Gary Lineker duped over ‘vile’ film’s lies about Boris’ Covid: BBC star forced to distance himself from documentary after we expose its smear that PM was never close to death
- Marcus Ball has claimed Boris Johnson lied about nearly dying from Covid
- The offensive allegation has been made by the arch-Remainer in a documentary
- A trailer for the film includes Gary Lineker saysing ‘the public deserve the truth’
An arch-Remainer, who once tried to prosecute Boris Johnson over Brexit, has claimed in a documentary that the former Prime Minister lied about nearly dying from Covid.
The grossly offensive allegation has been made by Marcus Ball, a failed entrepreneur, in a documentary which claims Mr Johnson’s account of his illness at the beginning of the pandemic was a ‘terrible lie’ designed to manipulate the public.
A trailer for the film, which has yet to be released, features a number of celebrities including Gary Lineker, the BBC’s highest paid presenter, who says in it that ‘the public deserve the truth’.
The ex footballer – who was temporarily taken off air earlier this year after comparing Government immigration policy to Nazi Germany – last night distanced himself from the film upon being alerted about its content.
After being contacted by The Mail on Sunday, Mr Lineker refused to endorse the film and demanded his interview be removed.
An arch-Remainer, who once tried to prosecute Boris Johnson (pictured) over Brexit, has claimed in a documentary that the former Prime Minister lied about nearly dying from Covid
The grossly offensive allegation has been made by Marcus Ball (pictured), a failed entrepreneur, in a documentary which claims Mr Johnson’s account of his illness at the beginning of the pandemic was a ‘terrible lie’ designed to manipulate the public
A trailer for the film, which has yet to be released, features a number of celebrities including Gary Lineker, the BBC’s highest paid presenter, who says in it that ‘the public deserve the truth’
But his original involvement in the documentary has sparked fury among allies of Mr Johnson and threatens to drag the BBC into another damaging controversy.
‘This vile conspiracy theory is disgusting and an example of how totally deranged treatment of Boris has become,’ a source close to Mr Johnson said.
‘It is an insult to the wonderful NHS staff who helped save his life.
Boris spent a long week gravely ill in hospital with Covid when ‘terrified’ pregnant fiancée Carrie prepared for the worst
As he stood outside No10, clapping for the NHS, Boris Johnson’s exhaustion was plain to see.
Rheumy-eyed, forehead glistening with sweat, the then Prime Minister, who had just been diagnosed with Covid, cut a diminished figure – but was determined to join in with the act of national thanksgiving.
In fact, he was more gravely ill than anyone realised.
That night – April 2, 2020 – doctors were on standby at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, ready to admit him at short notice.
Instead he soldiered on, resistant to the idea of hospitalisation, fearing it might suggest preferential treatment.
‘It was that typical English middle-aged bloke thing of not wanting to make a fuss and assuming it would all go away,’ recalled an aide.
At the time his then fiancée Carrie Symonds, pregnant with their first child, was isolating at their South London home.
Despite having tested positive with mild symptoms a week earlier, Mr Johnson had continued to work 15-hour days.
But following his brief TV appearance, he agreed to take to his bed.
His condition rapidly worsened over that weekend.
Conscious but ‘very, very unwell’ he was taken to St Thomas’ on the afternoon of Sunday April 5 and put on oxygen.
The public was told it was a precaution but in reality he was desperately sick.
At 6pm on Monday an already panicked Carrie received a phone call from his doctors warning he needed a ventilator.
Like the rest of the nation, she knew that most Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care were not expected to survive.
As he fought for his life in the ICU on Monday night, his Cabinet and No. 10 officials ‘prepared for the worst’. Carrie, too, was convinced he would die.
‘It was one of those nights where all there really was was prayer,’ said an official.
But after skirting death, Mr Johnson had a better night than expected and his temperature began to fall the following morning.
Fearing he might ‘take a turn for the worst’, however, Downing Street staff endured a ‘terrible wait’ for twice daily medical updates from the hospital, fed through Ms Symonds.
Slowly, he showed signs of recovery on the Tuesday and Wednesday as he responded to oxygen.
During the three nights before he was well enough to leave the unit on Thursday, his fiancée ‘never stopped crying’.
A friend said: ‘She was absolutely terrified… the whole thing was horrendous for her.’
But to her delight, Mr Johnson again joined in the applause for Health Service workers at 8pm on Thursday – this time from his hospital bed.
‘I can’t thank them enough. I owe them my life,’ he said. He left hospital on Sunday April 12 and continued his recovery at Chequers, the PM’s country residence.
‘It is beyond belief that anyone who considers themselves a civil or credible participant in public life could have had anything to do with this film or conspiracy theory.’
