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Slap for carers?
“Never apologise, never explain” is a political credo that is often (wrongly) attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. In the wake of his incendiary remarks about care homes and covid, self-described One Nation Tory Boris Johnson seems to have adapted at least half of the aphorism.
The backlash over the PM”s remark on Monday - “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have” - was certainly swift and strong today. But instead of expressing any regret, Johnson ordered No.10 to simply clarify his remarks.
Unfortunately, ‘never apologise, but do try to explain away your blunders’ doesn’t quite trip off the tongue. Worse still, it seems to compound the anger. The whole episode has fed the Jeremy Clarkson/Piers Morgan critique of him as an uncaring incompetent.
The PM’s official spokesman was asked repeatedly today if he would say sorry for the remark. Repeatedly, he failed to do so (if you want to see just how a civil servant sticks like superglue to a line-to-take, read my transcript HERE). Instead, we were told that in effect everyone had misinterpreted Johnson’s words.
What he had been doing was pointing out that “nobody knew the correct procedures to put in place at the time, because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known”, the spokesman said. The line was roadtested by business secretary Alok Sharma and renewed later in the Commons by health secretary Matt Hancock.
The big problem of course is that Johnson’s words - the ones that actually left his mouth, as opposed to the ones deployed by his dutiful Downing Street mouthpiece - didn’t mention anything about asymptomatic transmission or ‘correct’ procedures.
I had a chat this afternoon with Mark Adams, the care home chief whose withering criticism of the PM went viral after his Today programme...