Remember the daily press conferences, where a government minister, flanked by two experts (or Didi Harding), would update the country on the state of the coronavirus pandemic? Boris Johnson always did the important briefings, flanked by Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance. Today, it was just Whitty and Vallance. How so?
Here we need to state the bleeding obvious. Advisors are there to advise the government, government makes the actual decisions, presumably on the basis of of the advice they are given. The reason why Whitty and Vallance spoke without Johnson and didn’t take questions from journalists is because the prime minister is going to do stuff tomorrow that they don’t agree with. Excluding awkward questions is what Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson avoid like the plague, or COVID-19.
My guess is that the boffins feel strong action is required and Johnson, with his so-called libertarian beliefs, doesn’t want to do anything with anything that curtails our freedoms. Never the twain shall meet. To that end, I suspect we are going to get a mealy-mouthed, half-arsed statement tomorrow.
I hope I am very wrong about this, but I sense that it will not be quite as easy to persuade people to do as they have been told this time. In March, Johnson told us to stay at home but soon it emerged that his chief advisor, Dominic Cummings who helped put together the stay at home policy concluded it didn’t apply to him. For many people, including me, that was the day when I would make my own decisions about what was safe and what wasn’t. I still do, taking precautions as best I can to protect myself and others. But right from the start, large numbers of people have ignored the rules on household gatherings and social distancing. Judging from the scenes this summer at holiday towns, shopping malls and many pubs, a simple instruction by Johnson will not be met with the seriousness it should expect. Because of Johnson’s woeful handling of the virus, his lies and over-promising and his pathetic parliamentary performances, he is a diminished figure, other than for those who like the idea of an after dinner speaker and TV show host as prime minister.
Whitty and Vallance explained the possibility that unless action was taken, there would be 50,000 new cases a day by mid October and 200 deaths a day by November. I don’t doubt that for a moment. Unless the evidence of my own eyes is false, I feel that is exactly the road we are travelling. It is not just the growing band of cranks and fruitcakes who believe the evidence-free nonsense of COVID-19 deniers and anti-vaxxers, but the public, weary of the virus who have simply had enough. Even a decent and competent prime minister would struggle in this situation. A chancer, shyster and a serial liar like Johnson will always be found out.
Whitty and Vallance built it all up today. The virus is sweeping back across the land, urgent steps must be taken. Tomorrow, Johnson will, I suspect, tinker around the edges and bring in changes that will make little difference. And in a few weeks, he will be back again, blaming us, the Great British Public for forcing him to impose a tougher lockdown.
Perhaps, if the daily briefings hadn’t been scrapped, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We might all have had a better idea of what was going on from experts, rather than the bullshit and bluster from the likes of Johnson. I believed Whitty and Vallance when they spoke today but I’ll wager their comments were approved first by Dominic Cummings. They’ll have been told what they could say and what they couldn’t. That’s why there were no questions from journalists at the end.
Tomorrow, we’ll get the usual stuff from Johnson. I’m beginning to think he’s a busted flush and I reckon millions of others have now seen through him and seen the empty shell that lies within. Anything Johnson ever says must be treated with caution, with the expectation that at least some of what he says is a lie. If he tells the truth tomorrow, how will we know?