BORIS JOHNSON reportedly tried to joke about his ‘rule of six’ suggesting people might welcome it ‘as an excuse to avoid their in-laws this Christmas’.
The prime minister is said to have made the remark as he faced Conservative MPs at a Zoom meeting of the party’s 1922 Committee last night.
It came on the day the UK coronavirus death toll leapt by another 143 — the highest figure in four months and double last Tuesday’s — while there were 17,234 new cases.
The PM (pictured top) was trying to rally backbenchers after many rebelled against his strict new restrictions, including putting Liverpool under new ‘tier three’ lockdown rules from today, which many businesses fear will devastate them.
Mr Johnson is said to have made ‘multiple jokes that landed badly with his audience’, according to news website Bloomberg, which said its story was confirmed by three sources.
Last night, his performance was widely condemned.
Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon Central, said: ‘We all have a sense of humour but that really isn’t funny right now.’
Twitter user Hilary Marchant posted: ‘I would love to see my mother-in-law at Christmas but I won’t ever again as she died of Covid in June.’
On Monday, Mr Johnson warned that his ‘rule of six’ and other restrictions could go on beyond Christmas.
At a televised Downing Street briefing to confirm his lockdown plans, he said that ‘deaths, alas, are also rising once again’.
He added: ‘The figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet.
‘No-one, least of all me, wants to impose these kinds of erosions of our personal liberty but I am as convinced as I have ever been that the British people have the resolve to beat this virus and that, together, we will do just that.’
The PM’s latest remarks come after health secretary Matt Hancock was criticised for also ‘joking’ about the pandemic. Mr Hancock admitted joining fellow MPs in a Commons bar last week and telling them: ‘The drinks are on me — but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything.’ He denied being there beyond the 10pm curfew.