James O'Brien's callers can't trust the PM, but can trust Chris Whitty

21 September 2020, 14:04 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 17:15

By Seán Hickey

This caller was impressed by the frankness of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Science Adviser in their briefing and put it down to an absence of politicians.

Rob in Sheffield told James O'Brien that "because we didn't have a politician up there" at Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance's press briefing the information provided by the two was more concise and palatable than press briefings gone by.

"I didn't trust them beforehand because it always seemed like they were trying to defend policy. They weren't being scientists they were being politicians at that."

He went on: "They weren't being forced to use science to defend Cummings, to defend matt Hancock's terrible ideas, or Priti Patel," said Rob, making the case that given the chance to speak freely, the CSA and CMO could be far more informative.

"What really ground my gears," James said, "was that the decisions were being taken following the science whereas we now know a lot of those decisions were because...we didn't have the kit and caboodle we needed to do probably what the scientists thought would be best."

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He sided with Rob, adding that they ended up "looking like they were defending decisions that were entirely political."

"They've grown a spine over the last few weeks," the caller summarised, citing the more open and free way in which the CSA and CMO have spoken in the last few weeks.

He noted "that was the kind of language that got the Chief Nurse and Van Tam stood down."

Simon in Litchfield echoed the views of Rob, telling James he is "glad we finally have the scientists speaking without the politicians so they can be a bit more forthright."

The caller believed that the CSA and CMO were still being scapegoated nonetheless.

"Still this incompetent government is sending the scientists ahead to justify whatever they're going to do, to be contradictory and half-hearted."

James gave Simon his prediction for how the government will act on this briefing in the coming days.