General election 2019: Boris Johnson's bad day shows election not over

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Media captionMoment Boris Johnson put ITV reporter's phone in his pocket

Talking to voters around the country two big issues have had the elusive "cut through" in this campaign - the Tories promise to take us out of the EU at the end of next month and Labour's attack on their handling of the NHS.

Of course, other subjects have been part of the conversation but those are the issues that have come up most often during the last few weeks when we've been travelling around the country.

And in every election in recent history, the Labour Party has tried to sow doubts in voters' minds about whether or not the Tories can be trusted with the health service at all.

That's why Boris Johnson's terrible day on the campaign trail today matters.

Sadly, it's all too common for newspapers to feature terrible stories of patients' bad experiences in the health service.

What was unusual today is how Boris Johnson was asked by an ITV Calendar reporter, Joe Pike, about the photograph of four-year-old Jack, who had been pictured on the front page of the Mirror, and refused at first really to engage with it all, then took the journalist's phone and put it in his pocket.

I have seen some pretty weird things in nearly 20 years covering politics, but I have never seen anything quite like that.

It wasn't just a bizarre way of reacting to legitimate questions but the real risk for Mr Johnson is it gave the impression that he didn't want to, and maybe couldn't, understand or empathise with the predicament of the family concerned.

When we asked him about the same subject a few hours later he didn't really want to engage then, resorting back to the party's political script on their spending promises on the health service, with echoes of Theresa May in her 2017 campaign, a million miles away from the punter-friendly campaigner his allies always claim Mr Johnson can be on a good day.

This certainly was not one of them.

And not surprisingly at all, the other parties, particularly Labour who has been struggling to close the gap, have piled in, and piled on the political pressure.

In response, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was sent to the hospital in Leeds to meet the family, find out what had happened and try to smooth things over.

But he faced trouble too, as a small but very noisy group of protesters shouted at him and his team as they left the building.

The story, and the prime minister's weird and wooden response to it, provided the perfect chance for Labour to punch at one of the Conservatives' vulnerabilities, just when they were trying to make a big play for voters who have traditionally stuck with the Labour Party for generations.

And today's events are a blast at any complacency that might have been building in Tory HQ, a reminder even at this late stage, this election isn't over.

Follow election night on the BBC

  • Watch the election night special with Huw Edwards from 21:55 GMT on BBC One, the BBC News Channel, iPlayer
  • As polls close at 22:00, the BBC will publish an exit poll across all its platforms, including @bbcbreaking and @bbcpolitics
  • The BBC News website and app will bring you live coverage and the latest analysis throughout the night
  • We will feature results for every constituency as they come in with a postcode search, map and scoreboards
  • Follow @bbcelection for every constituency result
  • From 21:45 GMT, Jim Naughtie and Emma Barnett will host live election night coverage on BBC Radio 4, with BBC Radio 5 live joining for a simulcast from midnight

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