Boris Johnson has made tackling obesity his main lesson from the coronavirus crisis instead of helping women or Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people because that is “the thing that he is”, a Labour MP has said.
Jess Phillips criticised the prime minister for focusing on an issue close to home rather than looking at health interventions for BAME people, who suffer worse Covid-19 death rates, or helping women, who appear to have been impacted more than men by the crisis.
The shadow domestic violence minister said Johnson, who has recently hired celebrity personal trainer Harry Jameson to help him shed weight, was not paying attention to the plight of women in the pandemic “at all”.
Johnson has acknowledged he was “too fat” when he caught coronavirus and went into intensive care in April.
In July, he said he was not keen on “nannying or bossying” but urged the country to “lose weight” to protect lives if there is a second wave of coronavirus.
Speaking to What Were You Thinking?, a podcast by the Big Tent Ideas festival shared in advance with HuffPost UK, Phillips said: “I don’t disagree as somebody who has recently lost a stone and a half after Covid binging that Boris Johnson has gone out on the television to talk about obesity and the effects of corona (and) obesity and how it’s more dangerous.
“The disproportionate number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people who have died during the Covid-19 crisis and the vast majority of the economic and social impacts being on women, and the thing that he went for is the thing that he is – and that was obesity.
“If you’re going to make Covid make you wake up about something, it’s just not a surprise that it’s a thing that he has experienced that is the thing we are now all talking about – losing a few pounds so we’re not victims of Covid.
“Nothing has been done to look at health interventions of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and people.
“My constituency has the second highest death rate in the country from Covid-19, it’s not because they’re not all on their bloody bike.”
The Birmingham Yardley MP identified the PM, his aide Dominic Cummings, chancellor Rishi Sunak and senior minister Michael Gove as “the people with power”, and criticised them for doing “nothing” about childcare and being “slow” to react to the heightened risk of domestic abuse.
She said: “The fact that care homes are largely staffed by women, it’s no surprise that they were also completely and utterly forgotten in the planning, let alone the slow reaction to the obvious risk of victims of domestic violence – just madness,” she said.
“It’s been really, really, really, really bad and they don’t care and it won’t necessarily hurt them.
“They think it’s identity politics, but for some of us it’s our lives.”
Phillips went on: “We need women at the top of power structures, making decisions, and speaking up.
“It’s understandable that Boris Johnson understands what obesity and coronavirus (means) because he’s experienced it.
“He’s never suffered period poverty, he’s never had to arrange childcare because he has to go to work.
“And so we need people with power to be in those rooms where those decisions get made.”