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Johnson will publish memoir – but refuses to hand over ministerial diary

Ex-PM spent a year refusing to release his official ministerial diary. Now he’s publishing his own account instead

Jenna Corderoy
Ruby Lott-Lavigna Jenna Corderoy
16 January 2023, 6.30pm

Boris Johnson addresses the UK as prime minister from a lectern outside Downing Street during the first peak of the Covid pandemic

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PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Boris Johnson is to release a memoir covering the “momentous” events of his leadership – despite continued refusals from the government to release his official Covid diaries.

HarperCollins will publish the disgraced former prime minister’s memoir – which is likely to be dominated by details of the coronavirus pandemic, in which more than 200,000 people in the UK have so far died.

Yet Number 10 has consistently blocked the release of Johnson’s official ministerial diary covering the period of the pandemic, with the Information Commissioner’s Office now considering an appeal by openDemocracy against the decision to withhold the unvarnished document.

openDemocracy has fought to get hold of the information for more than a year. It could show who Johnson was meeting while handing out million-pound PPE contracts, as well as shedding light on whose advice he sought and ignored.

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The Cabinet Office told openDemocracy that releasing details of who ministers were meeting while the pandemic raged in 2020 would “too great” a “burden on departmental resources”.

Number 10 also claimed, as it refused to hand over Johnson’s schedule, that the diaries would be “of limited value”.

Matt Fowler, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, lost his 56-year-old father Ian to Covid.

He told openDemocracy: “Boris Johnson’s memoirs are a further opportunity for him to profit off the scandalous way the pandemic was managed. That knowledge is painful enough for people like me, who lost my Dad to the virus. Johnson’s official Covid diaries should be publicly accessible, so that the Covid-19 inquiry can benefit from them. Instead, Johnson is laughing all the way to the bank.

“With the first public hearing of the inquiry round the corner and still no assurances for bereaved families about how their voices will be included, it feels increasingly as if we are being silenced while the likes of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock share their side of the story via book deals. This is blatantly unfair. Their books won’t keep future generations safe, but the inquiry, if conducted correctly, will.”

Johnson is not the first minister to capitalise on his involvement in the pandemic. Similarly disgraced former health secretary Matt Hancock – whose official diaries were also blocked from publication by Number 10 – published ‘Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain's Battle Against Covid’ in December.

Yet when asked to hand over the former health secretary’s official Covid diaries, the Department of Health and Social Care has repeatedly rejected the request, calling it vexatious.

The Conservatives’ record on Covid transparency was already less than sparkling. Tory peer Baroness Mone is currently on a leave of absence from the House of Lords after reportedly receiving millions in profit from a PPE contract. Mone has said she did nothing wrong and denies having any relationship with the company PPE Medpro.

Another peer, Lord Bethell, attended meetings with companies that later received millions in government Covid contracts.

No publication date or financial details have been revealed for Johnson’s memoir.

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