Boris Johnson has apologised for the suffering experienced by many during the Covid-19 pandemic, after he was blasted by a Labour MP denied the chance to see his dying relatives.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) made an impassioned intervention at Prime Minister’s Questions in which he criticised “sycophantic, spineless, hypocritical” Government ministers and hit out at Mr Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
Part of his frustration was centred on the response of the Prime Minister and others to the actions of his then-chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who infamously drove to Barnard Castle in County Durham during a national lockdown.
Mr Johnson said he was “deeply, deeply sorry” for the lost lives and the time people were unable to spend with loved ones.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Dhesi said: “My grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was lying on her hospital death bed and none of us were allowed to be there to comfort her in her final moments. I couldn’t even carry her coffin on my shoulders.
“I also had to endure the agony of watching alone, online, the funeral of my fun-loving uncle, and we were not there to comfort my brother-in-law’s father, who somehow contracted Covid in a Slough care home, during his final moments. All this because we followed Government guidance.
“Having experience of painful personal sacrifices, like many others, imagine our collective disgust when in order to curry favour with the Prime Minister’s chief adviser (Mr Cummings) we see sycophantic, spineless, hypocritical Government ministers lining up to defend the indefensible – saying ‘it’s time to move on’, with some even having the gall to tell us that they too go for a long drive when they need to get their eyesight tested.
“What an absolute disgrace, and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
“So when is the Prime Minister finally going to apologise to the nation for not mustering up some courage and integrity for doing the honourable thing and sacking his chief adviser, who so shamelessly flouted his own Government guidance, that he could have regained that lost public trust and confidence, and he could have demonstrated that it’s not one rule for him and his elite chums and another for the rest of us plebs?”
Mr Johnson said he and the Government “deeply” sympathise with people who have suffered during the pandemic, saying to to Mr Dhesi: “No-one who hasn’t been through something like that can imagine what it must feel like to be deprived of the ability to mourn properly and hold the hands of a loved one in their last moments in the way he describes.
“I know how much sympathy there will be with him.
“I take his criticisms, most sincerely, of the Government and everything that we have done, but all I can say is we have tried throughout this pandemic to minimise human suffering, to minimise loss of life.
“When he asks for me to apologise, I do, I apologise for the suffering that the people of this country have endured.
“All I can say is nothing I can say or do can take back the lost lives, the lost time spent with loved ones that he describes.
“I’m deeply, deeply sorry for that.”