Boris Johnson and Priti Patel today condemned the ‘appalling’ behaviour of anti-lockdown protesters who harassed and intimidated a senior BBC journalist, forcing him to flee to safety.
Disturbing footage from the protest shows a baying mob surrounding the journalist as they shout abuse, calling him a ‘traitor’, ‘liar’ and ‘scum’.
Today politician have lined up to condemn the behaviour of those involved. Mr Johnson’s spokesperson described the video as ‘deeply disturbing’.
Asked if the the Conservative leader had seen the footage, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘He has.
‘This footage is deeply disturbing. Journalists should never face that kind of behaviour. The right to protest may be fundamental in our democracy but violence, threats, and intimidation is never acceptable.’
Priti Patel doubled-down on the condemnation, as she described the group as a ‘mob’ and their actions as ‘appalling’.
‘The video of Nick Watt being abused by a mob is appalling and distressing. This behaviour is never acceptable,’ she said in a post on Twitter.
The video begins with the journalist being approached by a group of protesters who spot the blue BBC lanyard around his neck as he walks along Whitehall.
At first he engages with the camera-wielding ‘Resistance GB’ group after mistaking them for a camera crew for GB News.
But he soon works out they are an anti-lockdown and anti-media group who collar him and begin asking questions.
Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt ran behind a line of police near Downing Street, as large-scale protests against the Government’s extension to lockdown rules turned ugly yesterday
Shocking footage shows a baying mob surrounding the journalist as they shout abuse, calling him a ‘traitor’ and a ‘c***’
In one shocking moment, a man is seen to shout in Mr Watt’s face – with his head coming within inches of the journalist’s
*The video below is embedded from Youtube. MailOnline is not responsible for its title.
Boris Johnson’s (pictured left) spokesperson today described the video as ‘deeply disturbing’. Priti Patel (pictured right) doubled-down on the condemnation, as she described the group as a ‘mob’ and their actions as ‘appalling’
Nick Watt – the former Times and Guardian journalist who is now a key figure at BBC Newsnight
Nick Watt is an experienced head at BBC’s flagship political show Newsnight, having had more than 25 years experience on national newspapers.
The video shows the journalist (pictured here appearing on the BBC) being followed by a group of protesters on Whitehall
Now the show’s political editor, a position he has held since 2016, he previously had a distinguished career at the Guardian and the Times.
During his time at the Guardian he served as chief political correspondent and European editor, based in Brussels.
And at The Times, Nick served as Ireland Correspondent based in Belfast during the final years of the Troubles and the beginning of the Northern Ireland peace process.
For almost two minutes the journalist tries to shake-off the group by weaving in and out of watching police officers.
More and more protesters join in and start shouting and harassing the journalist – who begins to walk away from Downing Street.
But as he does the group follow, shouting ‘why have you lied’ as he continues his attempts to evade the group.
He then appears to be blocked off and, after being surrounded, quickly performs an about-turn and heads towards Downing Street.
As he does, a man is seen to shout in Mr Watt’s face – with his head coming within inches of the journalist’s.
Mr Watts then begins to run away from the group, who give chase and continue to shout abuse.
He manages to get to safety behind a line of police officers standing in front of Downing Street.
Today a spokesperson for BBC News condemned the actions of those in the video as ‘completely unacceptable’.
A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘All journalists should be able to carry out their work without intimidation or impediment.’
BBC Newsnight editor Esme Wren also condemned the abuse, saying in a post on Twitter: ‘Harassing and intimidating any journalist is completely unacceptable.
‘All journalists should be able to do their work without impediment or risking their safety.’
BBC newsdesk duty editor Neil Henderson today tweeted the video with a comment, saying: ‘A BBC Correspondent doing his job in Whitehall yesterday. Where does this end?
Fellow BBC journalist Allie Hodgkins-Brown also shared the video, writing on Twitter: ‘This is awful. In Central London 2021. Disagree with us fine. Switch us off fine but no journalist deserves this.’
The anti-lockdown YouTubers loved by Piers Corbyn: Who are Resistance GB?
They are the YouTubers who claim to show the ‘news which the mainstream won’t show you’.
Resistance GB were set up in October 2020 to ‘resist the erosion and abolition of British culture’.
They say their focus is on ‘Natural Rights, Civil Liberties, Police Abuses and Government Criminality in London and wider Great Britain’.
The group, whose logo features a map of the British isles, similar to that of GB News, who were being set up around the same time but to whom they have no relation, claim to feature news which ‘the mainstream news won’t show you’.
But their one notable ‘exclusive’ was an interview with conspiracy theorist and anti-lockdown protester Piers Corbyn – the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – as he announced he was running for London Mayor.
The fact Mr Corbyn was a candidate was covered in all major national news outlets.
Many of the videos featured on their social media site are from protests around the UK – which have often featured prominently on major news websites and on news channels.
The channel are loudly ‘anti-mainstream media’ and have criticised all by the one traditional news outlets, the Daily Express.
Stefan Simanowitz added: ‘Disturbing footage of BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt, being pursued by anti-lockdown protesters.’
The incident comes just weeks after Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, was filmed being harassed in the street for a second time.
In a video apparently filmed and shared online by the person who confronted Mr Whitty in Oxford, the government’s top medical adviser was shown walking briskly down a street as he was followed and bombarded with questions.
It came after Matt Hancock branded a maskless TikToker ‘pathetic’ and ‘ridiculous’ after he abused Mr Whitty in the street in Westminster in a separate incident in February.
The Health Secretary laid into the unnamed teenager, who calls himself ‘AA Bants’, after repeatedly accusing Mr Whitty of ‘lying’ to the nation about the pandemic.
