Do Britons believe Boris Johnson made the “let the bodies pile high” remark?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
April 30, 2021, 9:20 AM UTC

Half of Britons think the PM did make the comment, but a similar amount of people think it was said in a moment of frustration

Boris Johnson stands accused this week of stating in autumn 2020 that he would rather see the “bodies pile high in their thousands” than impose another COVID-19 lockdown. Multiple news outlets including ITV, say they have witnesses willing to testify “under oath” that Boris Johnson said the phrase. However, the Prime Minster has repeated and strongly denied the allegations against him – including in the House of Commons during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

YouGov research conducted for The Times shows that half of Britons (50%) think Johnson did indeed make the remark – including nearly three in ten Conservative voters (29%). Only 26% of people believe that Johnson is telling the truth and did not make the remark, with the remainder (24%) undecided.

Labour voters are much more likely to think that Johnson did make the remark at 80%, with only 9% thinking the Prime Minister did not.

What did Boris Johnson mean if he did make the “bodies pile high” comment?

The Prime Minister did of course eventually impose the lockdown that spurred the comment in late 2020, but given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the UK, a strong reaction to the comment is to be expected. Or is it?

Our survey finds that many Britons see the comment as more of a ‘heat of the moment’ expression, rather than a reflection of how the Prime Minister values life.

Half of people (51%) say that if Johnson did the make the comment, it would “probably have just been his way of expressing his reluctance to re-enter lockdown”. Some 70% of Conservatives put the comment down to the Prime Minister’s anguish over the potential lockdown, as do three in ten (31%) Labour voters.

However, three in ten people (30%) think the comment gives more insight about “how little [the Prime Minister] valued saving people's lives”, including 61% of Labour voters.

See full results here