James O'Brien examines the schism between the PM and his chief scientist

17 July 2020, 14:06

James O'Brien examined the schism between Boris Johnson and his chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance, the balance between the health of the country and the economy.

"What's amazing about this situation is we're being made to choose between the advice of a scientific adviser, whose job is not to lead the country, Patrick Vallance is not the person who is there to synthesize this information and distribute it to the nation and encourage people to follow that advice, that's Boris Johnson's job," Nathan a caller told LBC.

LBC presenter James O'Brien said, "the chief scientific adviser would tell them [politicians] what do you need to do if you want to minimise the number of people dying or getting sick."

But James added that is "not necessarily" what Boris Johnson needs to do, adding "it may have been at one point" but that it could not be "the status quo indefinitely."

James pointed out the country needs to "keep the wheels turning" and to have some level of commerce.

"There are areas in which the Prime Minister may not feel able to follow the best available scientific advice solely with regard to health because he has to factor in wealth."

But, James said the current conflict between the Prime Minister and his chief scientist did not seem to fit into that category, "this is two men standing up and saying contradictory things, both from positions of authority."

Nathan said the decision to delay the introduction of the lockdown by a week seemed like "disregard for the scientific advice."

Citing the minutes from the Government's SAGE meeting, Nathan said it showed a schism between the two.

James said that Sir Patrick came close to reporting the issue at a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee where he brought up the "16th vs the 23rd" as dates for when the lockdown started.

Giving evidence, Sir Patrick said that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had advised the Government to implement lockdown on March 16, but Mr Johnson did not announce the measures until March 23.

"Then up pops Matt Hancock claiming, no no no, we did it on the 16th [put the nation into lockdown]."

Watch the whole insightful exchange in the video at the top of the page.