HEALTH and Social Care minister Helen Whately left Question Time viewers “speechless” last night when she struggled to explain self-isolation rules.

Last night’s edition of the programme was broadcast from “Glasgow” with a panel mainly representing Scotland-based figures and a digital audience of people all from the city.

Whately appeared on the programme as the official UK Government representative but struggled to defend the Prime Minister’s approach to this week’s Dominic Cummings row.

The minister has recently struggled during TV interviews with Piers Morgan.

Asked whether she felt Cummings’s 260-mile trip to Durham while sick with Covid-19 during lockdown would change how other people behave as the test and trace scheme is implemented in England, Whately said: “What we’ve seen so far is people consciously following the guidance and in fact the guidance has included recognising that some situations will be more difficult, for instance if you’re looking after somebody that’s particularly vulnerable, you have a childcare situation.”

Fiona Bruce cut her off: Just to be clear – so if you have a childcare situation, since you mentioned it, you have a problem with childcare, and you happen to one of the people identified as someone who has to stay at home for two weeks, you may not necessarily have to stay at home then.”

Whately said people would “clearly have to make sure that your child is safe as any parent should do so”.

The presenter then pushed again: “So if you have to leave home to do that – even if you’ve been told to self-isolate – you can do that.”

Whately kept going: “If you’re contacted because you’re a contact of somebody that’s got symptoms and told to isolate at home then you should be able to do some at home. Everyone will have had their scenarios.”

But Bruce continued to try and get an answer out of her. She said to the minister: “Just to be clear because it is important, we’re all going to have to adjust to this new system. If you are told to self-isolate at home for two weeks because you’ve been in contact with someone who has symptoms but you have problems with that and you find it difficult because of childcare issues you can behave otherwise, you don’t have to self-isolate at home?”

The minister then said you should follow the guidance, but didn’t think anyone would want a child to be in an unsafe situation. Bruce then asked if the rules are now to follow the guidance unless you can’t.

Whately said: “That’s not what I’m saying actually at all. You should absolutely follow the guidance and that’s been the case all the way through of people should follow the guidance. Well the guidance has always said that safety would be a factor and you should be clearly a responsible parent.

“But what’s really important is people follow the guidance and through doing that that’s how we manage to keep the infection rate under control and so life can get back to normal or closer to normal which would be so much better for everybody.”

So still not much clarity on that then. It’s unbelievable how much the Tories are willing to spin just to defend their top adviser’s behaviour.

On Twitter people couldn’t believe the minister’s performance during the programme. Clare Hepworth posted: “Helen Whately #bbcqt I'm speechless. She's a Health Minister for goodness sake.With, I believe, responsibilty for Social Care. Another Minister, promoted beyond competence,  not on top of her brief.”

Another user said: “Helen Whateley on #bbcqt looks like she is really struggling with all those care home deaths which she knows she hasn’t got a convincing story for. Either that or she forgot to put anything in the fridge for dinner, it’s hard to tell.”

User @helenmallam added: “This bewildered woman is a government minister. We have to get the Tories out before they drown us all in their bullshit. #bbcqt”