Mike Granatt, head of the civil contingencies secretariat back in 2001, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Tuesday that the government needs to be more transparent with the public.
He claimed the prime minister was choosing to “hide away” and making up “excuses” for not addressing the fuel crisis which has gripped the nation for four days.
His words followed the Today programme’s confirmation that ministers had chosen not to appear on the radio show, despite being invited to discuss the government’s controversial U-turn over involving the Army.
Today’s host Nick Robinson said: “Now, we would like to speak to a minister about all this at this time, but Downing Street says they are not available.
“They are doing that because of the long-standing convention of leaving the airwaves free for their opponents during party conferences.”
PR expert Granatt then addressed the prime minister’s absence from the media, and referred back to his time with the cabinet office two decades ago when he was working under Tony Blair and another fuel crisis occurred.
He said: “What happened in the end in 2000 is the prime minister got a grip on this stuff, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the fuel operators and gave a press conference and explained to people [what was going on].”
Granatt claimed people only started behaving normally when they learnt it would take three weeks to re-balance the system.
Robinson then asked: “Are you suggesting there’s a sort of Covid-style news conference, Boris Johnson has to say to the country, ‘don’t fill your tank, do of course get petrol if you need it, but unless you go back to normal behaviour there will be chaos for weeks to come?’”
Granatt said: “Yeah, it’s called leadership. We need some. Someone needs to stand up and say this to people rather than hide away.
“I find this excuse about party conferences to be just that – an excuse.”
Robinson replied: “Well, of course, they [ministers] are welcome to come on this programme, they just have to pick up the phone, we would be delighted to interview them this week.”
Tuesday was a particularly important day, as the Downing Street has just changed its messaging surrounding involving the Army with the supply chains.
On Monday, the government said it had no plans to involve soldiers in the ongoing crisis, which stems from a shortage of HGV drivers.
By Monday evening, Downing Street confirmed soldiers were being trained to drive petrol tankers as the Army was put on stand-by although they are yet to be deployed.
Seventy-five military tankers are already lined up to go while a further 75 could soon follow, according to reports.
The explanation behind this U-turn is yet to be addressed by any ministers.
Grannatt, a real old pro (I remember when he was head of the erstwhile Govt Information Service), recalls how Blair literally stood shoulder to shoulder with petrol bosses to tell the public to only fill up tanks of they really needed it.
Wants a Covid style press conference.
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) September 28, 2021
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.