During today's coronavirus press briefing, Boris Johnson was faced with a difficult question relating to the recent developments around Dominic Cummings' trip to Durham during lockdown.
The prime minister appears to have planned his response, but clearly isn't able to control the narrative quite as well when it comes to his chief medical advisers.
Laura Kuenssberg, political editor at the BBC, referenced comments from Durham police today that they would have sent Cummings home if they'd known he was in Barnard Castle.
She asked the prime minister:
If one of your most senior team wasn't paying proper attention to the rules, why should anyone else?
Kuenssberg then addressed chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance and chief medical adviser Chris Whitty, saying:
To the doctors: is that the kind of example you want people to follow?
But Johnson was having none of it, and live on TV blocked the two advisers – who were standing either side of him – from answering any questions.
He began by saying that he'd "said quite a lot on this matter already" and that he was going to "draw a line under the matter" – in other words, he would not answer the question.
He then went on to say:
I know that you've asked Chris and Patrick but I'm going to interpose myself if I may and protect them from what I think would be an unfair and unnecessary, errr, attempt to ask a political question.
It's very very important that our medical officers and scientific advisers do not get dragged into what I think most people recognise is fundamentally a political argument.
Basically, a lot of words and not much substance... and no words at all from the experts who were asked the question.
People were understandably frustrated to see Johnson block the two men who appeared with him at a press conference – the intention of which is to answer questions – from answering the question everyone's been asking all week.
The PM is flatly refusing to allow the scientists to answer legitimate questions about whether Dominic Cummings’ be… https://t.co/m2MsJAnFVI
And no one was buying the "political matter" argument, considering the question is specifically around people observing (or not, as the case may be) lockdown rules put in place to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Wow. Boris Johnson blocks Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance from answering questions on Dominic Cummings f… https://t.co/LN7sTt16do
Johnson's actions in relations to the Cummings debacle have been widely criticised, with many people – and Tory MPs themselves – calling for the PM's adviser to resign based on the revelations, which were reported by the Daily Mirror and The Guardian on Saturday.