely to accept that characterisation.

He will undoubtedly have opinions of his own about Mr Cummings but he may deem it unwise to engage in personal attacks. It is not something that is playing well with the public.

Mr Johnson’s team deny this leaked draft has come from his camp but he may well have wanted to get his narrative out before it is painstakingly unpicked by lawyers.

We have a sense now of his version of events, but will it bear scrutiny?

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