Officials discussed raising Boris Johnson concerns to Queen


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Senior government officials spoke to Buckingham Palace at the height of the pandemic to express their concern about Boris Johnson’s conduct in office, the BBC has been told.

Officials even discussed suggesting to the Queen she raise the concerns with Mr Johnson during private audiences.

The revelation comes in episode two of the BBC documentary series, Laura Kuenssberg: State of Chaos.

It explores the turmoil in Westminster and Whitehall over four years.

Based on interviews with key players at the top of government, the series covers the period between 2016 and the departure of Liz Truss as prime minister in 2022.

In May 2020, as the government was grappling with the pandemic, there were significant tensions between Mr Johnson’s political team and the Civil Service.

Now, sources have revealed that senior officials expressed their fears about the former prime minister’s conduct in government to Buckingham Palace.

There were a number of clashes between Dominic Cummings, the former prime minister’s controversial chief of staff, and the head of the Civil Service, who subsequently left, Sir Mark Sedwill.

It’s understood officials expressed their worries to the Palace in the hope the Queen could raise concerns in her private conversations.

It’s understood there were a number of phone calls and communications over and above routine communication between Number 10 and the Palace.

One source said the then-prime minister “had to be reminded of the constitution”.

Another source described the atmosphere in Downing Street during that period as “utterly grim, and totally crazy”, saying relationships had been “just toxic” and the links between Mr Johnson’s team and the Civil Service “broke down”.

Boris Johnson meeting the Queen in 2019

PA Media

There had already been worries at Buckingham Palace about Mr Johnson’s government’s behaviour after the Commons had been kept closed the previous summer – the so-called “prorogation” in 2019 which had been technically carried out by the Queen.

That move that was subsequently judged by the Supreme Court to have broken the law. A source has told the BBC that raised “acute concern”.

Speaking in the documentary, the former deputy cabinet secretary, Helen MacNamara, refused to discuss the calls to Buckingham Palace.

“There were definitely times after the prime minister came back from his illness [he contracted Covid and required hospital treatment] when the kind of the perception amongst the political team at Number 10 about the failings of the system and the failings of the Civil Service and the failings of different institutions, it was just so extreme the way that they were articulating that, they were in absolutely kind of smash everything up, shut it all down, start again… we were systematically in real trouble,” she said.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

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