Watch: Boris Johnson apologises for lack of clarity over North East coronavirus restrictions
The prime minister admitted he “misspoke” when trying to explain the new rules, which were announced on Monday and will come into effect at midnight on Wednesday.
When asked by reporters to clarify if people could meet in a pub garden, Johnson had said: “In the North East and other areas where extra-tight measures have been brought in, you should follow the guidance of local authorities. But it is six in a home, six in hospitality [and] as I understand it, not six outside.”
Johnson was later forced to tweet: “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.”
It’s not the first time the PM has struggled with details, as these four recent examples demonstrate…
‘Read the report!’
In July, a major report, commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, warned a fresh coronavirus outbreak in the winter could be even worse than the first peak and cause up to 120,000 deaths in a worst-case scenario.
At the following Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked Johnson if he had read the report, which urged his government to act in the summer and guard against a second wave.
He would only say: “I am of course aware of the report.”
One opposition MP in the chamber shouted: “Read the report!”
‘To be honest, I only became aware of it today’
In June, Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford was dominating the news agenda with his one-man crusade for free school meal vouchers during the summer holidays.
His campaign stirred huge public interest, with Johnson’s government eventually relenting to announce a one-off £120m fund benefiting 1.3m children.
However, Johnson then admitted: “I talked to Marcus Rashford today and congratulated him on his campaign which, to be honest, I only became aware of very recently – today.”
The admission came in response to a reporter who asked if he has “lost touch” with the public.
‘Hang on, Stephen’
In May, appearing before the House of Commons liaison committee, Johnson appeared confused when Labour MP Stephen Timms asked him about a couple in his constituency who have no recourse to public funds.
This is a condition applied to people staying in the UK with a temporary immigration status “to protect public funds”.
Timms told the PM: “They have leave to remain in the UK but no recourse for public funds, so they can’t get any help at all. Isn’t it wrong that a hard-working, law-abiding family like that is being forced by the current arrangements into destitution?”
Johnson responded: “Hang on, Stephen, why aren’t they eligible for universal credit or employment support allowance or any of the other benefits?”
Timms explained: “It’s because they have no recourse for public funds, that’s the condition that’s attached to their leave to remain. They’ve been here for years.”
Johnson said: “I’m going to have to come back to you on that, Stephen.”
Labour frontbencher Jess Phillips tweeted: “Boris Johnson not knowing what no recourse to public funds means was quite phenomenal.”
Watch the full exchange below...
My question to the Prime Minister today: "Isn't it wrong that a hard-working, law-abiding family like this is being forced by the current arrangements into destitution?" pic.twitter.com/S5qd7pSnu4
— Stephen Timms (@stephenctimms) May 27, 2020
‘I thought you were a man of detail?’
In July last year, when Johnson was campaigning to become the new Conservative Party leader, he made the mistake of telling the BBC’s Andrew Neil to “get the detail right” in a discussion about Brexit and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Twenty seconds later, this blew up in Johnson’s face.
Watch the full exchange below...
"Do you know what's in paragraph 5c?"
"No" @AfNeil challenges Boris Johnson on the detail of how the UK would trade with the EU after #Brexit
The Andrew Neil Interviews: Watch in full at 7pm on @BBCOne #BBCOurNextPM
[tap to expand] https://t.co/Vi5EqKlFAg pic.twitter.com/wEl81N4maG
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) July 12, 2019
Coincidentally, Johnson refused to be interviewed by Neil in the general election campaign a few months later.
Coronavirus: what happened today