A senior BBC journalist was forced to flee to safety after being chased by anti-lockdown protesters in central London.
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***’.
The video shows the journalist – seen wearing a blue BBC lanyard around his neck – being followed by a group of protesters on Whitehall.
One protester is heard asking ‘why have you lied’ as Mr Watts attempts to continue on his journey.
But he appears to be blocked off and, after being surrounded, quickly performs an about-turn and heads back towards Downing Street.
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***’
As he does, a man is seen to shout in his face – moving his head inches from 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.
The video shows the journalist (pictured here appearing on the BBC) being followed by a group of protesters on Whitehall
A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘All journalists should be able to carry out their work without intimidation or impediment.’
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.’
Stefan Simanowitz added: ‘Disturbing footage of BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt, being pursued by anti-lockdown protesters.’
The 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.
Today Michael Gove today flip-flopped over whether the date will definitely see the restrictions scrapped as part of the Government’s newly promised ‘terminus date’.
During a round of interviews this morning, 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.’
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.
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
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.
Asked whether the nation could have returned to hundreds of deaths a day again had restrictions had been lifted as planned on June 21, Professor Medley said: ‘Oh easily. I think we still might at some point.’
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.
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.