Boris Johnson today faced the question that has become familiar to so many in 2020: “Are you muted?”
The prime minister was not taking part in a family quiz, but giving a statement to parliament on the government’s coronavirus strategy when his video sound cut out.
Neither he nor the Commons accepted responsibility for the technical problem, with both sides blaming each other.
Johnson is self-isolating after having breakfast with Covid-stricken Tory MP Lee Anderson, so had to update MPs by video from Downing Street.
But as he was answering a question from fellow Tory Mark Harper, the sound went dead.
The chamber erupted with laughter as speaker Lindsay Hoyle made several attempts to regain contact with Johnson.
“Have you pressed the button, prime minister?” he asked, but silence ensued.
One MP could be heard to joke “he’s not paid the electric”, while others began to laugh.
Hoyle continued: “Have you pressed the button by mistake? Are you muted? It’s not our end, prime minister. It could well be yours.”
He then suggested that health secretary Matt Hancock could step in and continue the debate.
The two cabinet ministers seemed unable to decide, leading Hoyle to add: “Is one of you going to do it or not? It’s no good looking at each other.”
Just after Hoyle suspended proceedings, an echoey Johnson could heard saying “some problem with the sound”.
When the House returned, Hancock started to answer questions on the government’s plan to replace England’s national lockdown on December 2 with a new system of tiers 1, 2 and 3.
Several people on Twitter poked fun at the hiccup.
Boris Johnson's sound drops out.
Matt Hancock declines to step in.
Speaker suspends Commons.
PM shouts: "Some problem with the soun...."
It's still 2020.
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) November 23, 2020
A self-isolating Boris Johnson suffers a sound failure as he tries to answer a question in the House of Commons prompting one Labour MP to shout: 'He's not paid the broadband bill!'
— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) November 23, 2020
Perils of virtual parliament – Boris Johnson, speaking to Commons from No 10 in self-isolation, suddenly loses the sound. "Have you pressed the mute button, prime minister?" the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, asks the silent PM.
— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) November 23, 2020
But Johnson, when he finally returned, insisted: “For the record, the problem does not appear to be our end so I hope that people do not think I am in any way trying to avoid scrutiny from honourable members.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.