Mishal Husain Skewers Cabinet Minister After He Downplays PM's Breach Of Covid Laws

The Today programme presenter did not let Brandon Lewis get away with comparing speeding tickets to No.10's partygate fines.
Brandon Lewis and Mishal Husain went head to head on the Today programme on Tuesday
Brandon Lewis and Mishal Husain went head to head on the Today programme on Tuesday

Mishal Husain called cabinet minister Brandon Lewis out for downplaying No.10′s partygate fines on Tuesday as he tried to defend Boris Johnson.

The prime minister has once again faced calls to resign after the Metropolitan Police handed him a £50 fine for breaking his own Covid laws during lockdown.

Johnson has apologised, but repeatedly claims he did not lie to Parliament when he previously said he had not broken any such rules. He has also made it clear he has no intention of stepping down from his post.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Husain pointed out that the prime minister still chose to accept the fine rather than challenge it.

She put it to the Northern Ireland secretary Lewis that Johnson must therefore accept that he broke the rules – meaning his previous remarks to Parliament were incorrect.

Lewis replied: “On this, I agree actually with this point that the prime minister made those comments himself at the time in the full belief that they were correct, that they were the right statements.

“But he also accepts that the police have come to a different route over the last week or so.”

She replied: “But it wasn’t just the police who came to that view.”

Husain claimed the general public knew what rules were in place at the time of Johnson’s Covid breach (back in June 2020) and there was nothing about “work bubbles” .

Lewis simply replied: “The entirety of No.10 is a workplace.”

“A workplace different from any other key workers’ in the country, it was a different zone, was it?” Husain hit back.

Lewis tried to deflect by pointing out Labour leader Keir Starmer was pictured having pizza and beer in a workplace during the pandemic.

He then repeated his claim that prime minister does now accept the police’s findings, despite previously believing he was being truthful when he said no rules were broken.

“I don’t understand how those two things go together,” the Today programme host responded. “It sounds from what you’re saying as though he does not fully accept that rules were broken in No.10.”

Lewis said between paying the fine and still standing by what he previously said, Johnson’s actions have not been contradictory – “I back him on that.”

“So rule-makers can be rule-breakers then?”

He dismissed the idea that any kind of fine affects how a minister works, explaining, “speeding fines, things like that, if you accept that decision [from the police]” shouldn’t affect the job.

Husain pushed: “Come on, back that up, that’s a very big statement – what are you thinking of?”

Lewis replied: “I am not in any way trying to equate a speeding ticket with the sacrifices people have made through Covid.”

Husain said: “You’ve actually literally just done that.”

Lewis said: “No, no I haven’t.”

Husain replied: “Yes you have – you’ve just drawn that parallel.”

Lewis said apologising for breaking the rules “is the right way to handle” such an incident.

Husain continued: “These were rules we were told we couldn’t even flex because lives were at stake.

“It was a moment of national crisis in which all of our lives changed and you are essentially downplaying that by bringing in some spurious reports that you’ve heard without even backing up what you’re saying.”

He said: “I’m not actually.”

The cabinet minister then refused to be drawn on how many law-breaks are compatible with staying in No.10, simply saying: “My support is still there for the prime minister who is focused on those issues on how we move our country forward.”

He then repeated the claim often heard from the cabinet that Johnson is “getting the big calls right” on Covid, Brexit and the Ukraine war.

Lewis had compared parking fines to the Covid fines earlier in his media round too, when he was speaking to Sky News.

He told Kay Burley: “I think we do see consistently, whether it is through parking fines or speeding fines, ministers of both parties over the years have been in that position.

“We’ve had prime ministers in the past who have received penalty notices, from what I can see, and also front bench ministers.

“I saw there was a parking notice that Tony Blair had once. We’ve seen frontbench Labour ministers and, let’s be frank, government ministers as well.”

But when the minister started the same comparison on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he found himself in yet another awkward position as presenter Kate Garraway pointed out that people with speeding fines did not usually deny speeding in the Commons.


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