London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday was heavily criticised for snatching away a reporter’s phone and putting it in his pocket after the latter tried to show him a photograph of a sick boy who was forced to lie on the floor of a hospital while waiting for treatment.
The incident happened ahead of general elections in the United Kingdom, scheduled to take place on December 12, for which Johnson was being interviewed about the state of affairs in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) system, The Washington Post reported.
A video of the incident was later shared on Twitter by ITV’s political correspondent Joe Pike.
“Tried to show @BorisJohnson the picture of Jack Williment-Barr. The 4-year-old with suspected pneumonia forced to lie on a pile of coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital. The prime minister grabbed my phone and put it in his pocket,” Pike tweeted.
The video, which was watched by over 1 million viewers on social media in just a couple of hours sparked widespread concern, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who also accused the prime minister of not caring about the NHS crisis and its impact on the sick and vulnerable.
“He just doesn’t care,” Corbyn tweeted.
Throughout the video, the prime minister can be seen refusing to look at the photo, adding that he had not seen it but “had been told about it by the BBC.”
“I have every sympathy with families,” Johnson says.
When called out by Pike for taking his phone, the prime minister looks down at the screen saying: “It’s a terrible terrible photo, and I apologise obviously to the families and all those having a terrible time in the NHS.”
On Thursday, Britons will vote in an election expected to be dominated by Brexit issues. The electorate is polarised, with some calling the choice between Johnson and Corbyn the worst in a generation. Johnson remains popular but is also deeply divisive.
Voting centres across the country will be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. (local time). The result is set to be announced in the early hours of Friday morning (local time).