Now Playing

Now Playing IconNow Playing:

Evolve Radio

Artist Name

Album Art

Johnson like ‘absent football manager’ as pandemic hit, says Welsh leader

The first minister of Wales has said Boris Johnson was like the “absent manager” of a football team in the early days of the pandemic.

Mark Drakeford criticised the former prime minister during his evidence to the UK COVID public inquiry.

He said Mr Johnson was “not taking it seriously” and was deliberately unclear about whether rules applied only to England.

In evidence on Wednesday, he also described Michael Gove – who had been the point of contact between Westminster and the Welsh government – as “a centre forward without a team lined up behind him, and where the manager was largely absent”.

Mr Drakeford, who is stepping down next week, added: “The absent manager was the prime minister [Mr Johnson], because he was never in these meetings or at the table.”

He was speaking in Cardiff, where the Wales module of the inquiry has been taking place over the last few weeks.

The first minister said in early 2020 he had “regularly” written to Mr Johnson to request a “predictable series of meetings” between him and the leaders of the UK nations, and that it was “extraordinary” he did not take on the proposal.

Mr Johnson previously told the inquiry he was against the idea as he did not want to give the impression the country was like a “mini EU”.

Mr Drakeford also claimed that large events such as the Cheltenham Festival were only allowed to go ahead because former Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings had refused to halt them.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock leaving Dorland House in London where he has been giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Picture date: Friday December 1, 2023.
Image: Matt Hancock previously gave evidence to the inquiry. Pic: PA

The first minister said he had made the argument to stop mass events at a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee on 12 March, a few weeks before the first lockdown.

However, he claimed that after going around the room canvassing opinions, Mr Johnson killed off the idea by saying bluntly: “Dom says no.”

“I did not know who Dom was at this point,” Mr Drakeford said.

Hancock ‘got basic thing entirely wrong’

He also claimed Mr Johnson was “deliberate” in ignoring pleas to be clear about whether new restrictions only applied to England.

Mr Drakeford said the then prime minister had assured the devolved administrations he would “do his very best” – but then delivered a TV address where he incorrectly gave the impression he was talking about the whole UK.

Read more:
Drakeford ‘used WhatsApp to seek clarification of rules’
PPE in Welsh care homes was ‘inconsistent’, inquiry hears

Former health secretary Matt Hancock also came in for criticism.

Mr Drakeford told the inquiry Mr Hancock had incorrectly stated health was not a devolved matter during an “extraordinary exchange of messages” with Mr Gove.

He also said there was initially a “lack of clarity” over which legislative powers would be used during the pandemic.

“Even on 20 March there is further confusion over the next couple of days as to where the ability to exercise public health powers lie,” said Mr Drakeford.

“And there is an extraordinary exchange of messages between Mr Gove and Mr Hancock on 30 May, in which Mr Hancock says ‘I’ve seen the submission, it’s disgraceful that lawyers don’t understand where these powers lie because public health is not devolved’.”

“So here is the secretary of state for health in England getting the most basic thing entirely wrong,” Mr Drakeford said.

The module on UK decision-making and political governance will soon move on to Northern Ireland.

Scotland’s module took place earlier this year.

With multiple strands still to be examined, the hearings are likely to run into 2026.

Sky News Source