Ben Wallace Calls Incendiary Lockdown Claims "Deeply Unfair" Amid Escalating No.10 Briefing War
An explosive frontpage story claiming Boris Johnson said he would rather "let the bodies pile high in their thousands" than impose a third national lockdown is "untrue" and has "almost no evidence," the defence secretary has claimed.
Ben Wallace told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning it was "really deeply unfair" to repeat the allegations printed in the Daily Mail on Monday.
The story quoted an unnamed source "close to" Cabinet minister Michael Gove as claiming the Prime Minister said "no more ****ing lockdowns — let the bodies pile high in their thousands" after reluctantly agreeing to introduce a second coronavirus lockdown in October.
A government source quoted in the story described the allegation as "just another lie" as the Downing Street briefing war continues to escalate.
Wallace sought to rubbish the story, telling Today: "It's just untrue.
"If you read the front of the newspaper in question, there is no source.
"It doesn't say who said that. It's who said, he said, she said by someone unattributable with almost no evidence. To keep repeating it is really deeply unfair".
The allegation is the latest extraordinary briefing in a saga that threatens to engulf a Downing Street operation which is already facing several accusations of croynism.
Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's former chief adviser, published an explosive blog on Friday which made a series of allegations about his former boss, including that he wanted Conservative party donors to fund his contentious flat refurbishment. Wallace insisted Johnson paid for the refurbishment himself, repeating what trade secretary Liz Truss told media on Sunday, and told host Nick Robinson: "Do I think the prime minister is sleazy? No, I don't".
He described the Prime Minister as an "absolutely first class leader" and insisted that the government "will be held to account" for any wrongdoing.
"Both for the critics and the accusors, there is parliament to deliver that," he said.
"That is why parliament is there.
"The Labour Party can ask Urgent Questions and no doubt they will today or tomorrow.
"I've lost count of how many parliamentary committees are doing inquiries. We've already heard about the former adviser in Number 10 [Cummings] giving evidence to an inquiry. They are are all tools. Plus reporting, plus Freedom of Information, plus the Electoral Commission.
"All are there to hold all of us to account. And we will be held to account".
Wallace said the latest register of interests, which critics have accused the government of delaying to avoid embarrassment, would be published "soon" and insisted there was "no attempt to cover it up or conspiracy".
The financial interests of ministers were last published in July 2020 but the ministerial code says it must be released "twice yearly".
"It is incredibly valuable to me," he said. "I was the very first MP to publish my expenses, way before any of the scandals, in full, fully transparent".