Boris Johnson was “bamboozled” by the graphs and data presented to him by scientists during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK’s official inquiry has been told.
Diary entries by former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance were shown to the probe today, revealing the extent of the then Prime Minister’s confusion over scientific evidence.
It comes after former adviser Dominic Cummings and senior civil servant Helen MacNamara gave shocking evidence in recent weeks including that pandemic regulations were rarely properly followed within No10.
Sir Patrick told the inquiry: “I think I’m right in saying that the Prime Minister gave up science at 15.
“I think he’d be the first to admit it wasn’t his forte and that he struggled with the concepts and we did need to repeat them – often.”
One diary entry from May 4, 2020, said: “Late afternoon meeting with the PM on schools. My God, this is complicated. Models will not provide the answer. PM is clearly bamboozled.”
Others, also written in May 2020, said: “PM asking whether we’ve overdone it on the lethality of this disease. He swings between optimism, pessimism, and then this… PM still confused on different types of test. He holds it in his head for a session and then it goes.”
In June, Sir Patrick wrote: “Watching the PM get his head round stats is awful. He finds relative and absolute risk almost impossible to understand.”
Another entry from September 2020 said: “Clare Gardiner talked [the] PM through the graphs. It is difficult, he asks questions like which line is the dark red line – is he colourblind?
“Then ‘so you think positivity has gone up overnight?’ then ‘oh god bloody hell’. But it is all the same stuff he was shown six hours ago.”
Vallance, former chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty, and other former top government medics and science experts Professor Jonathan Van Tam, Dame Jennie Harries and Professor Dame Angela Maclean are all set to give evidence to the inquiry this week.
Johnson and former health secretary Matt Hancock are set to give evidence in mid December.