James O'Brien responds to PM's rapid U-turn on self isolation

19 July 2021, 14:48

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien gives his response to Boris Johnson's announcement that neither he nor the Chancellor would self-isolate despite being 'pinged' - then U-turned hours later.

The Prime Minister was forced to backtrack following a huge backlash from politicians and commentators after initially claiming he and the Chancellor would not be self-isolating despite coming into contact with Covid-positive Sajid Javid.

The reason he initially cited was that both himself and Rishi Sunak were intending to take part in the pilot scheme, which allows people to test daily for seven days rather than isolate for 10.

Read more: Contact testing pilot: Why were Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak not going to isolate?

James reflected on yesterday's swift change of announcement, telling listeners to consider Robert Jenrick who was put forward to defend the initial decision.

"He was sent around the studios to defend and/or explain the decision taken by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to swerve the sort of regulations and rules that the rest of us are more or less required to follow.

"In the context of the NHS Test and Trace, I think you're legally required to self-isolate unless you are signed up to this miraculous scheme that we'd never heard of until Michael Gove somehow qualified for it after attending the football in Portugal."

James continued of Robert Jenrick: "You can just imagine it, sitting in the back of the car, patting himself on the back, poor old Honest Bob Jenrick.

"Honest Bob Jenrick sitting in the back of the car giving himself a pat on the back for successfully dealing with the so called media round of defending Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak's decision to swerve self-isolation - when it's announced on the radio that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are no longer swerving self-isolation and will in fact be abiding by the same rules and regulations that the rest of us are expected to abide by.

"Even though on Freedom Day the three most important politicians in the country, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in the context of the coronavirus crisis, the Secretary of State for Health, are all currently self-isolating."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the government of "double standards" and being "contemptuous of the British public".

"The only reason that he's U-turned on this is because he's been busted. It's like bank robbers who've got caught and now they're offering the money back," he told reporters.

Speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "It's quite a coincidence that a supposedly randomised trial included Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove. What on earth is going on with it?"

Just moments after he conceded attempting to dodge self-isolating, the PM told the public in his video message: "I know how frustrating it all is, but I really do urge everybody to stick with the program and take the appropriate course of action when you are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace."

He continued: "The reason for that is we are going tomorrow into Step 4. We are doing a big opening up and that is quite right... This is the right moment, but we have got to do it cautiously.

"We have got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there, cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.

"But we have this immense consolation and satisfaction that there is no doubt at all that the vaccine program- the massive vaccination program -has very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation, and between infection and serious illness and death. That is the vital thing.

"Please, please, please be cautious. Go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people and the risks that the disease continues to present.

"And above all when you're asked to get that second jab, get your jab. Please come forward and do it."