Boris Johnsonhas been accused of not caring after he repeatedly refused during a TV interview to look at a photo of a four-year-old boy forced to sleep on the floor at an overcrowded A&E unit, before pocketing the reporter’s phone on which he was being shown the picture.
In an ITV interview during a campaign visit to a factory in Sunderland, the prime minister was challenged about the plight of Jack Williment-Barr, who waspictured sleeping under coatson a hospital floor in Leeds as he waited for a bed, despite having suspected pneumonia.
Johnson refused to look at the photo and, out of camera shot,eventually took the phone from the reporterand put it in his own pocket. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labor leader, responded by tweeting a video of the exchangewith the message: “He just doesn’t care.”
First asked if he had seen the photographs, Johnson said he had not. The ITV reporter,Joe Pike, then showed the prime minister the photograph on his phone, describing what it portrayed.
Johnson declined to look at the picture, saying: “I understand. And obviously, we have every possible sympathy for everybody who has a bad experience in the NHS. ”He went on to discuss investment in theNHSand Brexit.
Pike pressed the prime minister: “I’m talking about this boy, prime minister. How do you feel, looking at that photo? ”Johnson replied:“ Of course. And let me tell you … I haven’t had a chance to look at it. ”
Pike asked: “Why don’t you look at it now, prime minister?” Johnson, still not looking at the photo, replied: “I’ll study it later.” Pressed again, he said: “If you don’t mind, I’ll give you an interview now. What we are doing is we are taking this country forward, and we are investing in the NHS. ”
Johnson then appeared, out of camera shot, to take the phone out of Pike’s hand and put it into his coat pocket.
The reporter challenged him on this: “You’ve refused to look at the photo, you’ve taken my phone and put it in your pocket, prime minister. His mother says the NHS is in crisis. What’s your response to that? ”
At this point, Johnson removed the phone and looked at the picture for the first time: “It’s a terrible, terrible photo, and I apologise, obviously, to the family and all of those who have terrible experiences in the NHS . But what we are doing is supporting the NHS and on the whole, I think patients in the NHS have a much, much better experience than this poor kid has had. ”
Johnson ended by handing back the phone: “I’m sorry to have taken your phone. There you go. ”
At a subsequent media Q&A at the factory, Johnson was twice asked about his reaction in the interview, but declined to address the questions, instead talking about investment in the NHS.
Johnson has previously been accused of showing a lack of empathy, for example during aspeech at a police training collegein September, when he pressed on with a speech even after a cadet directly behind him half-collapsed.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, tweeted: “Don’t give this disgrace of man 5 more years to carry on driving our NHS into the ground. Sick toddlers like Jack deserve so much better. ”