First, the qualification. Thank God Jeremy Corbyn isn’t prime minister. Can you imagine it, Diane Abbott in charge of – well, anything, really. And Magic Grandpa himself, giving ill-tempered news conferences, reading out a speech by Seumas Milne, unable to answer even the most basic questions. We wouldn’t be having panic buying at supermarkets: we’d have riots. However, after today’s piss poor effort by Boris Johnson, I am only marginally less terrified than I was earlier.
Even though Johnson was flanked by proper experts like chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty, the overall impression was of a government making it up as it goes along. Don’t go to the pub, don’t go to a restaurant, don’t go to a gig; in short, don’t do all the things we said it was all right to do a few days ago. We’re not four weeks behind Italy, it’s three, except for London which is two weeks ahead of the rest of the UK, although it’s not clear whether London is three weeks behind Italy or one. It was as if last week’s update never happened.
Johnson, his hair deliberately tousled as usual, looked exhausted. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The man who wanted to be king and the man who made a good living from acting the clown had to act sensibly. But when the paint was removed, there was nothing left, other than a posh, pampered multimillionaire, who had spent much of his journalistic and political life saying what he wanted, lying through his teeth. When the country desperately needed strong leadership, it was presented with an empty shell.
Unlike Messrs Vallance and Whitty, I am not an expert on either science or medicine. I believe what they say, and yet something didn’t feel right. They seemed prepared enough, but Johnson didn’t.
Parents everywhere, I am sure, were desperate to know what was happening regarding schools. Johnson didn’t even mention schools until the Q&A, except to say they’d be staying open because there was no point in closing them. And what nobody said was the unsayable: that children and young people appear to be either immune from symptoms or the symptoms they suffer seem to be minimal. The government has made a definitive choice to allow young people to be infected. It’s almost certainly the right call, but I can’t help thinking there is an element of being economical with the truth.
My big problem with Boris Johnson, and whether you are a Tory or not, it should be yours, is that he is a compulsive liar and he is untrustworthy. It’s what he does. The bigger the porky, the better. Yet, because the country is in crisis, and because Johnson won a landslide majority at the election, our future depends on what he says and does.
If we are merely three weeks behind Italy, that means in three weeks time, the numbers of deaths will be like theirs. Today, 368, a 25% increase. These will all be people who would not have died but for Covid-19. They may have had ‘underlying medical issues’, but they would not otherwise have died. And Italy is believed to be nowhere near peak coronavirus, possibly a month away.
Yes, we can breathe a sigh of relief that Jeremy Corbyn is not in charge of the biggest national crisis of our lifetimes, but on the basis of Johnson’s shit show today there are few reasons to be cheerful.
Johnson didn’t cancel anything, he just suggested to people they don’t go to the pub, cinema, concert, restaurant and just about everywhere else. Cheap, nasty politics to deflect the blame when thousands of businesses go to the wall and avoid compensation. That’s the measure of the man we elected king. Well, I didn’t.