It would have been inappropriate to be usual buoyant self during pandemic – PM

It would have been “inappropriate” to be his usual buoyant self during the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister has said in response to criticisms of his leadership.

But Boris Johnson denied that his more demure manner was a symptom of “long Covid” and said it was “balderdash” to suggest he was still suffering from the illness which nearly took his life in the spring.

The Conservative Party leader was admitted to intensive care in April for his worsening coronavirus symptoms and there have been reports since of concern on the Government backbenches that Mr Johnson has lost some of his famed vigour.

The whispers were further fuelled by reports that the Prime Minister would step down next year after claims from top aide Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law, Sir Humphry Wakefield, that he was struggling in the wake of his coronavirus battle.

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson said he had looked to adopt a different style of leadership during the current epidemic.

“I think the reality is this is a Government that is facing an unprecedented crisis and I think if people wanted me to approach it with the sort of buoyancy and elan and the qualities I usually bring to things, I think people would think that was totally inappropriate,” he said.

Pressed on whether he was still suffering from the long-term effects of coronavirus, Mr Johnson said: “No, not in my case.

“This is total tittle tattle, it is drivel. It is not tittle tattle, it is balderdash and nonsense.

“I can tell you I’m fitter than several butchers’ dogs.”

He admitted to being “too fat” when he contracted the virus and said the country would need to “think about” its current status as the fat man of Europe.

“We are fatter than virtually anybody else in Europe, apart from the Maltese for some reason, and we need to think about this,” Mr Johnson added.

The Government was forced into concessions last week to stifle a growing revolt among Tory MPs over its handling of the current health crisis amid a flurry of local lockdowns, with one in three people in the UK now living under heightened restrictions.

Ministers conceded that MPs should be given a vote on any consideration of another national lockdown but not local restrictions.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs who led the revolt, said that “public trust started to fray” after the national lockdown was lifted due to a lack of consultation on future measures.

Mr Johnson insisted, however, that he continued to be a “freedom-loving Tory” despite the actions his Government had taken in recent months.

“Nobody in my position wants to do any of the things that we’ve had to do,” he told Andrew Marr.

“I’m a freedom-loving Tory… I don’t want to have to impose measures like this, are you crazy?

“This is the last thing we want to do. But I also have to save life. And that’s our priority.”

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