Boris Johnson forgets details of hospital spending in car-crash TV interview

PM searches for figures in notes then yells for help from aides

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 03 October 2020 13:23
Boris Johnson struggles to explain his plans for spending on hospitals in Leeds

Boris Johnson got himself in a tangle as he struggled to remember details of his hospital spending plans during a round of regional TV interviews.

Mr Johnson proudly boasted of his commitment of another £3.7bn to 25 hospital building and renovation projects as he was interviewed by a succession of regional channels from all over the UK.

But when he was put on the spot by BBC Yorkshire’s Look North programme, he found himself unable to remember just how much the government was putting into which hospitals in Leeds.

As the cameras rolled, the PM scrabbled around on the floor to find a crib sheet with lists of 40 hospitals in the government’s investment programmes.

And he yelled to aides to tell him the figures, before eventually telling interviewer Phil Bodmer that he would get someone to supply them later.

The PM started confidently, telling Bodmer: “It’s a massive investment in Leeds General Infirmary - I remember going there myself - and it’s part of a big package. We are doing eight current projects and a further 40 between now and…”

The interviewer interjected: “How much are you spending in Leeds?”
At first Mr Johnson went for the broad-brush approach, replying: “There will be a stream of funding over the next four or five years.”

But Bodmer persisted: “But how much will Leeds get?”
Scooping up his notes from the floor, the prime minister hurriedly scanned the list of hospital investment projects, saying: “I can tell you. Leeds general hospital - sorry, Leeds teaching hospitals trusts - is getting a centralising in children’s and adults’ services and pathology services at St James and University hospital trust…

“It will be a big, big investment in Leeds hospitals.”

As Bodmer pressed on, asking him “But you can’t tell me the number?”, the PM abandoned his notes and called out to aides outside camera shot.

“Give me the number, somebody,” he shouted. “Who’s got the number for Leeds? Give me the number for Leeds.”
Voices could be heard responding to the PM, but he quickly gave up his attempt to find a figure, telling his interviewer: “I’m so sorry, I don’t, I don’t… Someone will supply you with the number. Before you leave the room someone will supply you with the number for Leeds.”

The car-crash interview came shortly after Mr Johnson was forced to apologise after muddling the rules for coronavirus restrictions in the northeast of England while answering questions live on TV.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments