Labour has slammed Boris Johnson for being “grossly incompetent” for not understanding his own lockdown laws.
The prime minister has apologized in a tweet for having “misspoke” when was asked to clarify the new rules for people in the north-east of England – which come into force tomorrow (Wednesday).
Johnson told journalists: “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.”
Ninety minutes later the PM 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.”
Johnson urged people in “high risk” areas,“please continue to follow the guidelines from local authorities”, saying the measures are “vital to control the spread of coronavirus and keep everyone safe.”
Skills minister doesn’t know either; ‘government needs to get a grip,’ says Rayner
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “For the prime minister to not understand his own rules is grossly incompetent.
“These new restrictions are due to come into force across huge parts of the country tonight. The government needs to get a grip.”
Earlier, junior minister Gillian Keegan was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to clarify the impact of the new rules on the millions of people in the north-east affected by them.
“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,” said Keegan.
Asked how people were supposed to be able to keep up with the latest restrictions when ministers cannot, the skills minister replied: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question. I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the north-east.”
Confusion has arisen from the mixed messaging and poor communication by the government, much of which may emanate from the difference between what people “cannot” do by law, and what they “should” do by guidance.
Johnson’s tweeted apology continues along this line with his use of “cannot” and “should”, and as such risks further muddying the lockdown rules and measures that people have been told to follow.
Further woe for embattled PM
The PM may have apologised but The Telegraph report that “Boris Johnson’s lockdown gaffe” is “eroding goodwill among Conservatives further still”.
It is further woe for an increasingly embattled prime minister with Tory backbenchers already “disgruntled” and set to rebel in the Commons, overturning Johnson’s 80 majority. Conservative councillors are angry with new planning proposals from the government to boost house building. The furore around the willingness to break international law has been condemned by senior Tories and five former PMs – and will soon reignite when the Internal Markets Bill returns to the Commons. And there remains Brexit to still “get done”.
Johnson’s approval ratings are falling while the media continues to gush over chancellor Rishi Sunak who is being lined up as the next prime minister only seven months after moving into Number 11.
‘Major adult education shake-up’ overshadowed by PM’s gaffe
Number 10 has confirmed the PM will hold a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) with the government’s chief medical adviser Sir Chris Whitty and the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. Johnson will need to be on top of his many briefs as he will face further scrutiny tomorrow from Sir Keir Starmer and other MPs at PMQs.
Johnson made his lockdown gaffe in a press briefing at Exeter College Construction Centre where the PM today (Tuesday) announced a “radical” shake-up to adult education – a story completely overshadowed by his “mistep”.
When asked if he is suffering from long Covid – a question posed here on September 10 – the PM said he was fitter than before and “fit as a butchers dog” now, thanks to his recent weight loss.
He may be, but, as the Guardian calculated, it would need be a butchers dog “with a BMI of 28.9 and in need of continued walkies.”