During the height of the pandemic, senior government officials held discussions with Buckingham Palace, expressing deep concerns about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s behaviour in office, according to insider sources. These officials even contemplated suggesting to Queen Elizabeth II that she address these concerns with Mr. Johnson during private audiences. These revelations are part of the second episode of the BBC documentary series “Laura Kuenssberg: State of Chaos.”
This documentary delves into the tumultuous events that unfolded in Westminster and Whitehall over a four-year period, spanning from 2016 to the departure of Liz Truss as prime minister in 2022. In May 2020, while the government grappled with the pandemic, significant tensions arose between Boris Johnson’s political team and the Civil Service.
Insiders have now disclosed that senior officials voiced their apprehensions about the former prime minister’s conduct in government directly to Buckingham Palace. These concerns were expressed with the hope that Queen Elizabeth could address them during their private conversations.
These discussions between the Palace and senior officials went beyond routine communication channels between Number 10 and Buckingham Palace. One source even noted that the then-prime minister “had to be reminded of the constitution.”
The atmosphere within Downing Street during that period was described as “utterly grim” and “totally crazy.” Relationships had deteriorated to the point of toxicity, and the once-established links between Boris Johnson’s team and the Civil Service had broken down.
It’s worth noting that Buckingham Palace had already been concerned about the behaviour of Boris Johnson’s government following the controversial “prorogation” of Parliament in 2019, a move executed by the Queen that was later ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.
Helen MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary, refused to delve into the specifics of the discussions with Buckingham Palace during the documentary. However, she did emphasise the extreme frustration and calls for a systemic overhaul within Number 10 during the period following the prime minister’s recovery from a bout of COVID-19, noting that the political team was advocating for a complete reset of the system and institutions.