Grieving families have condemned “heartless” Boris Johnson for u-turning on his promise to meet those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister pledged to meet the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice last week, who are demanding a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the crisis.
But the group – which represents more than 1,600 bereaved people – published a letter from Mr Johnson on Tuesday, where he said it was “regrettably not possible” for him to meet the campaigners
“It’s a U-turn followed by a U-turn,” said campaign co-founder Jo Goodman, who lost her father Stuart, 72, to the virus in April.
“The Prime Minister has done a 360: dodging five letters, then agreeing on live TV to meet with us, and now quietly telling us he’s too busy. It’s heartless.”
She called on Mr Johnson to reconsider, adding: “It feels like we’re the wrong type of bereaved people: like the Prime Minister only wants to meet with people who will smile and not ask difficult questions.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran had earlier written to the Prime Minister saying she was “shocked” to learn that he had “refused” to meet the group – which says it represents 1,600 families.
The campaigners have written to Mr Johnson and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, several times to request a meeting to discuss the need for a public inquiry.
Last week, Mr Johnson told Sky News: “I am not aware of those letters but I will of course write back to every letter we get.
“Of course I will meet the bereaved.”
But in a letter to Ms Goodman on 29 August, the Prime Minister said: “As much as I would wish to be able to offer my condolences in person to all those who have suffered loss, that is regrettably not possible and so I am unable to meet with you and members of Bereaved Families for Justice.”
He admitted “a letter will be of little comfort against the grief and heartbreak that families have suffered”.
Mr Johnson said he will hold the inquiry “at the appropriate time” and said further correspondence must be dealt with by legal teams, as the group have instructed solicitors who are in pre-action legal correspondence over an independent inquiry.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has responded to Bereaved Families For Justice to express his sincere condolences to all families who have sadly lost loved ones to this terrible disease.
“He remains committed to meeting with members of the public and families of key workers who have been bereaved as a result of Covid-19.
“The Prime Minister is resolute in his determination to beat this virus and prevent further families from suffering such dreadful loss.”
Mr Johnson committed to holding a public inquiry in July but has repeatedly refused to give further detail on how and when it will occur.