George Eustice has told Piers Morgan that Britain was a “free country” as he sought to defend a six-month government boycott of Good Morning Britain.
Eustice, a cabinet minister, said political parties were free to choose which media outlets to speak with as he attempted to explain the reasons behind 201-day hiatus from the popular breakfast programme.
The environment secretary’s appearance is one of a number made by fellow ministers since the departure of Dominic Cummings from Downing Street over a fortnight ago, who is widely believed to have enforced the boycott.
Eustice told Morgan: “We live in a free country. Media are free to report things how they want to and political parties are free to choose which outlets they’re going to prioritise.”
Morgan, a co-host of the show, interrupted: “Really? I don’t agree with that. I think that is fundamentally a breach of your democratic duty.
“We pay your salaries. Our viewers pay your salary and they are entitled, particularly during a public health crisis, to hear the views of government ministers.
“Other colleagues of yours were quite quick to say they didn’t agree with it. You seem to be saying that the government should have the right to pick and choose where they’re held accountable in the middle of a public health emergency.
“I don’t think that’s true and I don’t feel you should have that right. You have a democratic duty to talk to our viewers and be held accountable.”
Eustice said ministers had appeared on the show’s network, ITV, before appearing to backtrack on his remarks.
“There are so many media outlets but you can’t do them all,” he lamented.
Morgan fired back: “You couldn’t do this for six months. One of you could have fitted it into your busy schedule.”
The interview prompted a swift response from Twitter users.
Craig Thompson posted: “‘It’s a free country’ is the argument of a sulky 8-year-old.”
'Its a free country' is the argument of a sulky 8 year old. https://t.co/04w438RvTz
— Craig Thompson 🔰 (@RogueBaboon57) November 30, 2020
Alec McQuay posted: “‘It’s a free country,’ he says, as his party’s total failure to control Covid leads most of the country to be under a second lockdown.”
"It's a free country," he says, as his party's total failure to control Covid leads most of the country to be under a second lockdown.
— Alec McQuay (@Ironwrites) November 30, 2020
@DickMillard wrote: “Eustice forgets that he’s talking about HM government… and that their responsibilities extend some way beyond the party faithful.”
One user by the name Gemma posted: “Can you please stop going on and on about the boycott. It’s done, let it go, just get on with the important questions and stop wasting time!”