Edwina Currie compares Boris Johnson during early days of pandemic to Princess Diana. But there’s a major problem
Edwina Currie baffled viewers with the unfathomable claim that Boris Johnson was emulating Princess Diana during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The novelist and former Conservative MP, who’s planning a return to parliament after 23 years away from politics, attempted to launch herself back into the public eye with an appearance on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday (17 March).
She didn’t get off to the best start though, unless invoking the spirit of Princess Diana in a bid to gloss over the prime minister’s COVID failures was all part of the plan.
The discussion began with host Susannah Reid reeling off a string of the government’s deadly mistakes as the first anniversary of the original lockdown approaches.
“They got it wrong right from the start,” Reid said. “The prime minister missing COBRA meetings where they were discussing this emergent threat, his failure to shut down mass gatherings and saying they weren’t a particular risk, his insistence that he was carrying on shaking hands even where there might be people with COVID.
“The failure to test Track and Trace, the failure over PPE… the trouble is, it goes on and on and on.”
“Susannah, you’re not Piers, so give me a chance,” Currie sharply interjected.
She then tried to defend the government’s handling of the pandemic by raising some of the early points of infection, unintentionally highlighting the government’s inaction to the threat.
“We hadn’t realised until many months later that we were being infected from Spain, from Italy, from France, people coming back from half term holidays, they were bringing the infection back, it was already too late to stop that.
“There was a big Champions League football match in Liverpool exactly a year ago today with thousands of fans coming in from Spain bringing the infection with them, we had no idea it was so infectious, we had no idea it was so lethal. We did our best.”
‘We had no idea it was so lethal. We did our best.’
‘Boris Johnson shook hands with people to show they weren’t being stigmatised like Diana did with HIV.’
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 17, 2021
“The prime minister shook hands as a reflection of what Diana did during the HIV problems, do you remember those?” she said. “When Diana went into the hospitals in order to shake hands with patients and to say to them, you are not being stigmatised. That is what I think he was doing.”
Exactly what Boris Johnson thought he was doing is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear to see that Edwina Currie’s fantasy of him has a huge gaping hole in it.
Diana famously shook hands with AIDS patients to show the disease cannot be spread through touch, but the same obviously isn’t true for COVID, which is highly contagious and passed through social contact.
Experts at the time condemned the prime minister for boasting about shaking hands and “creating unnecessary confusion” when official guidance was advising against physical contact.
Indeed, Johnson was actually hospitalised with COVID weeks later, casting further doubt on his judgement – as well as that of anyone who praises him even with the benefit of hindsight.
Edwina Currie’s nonsensical comparison was instantly shot to pieces online as countless viewers pointed out the blindly obvious.
She didn’t really trot this out did she? 🙄
— Dr. Edmund the Obsessor #FBPE #FBR #TheResistance (@Nucleus1409) March 17, 2021
Princess Diana shook hands with patients who had HIV/AIDS to show you cannot pass the virus on through touch. Covid-19 is NOT the same. Please can we stop wheeling Edwina Currie or Ann Widdicombe out and spouting their utter nonsense. pic.twitter.com/D9Lfl3sJpa
— Andrew Keates (@andrewkeates) March 17, 2021
Diana was setting an example of safe practice and compassion, Johnson was setting an example of foolishness.
— Monsignor it’s all Corbyn’s fault. (@ItCorbyn) March 17, 2021
Edwina Currie comparing BoJo shaking hands with covid victims to Princess Diana shaking hands with AIDS sufferers. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. #GMB
— Alan’s daughter the super supporter⚫⚪ (@Hodbow) March 17, 2021
Hiv is Bloodborne. Covid is airborne. Politicians should refrain from talking about something they know nothing about. Boris made a mistake. A pretty big one. There’s no defense.
— gill (@geeza79) March 17, 2021
Edwina Currie missing the point. Diana shaking hands with HIV patients was to (correctly) demonstrate that you couldn’t catch HIV in that way. Covid 19 is passed through social contact. Completely different modes of transmission. #GMB
— Ann Howarth (@AnnLHowarth) March 17, 2021
The equivalent would have been Diana entering those wards and either sharing needles or having unprotected anal intercourse with patients.
I think it unlikely she would have been praised for doing that…
— Nicholas (@nickjamespoad) March 17, 2021
Oh Edwina. It really was a holy mother of false equivalences.
— MissInquisitivity (@MInquisitivity) March 17, 2021
PinkNews reached out to Edwina Currie for comment. She said that she appreciates HIV/AIDS and COVID are completely different, but stood by her comparison.
“My point was a different one – why did Boris make such a point of shaking hands, and talking about it?” she asked.
“My interpretation was based on what Princess Diana was asked to do, back in the mid-1980s as that pandemic was destroying lives. She was approached to visit patients, to show it was safe to touch them, to hold their hands, in order to dispel irrational fears, and in doing so, to reduce the appalling stigma and prejudice that AIDS patients were facing at the time.
“She could have refused. Instead she rose to the challenge magnificently, and helped in no small way to change attitudes. I think Boris had that in the back of his mind, and that was what he was trying to do.
“He was wrong, of course, and even then some of us were shaking our heads at him. But I am certain he meant well.”