Thornberry shouts at MP after Prof Whitty ‘became PM for a day’ as Boris avoids media trap

Emily Thornberry slams Boris Johnson after party scandal

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Emily Thornberry trashed Boris Johnson following Professor Chris Whitty’s concerning assessment that people should scale back their Christmas plans which garnered criticisms from Tory MPs. Ms Thornberry suggested Mr Johnson had deliberately allowed Professor Whitty to make the stark announcement so he could avoid scrutiny on his authority in the future following accusations of Conservative staff breaking lockdown rules with their Christmas parties. The Labour frontbencher clashed with Conservative Andrew Bowie as the pair began yelling at each other during a tense appearance on BBC Politics Live.

Mr Johnson and Professor Whitty addressed the country on Wednesday as the Prime Minister urged everyone to come forward for their jabs.

But political pundits and opposition parties noticed how Mr Johnson took a step back during the announcement and refrained from using alarmist language.

Instead, Professor Whitty took a far more severe stance during the conference, warning the UK was facing “a really serious threat” from the Omicron variant and urged people to reconsider their Christmas plans.

Some commentators believe the decision to let Professor Whitty take centre stage was due to the reports of Tory ministers and staff attending parties during lockdown last year.

Conservative MP Joy Morrissey tweeted out that government decisions should be down to “elected members of parliament” to avoid a “public health socialist state”.

Ms Thornberry defended the scientific advisor and tore into the Prime Minister during her appearance on BBC Politics Live.

She debated Vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Bowie, on the point and said: “We have a Prime Minister whose job it is to lead.

“We have a Prime Minister who’s supposed to be in charge, he’s supposed to have sufficient authority that when he says something, people pay attention.

“But we actually have a Prime Minister who doesn’t dare say whether we should be cutting back on our parties or not.

“Because he knows that what will happen is that the media will simply play that bit of tape and then play the bit of tape that he had from last year and then play all the accusations about illegal parties happening at No10.

Chris Whitty says that Omicron will peak 'really quite fast'

“So he is not in a position, he doesn’t have the authority to be able to tell the country at the time of crisis like this what it is that we should be doing.

“And so we have to rely on Chris Whitty who, yes, on in this issue has stepped up and become Prime Minister for a day.”

Mr Bowie quickly batted back the accusation and said Professor Whitty was a government advisor before the pair began shouting over each other.

The Tory MP said Professor Whitty was providing “the best advice” he thought at the time and how people should behave over the next few weeks.

Ms Thornberry pointed out Mr Johnson refrained from publicly backing what Professor Whitty said as she accused him of not showing leadership.

Mr Bowie added people should not “prejudge” the result of any investigation into banned Christmas parties until they were fully complete.

Earlier in the week, BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said there was a “lot of talk” in Westminster about the Government issuing guidance rather than laws or rules over Christmas.

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Ms Kuenssberg said, due to the large Tory rebellion on Covid rules on Tuesday, Mr Johnson was looking to avoid another embarrassment.

Instead, the UK Government could follow in the footsteps of Scotland who advised Scots to not mix with more than three households over the holidays.

However, the recent press conference lacked an update on current guidance with the Prime Minister instead giving an update on figures and encouraging more people to get their boosters.

The UK recorded its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections on Wednesday since the pandemic began with 78,610 infections.

Professor Whitty told the public: “I’m afraid there will be an increasing number of Omicron patients going into the NHS, going into hospital, going into intensive care.

“The exact ratios we don’t yet know, but there will be substantial numbers and that will begin to become apparent, in my view, fairly soon after Christmas.”

Despite the high figure, the true number of infections are predicted to be many times higher as more people come forward to report their cases.

Modelling suggests the infection rate is doubling every two days meaning 640,000 daily Covid cases could be seen by Christmas.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed earlier in the week that modelling suggests there are around 200,000 infections a day currently.

MPs voted on new restrictions on Tuesday despite a Tory rebellion of 99 MPs on Covid certification.

Covid certification passed 369-126 with Labour propping up the vote despite a huge rebellion within the Conservative ranks.

It means certification proving vaccination or a negative lateral flow test is required for indoor venues with large audiences – such as nightclubs, stadiums, theatres or other large buildings.

Concerns grew over whether further restrictions could be introduced last minute due to the surge in the Omicron variant which makes up nearly half of all infections in London.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Today Programme and Good Morning Britain it was unlikely to see restrictions before Christmas, explaining it would involve recalling Parliament from its recess.

The Omicron variant is speedily making its way through London which has one of the worst vaccination rates in the UK.

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