Boris Johnson has apologised to a Labour MP who attacked government “hypocrisy” over Covid rule breaches, as he spoke about his own pain in not being allowed to comfort loved ones during the pandemic.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi made an impassioned intervention at PMQs – furiously condemning the “sycophantic, spineless, hypocritical” ministers who have defended breaches of regulations.
The Labour MP for Slough revealed he could not comfort his grandmother “in her final moments” in hospital and was forced to endure the “agony” of watching his uncle’s funeral online.
Part of his frustration was centred on the response of Mr Johnson and his ministers to the actions of Dominic Cummings, the former No 10 adviser who infamously drove to Barnard Castle during lockdown.
“Having experience of painful personal sacrifices ... imagine our collective disgust when in order to curry favour with the prime minister’s chief adviser, we see sycophantic, spineless, hypocritical government ministers lining up to defend the indefensible – saying ‘it’s time to move on’.”
The Labour MP added: “What an absolute disgrace, and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.”
Demanding an apology from the prime minister, Mr Dhesi said: “When is the prime minister finally going to apologise to the nation for not mustering up some courage and integrity for doing the honourable thing and sacking his chief adviser, who so shamelessly flouted his own government guidance?”
He added: “He could have demonstrated that it’s not one rule for him and his elite chums and another for the rest of us plebs.”
Mr Johnson said he was “deeply, deeply sorry” for the lost lives and the time people were unable to spend with loved ones. “I take his criticisms, most sincerely, of the government,” said the prime minister.
The PM added: “When he asks for me to apologise, I do, I apologise for the suffering that the people of this country have endured. All I can say is nothing I can say or do can take back the lost lives, the lost time spent with loved ones that he describes. I’m deeply, deeply sorry for that.”
Last week Sky News presenter Trevor Phillips recalled his daughter’s recent death and funeral when questioning a cabinet minister over the hypocrisy of Matt Hancock and the rule breach which saw him lose his job as health secretary.
He asked why more of his family members could not be graveside at his daughter’s burial less than a week after CCTV footage showed Mr Hancock kissing his aide.
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