Whatever else, the “optics”, as party image managers like to call them, were as appalling as the case itself. The prime minister, out and about, looked as shifty as a shoplifter when the ITV reporter asked him to return his mobile phone, which Boris Johnson had slipped into his coat pocket rather than confront the image of a four-year-old boy forced to lie on the floor of an NHS hospital in Leeds.

Eventually, rumbled and on camera, the man entrusted with the Queen’s government fished out the smartphone, took a look at the plight of Jack Williment-Barr, and apologised. A standard Johnson dodge to try and get the conversation moved onto Brexit had failed in the most miserable way possible. The footage has the feel of a mask slipping. The damage is done, and not least because the case of Jack is not so unusual. 

We report today on a 12-year-old girl who has waited more than 50 hours in a hospital’s A&E department – this time at the Mid Essex Hospital. Separately, a child waited 17 hours at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

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