Boris Johnson's government accused of social murder over handling of COVID crisis

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he exits 10 Downing Street in central London on May 28, 2021, to greet Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban ahead of their meeting. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's government has been accused by some MPs of 'social murder'. (AFP via Getty Images)

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is among a group of MPs who have accused Boris Johnson's government of “social murder” over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs said the government has “overseen one of the worst COVID death rates in the entire world” due to “negligence and wrong political decisions”.

Part of its statement reads: “There is a long-held concept of social murder, increasingly used in the modern context, when the ruling elite acts in a way that forces people into conditions that inevitably leads to their avoidable and premature death.

“We believe the government’s mishandling and deliberate decisions throughout the COVID pandemic amounts to social murder.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) walk through the Commons Members Lobby during the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London on December 19, 2019. - The State Opening of Parliament is where Queen Elizabeth II performs her ceremonial duty of informing parliament about the government's agenda for the coming year in a Queen's Speech. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn is among a group of MPs who have accused Boris Johnson's government of 'social murder' over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP via Getty Images)

It said the public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic “must begin immediately” and “those that have overseen this crisis should resign”.

The 27 signatories of the statement include Corbyn, who now sits as an independent MP after he had the Labour whip withdrawn following his response last year to an Equality and Human Rights Commission report into anti-Semitism in the party.

Others include former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, who finished second to Sir Keir Starmer in last year’s party leadership contest.

In a statement to Yahoo News UK responding to the "social murder" claim, Downing Street said: “The government’s priority has been to save lives, protect the NHS and support people’s jobs and livelihoods throughout the pandemic.”

Watch: Five of the most important moments from Dominic Cummings' testimony

The concept of “social murder” was raised in a highly-charged editorial in the British Medical Journal in February.

Executive editor Dr Kamran Abbasi said leaders must be answerable for their failures “by any national and international constitutional means necessary”.

While the editorial focused on the actions of politicians worldwide, it also rounded on Johnson, his ministers, and Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance – two of the UK government’s most senior advisers throughout the pandemic.

As of Friday, 127,768 people had died of coronavirus in the UK. This is the fifth-highest death toll in the world.

When COVID-19 deaths are measured per one million people, according to Oxford University’s respected Our World In Data website the UK has the 16th highest death toll.

Johnson's government has been heavily criticised for delays in imposing lockdowns – Prof Neil Ferguson said an earlier lockdown at the start of the pandemic could have saved 30,000 lives – as well as its border policy and general preparedness for the pandemic.

The government’s handling of the crisis was again brought into focus on Wednesday, when Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, used a select committee hearing to make a number of explosive claims about the PM.

Cummings also rounded on Corbyn as he reflected on who was leading the two biggest parties at the beginning of the pandemic.

Read more:

9 explosive claims about how Boris Johnson runs the country

Have your say: Should Matt Hancock resign as health secretary?

Responding to a question from Long-Bailey, he said: “There’s a very profound question about the nature of our political system that means we got, at the last election, a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson.

"I think any system which ends up giving a choice between two people like that… is obviously a system that’s gone extremely badly wrong.”

Johnson said on Thursday of Cummings' numerous claims: "Some of the commentary I have heard doesn’t bear any relation to reality."

Watch: Dominic Cummings says it's crackers Boris Johnson is our prime minister

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