Arise, Sir Chris… Boris Johnson backs plans to knight Prof. Whitty for his ‘tireless’ work amid the pandemic
- The Chief Medical Officer is likely to be put forward for the honour at the end of this year to recognise his ‘dedicated service’ during the coronavirus pandemic
- A Cabinet source has said Mr Johnson favours his ‘straight-talking’ approach
- There is also a campaign to hand a knighthood to Professor Jonathan Van-Tam
He became a household name at the start of the pandemic as one half of the scientific duo flanking Prime Minister Boris Johnson during difficult Downing Street press conferences.
Now, Professor Chris Whitty is in line to receive a knighthood, with a behind-the-scenes campaign under way to recognise his ‘tireless’ work over the past year.
The Prime Minister has backed calls for an honour for Prof Whitty, insiders have said.
The Mail on Sunday understands the Chief Medical Officer is likely to be put forward for the honour at the end of this year, once lockdowns are over, to recognise Prof Whitty’s ‘dedicated service’ during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister has backed calls for an honour for Prof Whitty, insiders have said
Mr Johnson favours the Chief Medical Officer’s ‘straight-talking’ approach, multiple sources said last night.
A Cabinet source said: ‘His job is to be deadpan and he is brilliant at being unflappable. He does tell it as it is.
‘He has been a reassuring presence in all different [Government] meetings in which he’s popped up.
‘If ever there was anyone who warranted an honour, it is probably Chris Whitty.’
Another source said the Prime Minister was also ‘enraged’ earlier this year when footage emerged of Prof Whitty being verbally abused in the street by a Covid denier. When Prof Whitty responded to the incident at a later press briefing, Mr Johnson was seen visibly shaking his head in condemnation.
An expert in infectious diseases, Prof Whitty also played a leading role in the UK effort to tackle ebola. He was appointed Chief Medical Officer in October 2019, months before the pandemic began. He is also a practising NHS consultant physician at University College London Hospitals and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. His counterpart, Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, already has a knighthood. ‘Chris isn’t afraid of straight-talking,’ an insider said last night. ‘It’s a trait Boris has always admired in him and in the team Chris has put around him.
The PM is said to favour the Chief Medical Officer’s ‘straight-talking’ approach
‘It’s hard to find any public servant who has worked harder or more tirelessly than Chris Whitty during this crisis. He’s toiled day and night, seven days a week to provide the very best support he could to the Government.’
The source added: ‘The New Year list will be an opportunity to honour those who played their part in getting the country through its worst crisis since the Second World War. By the turn of the year, the Government very much hopes we will have turned the corner and that there will be a chance to reflect on the individuals who went above and beyond.’
Meanwhile, there is a growing campaign to also hand a knighthood to Prof Whitty’s deputy, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who has become known for his no-nonsense ‘down-the-camera’ advice at TV press conferences.
It has led to a Facebook crusade, set up by football club Boston United, aiming to honour the scientist who hails from the Lincolnshire town. Prof Van-Tam is a fan of the team, and has used football analogies to help explain the vaccine rollout to the public.