Mon, 15 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
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Boris Johnson should ‘put it right’ and apologise for care home comments after backlash, says senior Tory MP

Caroline Nokes called on the Prime Minister to say sorry for his comments. (The House)

3 min read

Boris Johnson should say sorry for appearing to criticise care home workers over their response to the coronavirus pandemic, a senior Conservative MP has said.

Caroline Nokes, a former minister who chairs the Commons women and equalities committee, said that when politicians make “a mistake you have to admit it” amid a row over the Prime Minister’s remarks.

Mr Johnson sparked anger among care home providers this week after he said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time.”

Charity Community Integrated Care branded the PM’s comments “clumsy and cowardly”, the National Care Association asked Mr Johnson to retract the statement, while the Independent Care Group called the comments a “slap in the face for those workers after they have given and sacrificed so much”.

Asked by ITV’s Peston on Wednesday night whether Mr Johnson should apologise, Ms Nokes said: “I think when I was a minister I took some criticism for being very quick to apologise when something went horribly wrong.

“And I only look back on that and think, thank goodness I did. I think when you've made a mistake you have to admit it, I think you have to be sincere in your apology, and you have to put it right. 

“And I think that's a challenge, that's a real challenge for any government minister, let alone the Prime Minister.”

Asked whether she was saying the Prime Minister himself should apologise, Ms Nokes said: "I absolutely believe that and I think ultimately there will be an inquiry into this pandemic, we will discover from that what has gone wrong, but we'll also discover from that what we did well."

Ms Nokes’ call comes after a stormy PMQs clash between Mr Johnson and Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, in which the Prime Minister said he took “full responsibility” for deaths in the country’s care homes.

But he repeated a claim given by Number 10 on Tuesday that “the one thing that nobody knew early on during this pandemic was that the virus was being passed asymptomatically from person-to-person in the way that it is”.

Sir Keir said: “That's not an apology. And it just won't wash.”

And the Labour leader added: “The Prime Minister must understand just how raw this is for many people on the frontline, and for those who've lost loved ones.”

Liberal Democrat acting leader Sir Ed Davey meanwhile accused the PM of "lies" about the issue of asymptomatic transmissions.

He said: "It was not the case that we didn’t know coronavirus could be asymptomatic, and it is not fair to say that care homes were not following procedures. The truth is there was no protective ring around care homes.

"Our social care system was left tragically exposed under Boris Johnson's watch. It is time he stopped trying to dodge the blame."

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