Michael Gove’s odd explanation for why Boris Johnson pocketed a reporter’s phone

PUBLISHED: 11:00 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:43 11 December 2019

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove at a press conference while on the general election campaign trail. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove at a press conference while on the general election campaign trail. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Michael Gove has explained that the reason Boris Johnson put a reporter’s phone in his pocket when faced with a picture of a boy with flu is that the prime minister was “anxious to answer the question”.

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Gove was questioned on the moment that Boris Johnson was asked by a reporter to look at a picture of Jack Williment-Barr, the four-year-old boy who had been forced to wait on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary, which made headlines across the country about the state of the NHS under Tory leadership.

In the moment, Johnson had to be urged several times by reporter Joe Pike to acknowledge the image, but in an astonishing revision of events, Michael Gove said that Johnson "absolutely" looked at the photograph, omitting both the fact that the reporter had had to insist, and that Johnson had then pocketed the phone.

WATCH: Boris Johnson so desperate not to look at boy with flu, he pockets a reporter's phone

"My understanding is that the prime minister did look at the picture, he was clearly concerned about what he saw, he despatched the health secretary my friend Matt Hancock to Leeds in order to see what happened," Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said that Johnson had put the phone in his pocket due to "a single moment of absentmindedness", adding: "I think the prime minister was anxious to answer the question."

"He didn't address [it], that was the point," said the Today host. "That was what the reporter had to press him on, was to look at that photo and, as some people would say, express some empathy for the family and what had happened to them."

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