Boris Johnson is famed for his often frequent-wittedness and fiery retorts, but the Mayor of London was today left flustered after being corrected for claiming junior doctors had called off their threat of strike action.
The Uxbridge MP insisted that industrial relations between Jeremy Hunt and NHS workers had calmed, wrongly saying a one-day strike over contract changes next week had been called off.
He was quickly corrected, when LBC's Nick Ferrari brandished a copy of the Daily Telegraph - the newspaper Johnson claimed he read the news in - bearing a headline to the contrary.
"I think that the junior doctors, as I understand it, have decided to call off their strike," he said in a radio phone-in on Tuesday.
An altogether unimpressed Ferrari quizzed him where he had heard the news, Johnson responding indignantly: "It was on the front page of the Daily Telegraph from memory - let's consult this thing called a newspaper."
Ferrari and Johnson clash in the studio
Ferrari swiftly retrieved Tuesday's issue, and showed it to Johsnon, saying: "I don’t know how you read that headline, ‘Junior doctors plan strike action’".
The mayor was left visibly flustered, mumbling "no, no no", half-joking in an attempt to wind back from his gaffe: "my edition said call off strike action..."
"Well it’s unknown to Jeremy Hunt," Ferrari hit back. "I spoke to him at 20 past 7 this morning."
Referencing Johnson's famous sacking from his post as a reporter on the Times newspaper for falsifying a quote, Ferrari added: "I know journalism wasn’t necessarily a career in which you shone, but normally a headline usually gives you some idea of the story and the idea ‘plan strike action’ means its on."
Johnson attributed the mistake to having skimmed that morning's news, speculating: "Maybe I read it so fast on my way here and somehow my natural optimism caused me to gloss it.
"Maybe I just read ‘scrap’ rather than ‘plan’."
A despairing Ferrari laughed in exasperation: "This man could be PM."
"Russia’s not invading - Russia’s invading? RIGHT!" he mocked.
Attempting to regain some control over the situation, Johnson tried to steer back the conversation, saying: "Listen - they have recently called off their strike action", interrupted by Ferrari to correct him a second time: "Right, but we’re back on."
"They now seem to be back on," the MP conceded desperately. "Thank you for pointing that out."
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