Challenged by The Mail on Sunday this weekend, Mr Lineker, 62, said he was unaware of the film’s smear against Mr Johnson. Within minutes of this newspaper emailing his spokesman, the trailer was removed from YouTube.
Mr Johnson was taken to hospital in April 2020, just after the first lockdown had been imposed. He spent three days in intensive care and required ‘litres and litres of oxygen’ to keep him alive.
The MoS had revealed how the 59-year-old’s condition was so serious that doctors considered puncturing a hole in his neck to help him breathe – a procedure called a tracheostomy.
After he was discharged, Mr Johnson said ‘The NHS saved my life, no question’ and told how doctors ‘had a strategy to deal with a “death of Stalin”-type scenario’.
Dr Nick Price, who was responsible for Mr Johnson’s care at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, South London, described how he was forced to contemplate the possibility of the then PM dying.
‘You think about what could have gone wrong,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want it [the worst] to happen. It was on my watch. My name was on his bed. He was my patient.’
Critical care nurse Jenny McGee told a broadcaster in her native New Zealand in 2020 that Mr Johnson ‘absolutely needed’ to be treated in intensive care.
Mr Johnson’s then fiancee, and now wife, Carrie was convinced she was going to lose the father of her then-unborn baby.
‘She was certain he was going to die for 24 hours and was absolutely terrified,’ said one friend. ‘To suggest anything else is beyond despicable. It’s the lowest of the low.’
Mr Ball, who describes himself as a ‘investigative private prosecutor’ and previously launched a doomed High Court bid to prosecute the former PM over Brexit, has been pushing an online conspiracy theory that Mr Johnson ‘faked almost dying of Covid’.
On April 14, 2020, two days after Mr Johnson was discharged from hospital, Mr Ball questioned whether the then PM had even been taken to St Thomas’. The 33-year-old wrote on Twitter: ‘The PR timing is just too perfect.
‘I fear that he may be dodging responsibility by becoming a victim.’ He later conceded that his suspicion was ‘wrong’.
Mr Ball, who calls his investigation ‘deathgate’, has also absurdly claimed the fact that St Thomas’ had not published a plan to announce the PM’s death showed Mr Johnson had ‘lied to the public’.
He claims to have been preparing a documentary, called The Power Of Lies, for more than three years.
In May last year, Mr Ball boasted on Twitter that he had interviewed Mr Lineker, praising the ‘football icon’ for speaking ‘so eloquently about the lying in politics problem’.
Last month, he posted his trailer online featuring a short clip from his interview with the star, who is paid £1.3 million a year by the BBC.
Lasting one minute and 47 seconds, the trailer’s spurious allegation is outlined by Anthony Eskander, a lawyer who worked with Mr Ball on his failed Brexit prosecution of Mr Johnson.
‘In 2020, we were all told that the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had nearly died of Covid-19 in St Thomas’ Hospital in London,’ he states. ‘And not only that, but that his doctors had prepared to announce his death.
‘But because of Marcus’s investigation, which has employed legal methods that have never been used before, it’s now been revealed that the story wasn’t true.’
He later adds: ‘It was a terrible lie. And in my view designed to manipulate the general public.’
Hugh Brown, a former Labour Party council candidate described in the film as a Freedom of Information ‘expert’, states: ‘That he would lie about something like that… it’s incomprehensible’.
Dr Andrew Gellert, a retired GP, adds: ‘In my medical career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely like this.’
Interviewed in a studio in front of a blue screen, Mr Lineker declares: ‘Whatever side of politics you’re on, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s… you know, you just want the truth. And the public deserve the truth.’
The trailer concludes with Mr Ball saying it is ‘really stupid’ that lying in politics is not illegal.
But quizzed by the MoS on Friday, Mr Lineker’s spokesman said the presenter was ‘never’ informed that the documentary would accuse Mr Johnson of lying about his illness.
After being contacted by The Mail on Sunday, Mr Lineker refused to endorse the film and demanded his interview be removed
‘The interview was a general piece about the importance about truth in politics,’ the spokesman said. ‘The specific allegation was not put to him.
‘We are taking steps for this passage to be removed from the trailer, and any similar material in the documentary itself.’ Within minutes of The Mail on Sunday receiving this email, the trailer was no longer available on YouTube, but it could still be viewed on Twitter.
Senior Tory MPs voiced their outrage at Mr Lineker’s involvement with the film.
Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley, said: ‘A respectable, sensible person would not go anywhere near it.
‘It’s ridiculous that the BBC’s highest-paid presenter is getting himself associated with whack-job nonsense like this. It’s almost lending the BBC’s credibility to an utterly absurd conspiracy theory.
