Watch: Laura Kuenssberg caught complaining PM did not answer her question
Journalist Laura Kuenssberg has spoken out after her frustration over the prime minster’s answer to her question was caught on air during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing.
After asking Boris Johnson whether people could book summer holidays yet, the BBC’s political editor could be heard saying: “Er, he didn’t answer the question.”
Johnson had told the conference it was “too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer” and that he hopes “to be able to say more” after 22 February.
Kuenssberg has now explained what frustrated her about the prime minister’s answer, telling the BBC Newcast podcast that the question of holidays is “about people’s jobs and livelihoods”.
She said: “It wasn't a full and frank answer to that question. Not that it’s not difficult. People understand this is difficult for the government.”
Government messaging about summer holidays has not been consistent – earlier on Wednesday, transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “people shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally”.
The PM’s official spokesman said booking a summer holiday was “a choice for individuals”, while health secretary Matt Hancock said in December he has already booked a break in Cornwall, adding that he had “high confidence that the summer of 2021 will be a bright one”.
Referencing the mixed messaging, Kuenssberg said: “What is tricky for the public is when ministers do sometimes talk about things in the way that Matt Hancock talked about holidays last week, Grant Shapps talked about holidays this morning and then a few hours later the prime minister basically says ‘no, I'm not going to say anything about it’, because then where do you stand?
“Not just of course if you're a family wondering if you can book your holiday but also if you're someone who works in the travel industry…
Watch: Van-Tam: Need to see vaccine impact before booking holidays
“This is not just about poking around and trying to see if the government can send mixed messages and whether they are all singing from the same song sheet.
“It’s about peoples jobs and livelihoods.”
She added: “It’s the beginning of February – might we really be looking at a situation in July and August where we can't travel around? Maybe we will.”
Despite the criticism of mixed messaging, Hancock insists that he, Johnson and Shapps are not split on the issue, telling LBC: "We have all been saying exactly the same thing – there is uncertainty.”
Travel industry concerns
The PM has promised to set out future plans for coming out of lockdown on 22 February and acknowledged that “people want to make plans now”, but urged them “to be a little bit more patient”.
His comments came hours after the transport secretary said foreign holidays will remain banned until “everybody” has had a coronavirus vaccine.
Pressed on whether the rules will remain in place until that happens, he said “yes”, before explaining that Johnson will set out a “road map” for relaxing lockdown measures on 22 February.
A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said waiting until the UK’s vaccination programme is completed before allowing people to travel abroad means “we’ll lose another summer season to the pandemic”.
This is “something the travel industry can’t afford”, she added.
“You can book a summer holiday now with confidence by booking a package holiday.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said airlines are “drowning” and Shapps had “thrown a bucket of cold water at us”.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon added: “We are all desperate to get back to normal, but the government must speak with one voice, not add greater confusion, and in the end frustration.
“Health secretary busy booking a getaway while the PM pours cold water doesn’t help.”
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam told ITV News that more knowledge about the effectiveness of vaccines is required before the ban on holidays can be safely lifted.
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown