The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has launched a fierce attack on Boris Johnson, claiming “his history is catching up with him” and suggesting the easing of Covid restrictions in England is designed to distract attention from the crisis the prime minister is facing.
In sustained criticism of Johnson, Drakeford highlighted that Johnson had twice been sacked from previous jobs for lying and said he believed that everything the Conservative UK government was currently doing was about protecting his position.
Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, Drakeford, who leads a Labour administration, said: “The prime minister is someone who’s been sacked from two previous jobs for not telling the truth.”
He flagged up a newspaper editorial on the eve of the December 2019 election that spelled out Johnson’s flaws, adding: “In many ways, I think what you see is his history catching up with him.”
It is believed he was referring to a Sunday Times editorial that said Johnson had an “on-off relationship with the truth” and often preferred “bluster to grasp of detail”.
In 2004 Johnson was fired by the then Tory leader, Michael Howard, from positions as shadow arts minister and party vice-chair for lying about an extramarital affair. In the late 1980s, Johnson was sacked by the Times over a front-page article in which he allegedly invented a quote.
Drakeford claimed the decision this week to lift coronavirus restrictions in England was about distracting the public’s attention from the scandal engulfing Johnson.
“Everything that goes on in Whitehall and Westminster at the moment for the UK government is seen exclusively through the lens of: how does this make a difference to the efforts that are being made to shore up the position of the prime minister?
“This is a government that at the moment is simply not capable of doing the ordinary business of government in a competent and sensible way because it is overwhelmed by the headlines that surround dreadful events that went on in Downing Street.”
Drakeford said Wales had passed the peak of the Omicron storm and more restrictions such as limits on sporting events have been lifted. The country is due to return to alert level 0 – under which more restrictions are eased – on 28 January as long as the situation continues to improve.
The first minister’s attack on Johnson was in turn strongly criticised by the Tories, who accused him of playing politics and trying to distract people from the ongoing restrictions in Wales.
The Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies, said: “These are completely unnecessary and inappropriate comments by the first minister and is further proof that it’s always been about the politics, and not the science, for his Labour administration.
“They are a straightforward deflection tactic from a government that has punished Welsh families and businesses with the harshest restrictions in the UK throughout the pandemic.”