Downing Street is forced to deny bizarre claim Boris Johnson was wearing an EARPIECE and was ‘being fed answers by Dominic Cummings’ during bruising PMQs – but is it just a ‘weird flap of skin’ in PM’s ear?
- Labour MPs were among those who suggested he was receiving help today
- Social media wags suggested images showed communications device in his ear
- Downing Street said the claim was not true
He has struggled in recent Prime Ministers Questions against a resurgent Labour under Sir Keir Starmer.
But Downing Street was forced to deny a bizarre claim that Boris Johnson received help at the Despatch Box this afternoon via an earpiece.
Labour MPs were among those who suggested he was receiving help in his confrontation the Leader of the Opposition after a shadowy image of his head circulated online.
Social media wags suggested the image showed a communications device in his ear, nestled below his increasingly unkept lockdown mop.
It was picked up by MPs including Laboir’s Bill Esterson, who said: ‘If he was receiving help, it didn’t show.
‘He was as useless as ever in response to calm, sensible scrutiny from Keir Starmer.’
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman this afternoon said: ‘It is fair to say the Prime Minister was not wearing an earpiece.’
Online wags suggested the image showed a communications device in his ear, nestled below his increasingly unkept lockdown mop
Labour MPs were among those who suggested he was receiving help in his confrontation the Leader of the Opposition after a shadowy image of his head circulated online
What are the rules on electronic devices in the Commons?
Using an earpiece to take instructions from outside the Commons would break rules on the use of electronics in the chamber.
Under guidelines introduced in 2011, MPs are allowed to use handheld devices like phones and tablets – but not laptops – ‘provided that they are silent and used in a way which does not impair decorum’
They can be used during speeches in place of paper notes.
But they must be set to silent, and an earpiece that transmits vocal instructions would appear to fall foul of this restriction.
The official guide to Parliamentary rules and etiquette, Erskine May, notes: ‘The Speaker has regularly deprecated the failure of Members to turn off mobile phones or other devices which may give rise to disturbance, and listening to a message is unacceptable.’
It is not the first time Mr Johnson has been accused of wearing an earpiece at an important event.
Allegations swept Twitter in November when he took part in a BBC Question Time leaders’ debate ahead of the General Election.
But that was dismissed after it was revealed that he has ‘a weird flap of skin in his right ear that sometimes gets picked up by lights and camera flashes’.
Today’s claim came as Sir Keir today took the gloves off in his battle against Mr Johnson as he battered the Prime Minister over the Government’s test and trace programme, decision to reopen schools and transparency.
Sir Keir tried to use PMQs this lunchtime to score body blows on the PM over key parts of the Government’s coronavirus response.
But a furious Mr Johnson hit back and accused the Labour leader of delivering ‘endless attacks on public trust and confidence’.
Labour had adopted a largely constructive approach to the crisis to date, with the shadow cabinet seemingly reluctant to blast the Government in public.
Today marked a dramatic shift in approach as Sir Keir told Mr Johnson: ‘The Prime Minister is confusing scrutiny for attacks.’
Sir Keir also looked to capitalise on reports that the PM has now decided to take more control of the Government’s coronavirus strategy.
In an apparent reference to Mr Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings, the Labour leader said: ‘The Telegraph is reporting this morning that the Prime Minister has decided to take direct control of the Government’s response to the virus.
‘So an obvious question for the Prime Minister, who’s been in direct control up until now?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I take full responsibility for everything this Government has been doing in tackling coronavirus and I’m very proud of our record’.
Despite the bruising exchanges, Tory spirits were likely to have been lifted by Mr Johnson’s robust responses after a number of performances in recent weeks in which pundits suggested Sir Keir had got the better of the PM.
The clashes at PMQs came as the Government faced growing pressure over the roll out of the NHS Test and Trace programme.
Reports suggest that the system is failing to trace the contacts of approximately 60 per cent of people who have tested positive for the disease.