He reportedly told Conservative MPs at the 1922 Committee: “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends.”
The Prime Minister hastily tried to distance himself from his comments later on in the Zoom call, blustering: “Actually I regret saying it.”
And he asked MPs repeatedly to “forget I said that”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel defended Boris Johnson’s comments on Sky News this morning.
She said: “The Prime Minister always acknowledges the strong success we’ve had in terms of the vaccine, not just the rollout, which is incredible, but also our ability as a country to develop the vaccine, the role that pharmaceutical companies and science and technology has played in that.
“And actually I think that speaks to a great strength we have as a country.
“And linked to that, of course, look at our contributions to Covax, the international scheme, to get the vaccine supplies elsewhere and demonstrate that we are a very, very strong force for good internationally when it comes to vaccines, science and pharmaceutical development.”
She later told LBC Radio she hadn’t heard Boris’ claims about greed.
She said: “I didn’t hear those comments so I’m not going to get involved in that but the role of the free market, having absolutely a diversity in terms of different organisations that we’ve been able to work with on vaccinations, is incredibly important.”
In the same Zoom meeting, Mr Johnson singled out that AstraZenca were producing the vaccine at cost and hailed them for their work.
Sources told The Sun the PM was not discussing the ongoing row with Europe over jabs, but instead talking about the wider scientific endeavour.
Witnesses said the PM was praising pharmaceutical companies for the success, adding: “It was giant corporations that wanted to give good returns to shareholders.”
He quipped: “It was driven by big pharma – and I don’t just mean the Chief Whip” referring to Mark Spencer who was previously a farmer.
He swiped: “You can take the lawyer out of Islington but you can’t take Islington out of the lawyer.”
The Prime Minister recently sold the £3.5million townhouse in Islington he shared with ex-wife Marina Wheeler — a top lawyer. Sir Keir lives in Kentish Town.