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It was a simple question about lockdown rules that required a clear and a straightforward answer.
But one minister didn’t have one – and the prime minister thought he did, when he didn’t.
This is how it all played out.
The minister who didn’t know …
On Tuesday morning, the skills minister, Gillian Keegan, was unable to answer the question of whether households in north-east England would be able to meet in a pub or restaurant garden under tightened restrictions coming into force on Wednesday. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
I’m sorry I can’t clarify that. I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.
The prime minister who got it wrong …
Boris Johnson added to the confusion a few hours later by fumbling an explanation of the rules when taking questions from the media after a speech in Exeter. When asked whether people in the north-east would be able to meet other households outside in a pub garden, Johnson garbled his response:
Outside the areas such as the north-east where extra measures have been brought in, it’s six inside, six outside. In the north-east and other areas where extra tight measures have been brought in you should follow the advice of local authorities; but as I understand it, it’s six in a home or six in hospitality but, as I understand it, not six outside.
… the apology that followed …
An hour later, and in an unusually apologetic tone for the prime minister, he tweeted:
Apologies, I misspoke today. In the North East, new rules mean you cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home. You should also avoid socialising with other households outside.
… and the backlash …
But the damage was already done, especially for those directly affected by the rules. Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle city council, said:
You can’t just bluster your way through situations like this – making it up as you go has massive consequences, confuses people and undermines the very public health goals both local and central government are trying to achieve.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Boris Johnson’s bluster comes unstuck over lockdown rules | Politics