Government criticised for lack of transparency over coronavirus response after anonymous briefing
- Credit: PA
Boris Johnson has been criticised over how the government communicates plans to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and faced calls for greater transparency.
The prime minister was under increased pressure to publish the data Downing Street was relying on to make decisions on how to counteract the spread of Covid-19, and there was criticism over how individual journalists and publications were learning government plans before they are announced to the wider public.
Johnson faced calls to increase press conferences to detail plans and face questioning as it emerged over-70s could be told 'in the coming weeks' to stay at home for up to four months
In a televised interview, health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the proposal as well as another move to give police powers to arrest sick citizens who are not self-isolating.
However, both proposals had already been learned by individual reporters while Hancock wrote an article on tackling the pandemic for the Telegraph, which was originally hidden behind a paywall.
Theresa May's former chief of staff Lord Barwell said: 'I cannot say this strongly enough: Ministers need to stop anonymously briefing journalists and start speaking directly to the public.
You may also want to watch:
'Trust in government is going to be vital during the difficult months ahead and it is best fostered by transparency, not off-the-record briefing.'
Sir Keir Starmer, the favourite to lead the Labour Party, called for a 'daily press conference' over the virus to be hosted by the PM or a minister.
- 1 Brexiteer Prue Leith quits Tory Party after government votes down motion to protect UK food standards
- 2 Public slams Brexit Party tweet which shames Tory MPs who voted against free school meals
- 3 Piers Morgan must expose the government's Brexit betrayal
- 4 Group in protest against Tory MPs who voted down free school meals targets offices with empty plates
- 5 Tory minister blames journalists for NHS Test and Trace failure as he defends Dido Harding
- 6 Peers set to remove law-breaking sections of Boris Johnson's Brexit bill
- 7 Michel Barnier postpones Brussels return as Brexit trade talks in London continue
- 8 Brexit shambles: A stress of our own making
- 9 Priti Patel set to hand private firms £28 million in government contracts to deport asylum seekers from UK
- 10 These are the 322 Tory MPs who voted against extending free school meals to children
'I am deeply concerned that over the past 48 hours ministers have been failing in their responsibilities to provide consistent and transparent public health advice,' he said.
'To allow anonymous and speculative briefings to journalists about a significant step-change in the government's response to the outbreak is irresponsible.'
Fellow leadership contender Lisa Nandy accused the Government of being in a 'shambles' over its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
'This is causing serious concern out in the public. People just don't know what to do for the best,' she told the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC.
'This is a public health crisis and so the public must have confidence in the strategy the government is following.'
Some in the scientific community also have criticised government plans not to quickly impose stringent restrictions to limit the disease's spread.
Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the Government to publish its modelling so a wider pool of experts can scrutinise the plans.
'I just need to understand better why the government is taking a different approach, based on its science, from other countries and I think that's why it is so important that all the scientific modelling, for example, is published,' he told Sky's Ridge On Sunday.
'If things have changed since the prime minister's press conference on Thursday, then the prime minister should be doing another press conference today and explaining why things have changed.'
Hancock said ministers will publish modelling over the pandemic 'in the coming days' but said scientists had been 'extremely busy' when pressed on the delay.
'Of course there's a lively debate about what's the best course of action. The scientific evidence is absolutely critical in underpinning our response,' he told Ridge.
Become a Supporter
The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.