‘We all saw Boris when he was ill. We’ve seen interviews with the people who cared for him in hospital.
‘He had to take a month off to recover after coming out. What more evidence do you need?
‘The BBC would say it needs to exist because we need impartial, respected news people can trust.
‘But when their highest-paid presenter starts getting involved in total nonsense conspiracy theories, their defence is destroyed.’
Former Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘This looks like vested interests pursuing fake news.’
With a string of wound-up businesses to his name, Mr Ball was a relatively unknown anti-Brexit campaigner until he attempted to prosecute Mr Johnson in 2019 over his claim during the Brexit referendum that the UK sent £350 million a week to the EU.
Dismissing his claim, two High Court judges ruled that an earlier finding that the prosecution was not vexatious was flawed.
It later emerged Mr Ball spent more than £50,000 of the donations he raised for the campaign on himself, including £6,000 on renting an apartment near Canary Wharf.
He has appealed online for donations to finish his documentary and has raised more than £73,000 via an online crowdfunding page.
Supporters who donate £1,000 are promised tickets to the film’s premiere and will ‘enjoy drinks and canapés with its interviewees’.
It is not clear where the documentary will be screened but it features interviews with former BBC war correspondent Kate Adie and Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Dawn Butler.
There is no suggestion any of them knew about its allegations about Mr Johnson.
Mr Ball said: ‘Our documentary film, The Power of Lies: The Story Of Lying in Politics And The Fight To Make it Illegal, is still in production and is not yet complete. It would be premature to comment.’
Mr Eskander, Dr Gellert and Mr Brown declined to comment.
A spokesman for Guy’s and St Thomas’ said: ‘We remain incredibly proud of the staff who cared for the former Prime Minister with dedication, skill and compassion.’
A BBC source said: ‘It’s impossible to understand the nature or context of the contribution in question based on the short clip that has appeared online.’
Boris spent a long week gravely ill in hospital with Covid when ‘terrified’ pregnant fiancée Carrie prepared for the worst
Marcus Ball brims with righteous indignation as he targets politicians he accuses of squandering public money.
So much so, that one imagines his own probity could never possibly be doubted.
Yet four years ago it was revealed that not all of the £500,000 in online donations he received went on his private prosecution case against Boris Johnson.
Some £53,000, he conceded, found its way into his own pocket, including, £12,065 on accommodation, with £1,250 on a deposit for a flat he never actually moved into.
A further £255 went on ‘home office expenses’ on the flat he shared with four others, including a mirror and a rug to ‘make my work environment a lot nicer’.
Marcus Ball brims with righteous indignation as he targets politicians he accuses of squandering public money
His campaign against Mr Johnson began in 2016 with a largely ignored amateurish video
Mr Ball told his supporters: ‘I chose a building which had security staff, security cameras outside and inside, as well as fitness facilities on site.
‘Some people may criticise me for spending so much on rent, but I don’t regret this decision.’
Donations also paid for £333 self-defence lessons. ‘By protecting myself I protect our work,’ he explained.
Some £210 even went on cupcakes. ‘I accept the cupcakes were a mistake,’ he told Channel 4 News – but dismissed a mischievous suggestion that he was hungry, insisting the treats were a thank you to his valued team.
He also denied the prosecution was ‘a colossal waste of money’.
History graduate Mr Ball, 33, was born in Norwich, the son of a retired English teacher.
His birth certificate lists his name as Joshua Edwin Ball. At some point during adulthood, it is believed he changed it by deed poll to Marcus for £15.
A failed entrepreneur, he has a string of wound-up businesses to his name, with several registered to his family home, a £630,000 property near the Norfolk city’s cathedral.
His campaign against Mr Johnson began in 2016 with a largely ignored amateurish video.
Then, in the aftermath of the EU referendum, he set up a page on the Crowdfunder website. Any donations he received, he promised supporters, would be used to prosecute ‘guilty’ Leave-supporting politicians.
History graduate Mr Ball, 33, was born in Norwich, the son of a retired English teacher
A failed entrepreneur, he has a string of wound-up businesses to his name, with several registered to his family home, a £630,000 property near the Norfolk city’s cathedral
Elsewhere he repeatedly insisted that the case against Mr Johnson had nothing to do with a wish to frustrate Brexit.
It was simply to ‘stop lying in politics’.
Described as vexations and politically motivated, the failed prosecution in 2019 reportedly left him facing financial ruin.
Previously he says that he earned money ‘speaking in public and teaching public speaking skills’.
His website says he has contributed to Russia Today, the controversial Kremlin-funded TV station recently fined by Ofcom for breaching broadcasting standards during coverage of the Salisbury poisonings.
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