Grieving mum whose son died in lockdown says 'it was just a cake' defence of Boris 'must stop'

13 April 2022, 16:46 | Updated: 13 April 2022, 17:05

Louise lost her son during the first lockdown
Louise lost her son during the first lockdown. Picture: @dontlookdown_FB/Louise Bennett

By Will Taylor

A grieving mother whose son died during lockdown has said the defence of Boris Johnson's breach of Covid rules as "just a cake for 10 minutes" must stop.

Louise Bennett lost her son Fred Bennett to leukaemia in May 2020, England's first Covid shutdown, which saw draconian limits on gatherings in a bid to stem the virus's spread.

She shared an image from his hospital room on his 14th birthday that year, saying his brother and friends weren't allowed to "pop in".

She added to voices of rage from people angry at the Prime Minister over repeated allegations of him appearing at events that broke Covid rules – and at him getting fined by the Met for an event when it was claimed his wife held a birthday do for him.

It has been claimed that cake was brought out for Mr Johnson's birthday at the June 19 Downing Street get-together, which took place the month after Fred died.

Downing Street said he had only been there for less than 10 minutes.

Ms Bennett said on Twitter: "This "it was just a cake for 10 minutes" line has to stop.

"This was Fred's 14th birthday. His brother, his friends weren't allowed to 'pop in'. My husband was allowed to be with us, for the first time in over a week.

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Fred died aged 14
Fred died aged 14. Picture: @dontlookdown_FB/Louise Bennett

"Fred died a week later."

The teenager died from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, having been diagnosed in 2019. Ms Bennett now runs a blog in his memory.

"If he didn't knowingly mislead parliament, if he didn't know that birthday gatherings were not allowed, then he shouldn't be Prime Minister," she said.

"And it's not just this "slip". Dominic Cummings, Matt Hancock, Anna, Christmas parties, cheese and wine. It was relentless."

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Mr Johnson has defied strong calls to resign over his fine, which he has paid. His embattled chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has also pledged to stay on after he was fined too.

Among the defences mounted for Mr Johnson was the infamous retort by Conor Burns, the Conservative MP who claimed the PM had effectively been "ambushed by cake".

Michael Fabricant was another who sought to play down the allegations.

"I don't think at any time he thought he was breaking the law... he thought just like many teachers and nurses who after a very long shift would go back to the staff room and have a quiet drink," he said.

That comment has outraged people in those professions, too.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, said that his suggestion was "wholly inaccurate and deeply insulting" in a letter to Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, on Wednesday.

"I cannot overstate the hurt and anger these comments have caused," he added.