WHAT was he thinking of?

On the day Chris Whitty, the UK Government’s chief medical brain, spent hours on the morning media shift urging people to “double down” on complying with the Covid-19 restrictions, Boris Johnson told people to "do the right thing" and stick to the rules. But just hours earlier he had been merrily cycling seven miles from his home in No 10.

In the you-couldn’t-make-it-up category, a Whitehall source, confirming the Prime Minister’s Sunday two-wheel jaunt around London’s Olympic Park, pointed out how Boris “did note how busy the park was” and was “concerned about if people were following the rules”.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson branded hypocrite for cycling seven miles from No 10 home

At the Monday Downing St press conference Matt Hancock referred by sheer coincidence about someone exercising for seven miles, stressing how it was “okay to go for a long walk or cycle ride or exercise” but added: “Stay local.”

At first No 10 was tight-lipped but later made clear the PM had acted properly as taking exercise was “in accordance with the guidance”.

Allegra Stratton, Mr Johnson’s Press secretary, asked if her boss regretted his bike ride, replied: “He will…be doing bike rides again; you all know how much he loves his bike.”

HeraldScotland:

Earlier, Kit Malthouse, the Policing Minister, summed up the inevitable position No 10 would adopt, namely, that “staying local” was “open to interpretation”.

People, insisted Mr Malthouse, broadly knew what local meant, adding: “If you can get there under your own steam and you are not interacting with somebody…then that seems perfectly reasonable to me.”

While one might be able to interpret the PM’s cycle ride as having abided by the letter of the rules, as they apply in England, they certainly don’t seem to be in the spirit of them.

READ MORE: PM reportedly spotted cycling several miles from Downing St despite UK Govt guidance to 'stay local'

Indeed, his actions will again chip away at people's confidence in the regulations. Optics are important for politicians, particularly at times of national crisis, but Boris has once more put a spoke in the Government's message.

To quote one of Mr Johnson's predecessors, John Major, who noted: "The problem with being Prime Minister is, that once you cross the threshold of Downing St, you begin to lose touch with reality."

It was not as though the PM did not have somewhere scenic to ride around on his doorstep; it’s called Regent’s Park. Surely, he could have jumped on his bike for a cycle around one of the most beautiful spots in the UK capital, taking in Horseguards Parade, the Mall and Buckingham Palace.

HeraldScotland:

Labour MP Andy Slaughter was quick to brand Boris a hypocrite and said his bike ride had been yet another example of “do as I say not as I do”.

This was a reference to the infamous four-wheel trip made by Dominic Cummings, the PM’s trusted beanie hat-wearing ex-aide, who went to Barnard Castle during the first lockdown to test his eyesight for driving.

One eye-witness to Mr Johnson’s Sunday spin in east London noted how he was “leisurely cycling with another guy with a beanie hat and chatting” as his security team followed behind.

A beanie hat? It couldn’t have been, could it?