The film, shared on social media platform TikTok, initially showed Mr Whitty saying hello to passers-by.
But he refused to be goaded by the youth who films the scientist standing in a queue while saying: ‘You’re a liar. Mandem is a liar. You lie about the Covid-19 cases man. Stop lying to the TV’.
Speaking at the time, Mr Hancock said: ‘I think the individual concerned is pathetic, I think it is ridiculous what he is doing.
‘Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists and his advice to the Government all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population, has been incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he is a great asset to this nation. The idea that someone would do something as silly as that is ridiculous.’
He added: ‘Chris Whitty is a scientist of great repute and, frankly, he should be respected by everybody. He’s got the big calls right and this man, is not even worth commenting on, this character’.
Yesterday’s incident happened hours before Boris Johnson confirmed that, as had widely been reported in the press earlier that day, the remaining lockdown rules in England would be extended until July 19.
The incident took place amid anti-lockdown protests which took place in London yesterday against the extending of lockdown rules in England. Pictured: Piers Corbyn at the protests
A police officer faces demonstrators during an anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protest in London yesterday
Police link arms outside Downing Street amid protests against the Government’s extension of lockdown in England
Police officers stand guard outside Whitehall in London during an anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protest
Today, Michael Gove, in a round of interviews, flip-flopped over whether the date will definitely see the restrictions scrapped as part of the Government’s newly promised ‘terminus date’.
The Cabinet Office minister was asked if he could promise that the final unlocking will go ahead next month, to which he replied ‘yes’.
But just seconds later he caveated his answer by claiming ‘none of us can predict the future with 100 per cent certainty’, adding that a ‘bizarre and unprecedented’ development in the UK’s Covid crisis could derail the plans.
Mr Gove added: ‘But on the basis of all the information we have, then we will have successfully protected such large sections of the population…. so we’re as confident as confident can be about that date.’
Do you know the men and women in the footage?
The confusing exchange on ITV’s Good Morning Britain came after England’s original June 21 Freedom day was pushed back by a month, following grim modelling by SAGE which forecast a third peak similar to the winter wave if the Government pressed ahead with the roadmap.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said the delay would save ‘thousands’ of lives. But this morning, prominent SAGE member Professor Graham Medley warned that even with the extra month, Britain could still suffer hundreds of Covid deaths every day.
Professor Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and head of SAGE’s modelling panel SPI-M, said ‘everyone expects’ fatalities to rise in the coming weeks, following a huge surge in cases from the Indian variant which has resulted in an uptick in hospitalisations.
Despite admitting there was ‘huge uncertainty’ over exactly how the third wave will pan out over the next few months, he warned it is still possible that the nation could be battered by another surge in deaths — hinting that thousands could succumb to the virus over the coming months.
Experts have said that because the Indian variant is so infectious, it will inevitably spill into unvaccinated groups and the small percentage of people for whom the jabs don’t work – even after most adults have been jabbed and the country reopens.
Announcing the month-long delay in the roadmap last night, Mr Johnson insisted he could not press ahead until more people are double-jabbed. He said he was ‘pretty confident’ that restrictions will be able to be lifted by then, adding that the disease cannot be ‘eliminated’ and the country will have to learn to ‘live with it’ in the future.
Chief medic Chris Whitty, flanking the PM as usual alongside Sir Patrick Vallance, told the Downing Street briefing hospitalisations had risen 61 per cent in the North West in just a week, a trend that was predicted to follow suit nationally if June 21 went ahead. ‘The assessment of risk has fundamentally shifted,’ he said.
Modelling submitted to SAGE showed how many people could die each day with the rapid spread of the Indian variant. Warwick University researchers made their estimates (red) based on the assumption that the Indian variant is 56 per cent more transmissible, and that fully vaccinated people are given 90 per cent protection against hospital admission. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers (blue) used similar figures to come to their conclusions. Dotted lines number one to four show the different dates restrictions were eased
Before the pandemic took hold in Britain last spring, people made contact with around 11 others every day, on average. But that figure plummetted to around three during the depths of the Covid crisis. The figure currently stands at around 6.5, according to one study called Comix (pictured)
Michael Gove flip-flopped over whether July 19 will definitely see England’s remaining lockdown restrictions scrapped as part of the Government’s newly promised ‘terminus date’ during a confusing interview on ITV this morning (left). Professor Graham Medley (right), from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE, said Britain could be faced with hundreds of daily Covid deaths despite the delay to the roadmap
The move means that current rules will essentially remain in place until July 19 — with social distancing in force in bars and restaurants, and the edict to work from home where possible staying.
In an effort to soften the blow for people who have been putting their lives on hold for more than a year, there will be some easing on the rules for weddings. The 30-person limit on services and receptions will be abandoned but venues will still be restricted by how many they can accommodate while respecting social distancing rules.
But Mr Johnson’s own MPs are livid at the move, with fears running high this delay is only the first and lockdown might not be dropped at all. He will face a Commons showdown with them tomorrow, with the new regulations requiring a debate and a vote.
Although they are certain to go through with Labour support, the scale of the rebellion from Tory MPs will show the level of anger he is facing. Vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs Sir Charles Walker said that ‘existing isn’t living’ as he raised concerns that restrictions will stay in place all summer.
Labour today blamed the delay of Freedom Day on the Government’s ‘lax’ border measures for letting the Indian variant into the country.
Professor Medley admitted that the mutant strain ‘may well not have grown in the same way that it has’ had ministers acted quicker to clamp down on travel from India.