Eddie Mair: Matt Hancock is dodging scrutiny by muting journalists

27 May 2021, 18:22 | Updated: 27 May 2021, 21:08

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

This is the moment Eddie Mair hit out at Health Secretary Matt Hancock and demanded to know why journalists are still barred from the Downing Street press briefing room.

Ministers and health experts taking to the podium to brief the nation have been a regular feature of the coronavirus crisis, but social distancing measures have meant questions from the press have had to be done via video conferencing.

Earlier LBC's Westminster Correspondent Ben Kentish asked the Prime Minister's spokesperson why it was not possible for journalists to be in the room.

Read more: Matt Hancock insists Govt 'worked as hard as we could' to protect care homes

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He was told this was due to the Covid secure measures and needing to have staff to run the press conference.

"If you're in the room you can ask a follow-up question, you can pursue a Minister and try to get to the truth," Eddie told his LBC listeners just after Matt Hancock had finished addressing the nation.

But, as he pointed out, "If you're on a remote line, with someone muting you, you can ask one question then you're shut up."

Read more: Claims of protective shield around care homes 'complete nonsense'

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During Thursday's Downing Street press conference a number of journalists attempted to ask follow up questions but appeared to be on mute.

Eddie said there was a "direct line between journalists not being in the room and the spectacle we all just sat through."

Mr Hancock had said he wanted to "answer as many questions as we can as fully as we can."

"What he went on to do was to not offer any journalist a single follow up question."

"In fact, when journalists did ask follow up questions because the beat the mute button, it's like a game show except it's deadly serious, people are dying.

"When they did ask a follow-up question his face was thunderous."

Read more: Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired for lying, says Cummings

Eddie reminded the LBC audience it was only yesterday that a man at the heart of Downing Street, Dominic Cummings, told a panel of MPs that the Health Secretary had "lied about people recieving treatment, he lines about PPE, he said that Matt Hancock told Boris Johnson in the Cabinet room that people would be tested before they were sent into care homes.

"But they were not!"

Eddie said when Matt Hancock was asked about these issues, the very issues which "affect thousands of lives, and it is alleged killed thousands of people unnecessarily, he waffled on and would not hold himself up to journalistic enquiry, people were muted."

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