Monday 11 May 2020

Is Boris Johnson Losing It?

Not the plot, nor his grasp on the crisis which has been woeful from the beginning. I'm talking his grip on public opinion. Since emerging back into view his performance has proven pretty lacklustre as the mounting contradictions and incompetencies of his government catch up with him. Take last night's address as a case in point. A muddled slogan, a pledge to keep the virus under control and ... calling for a generalised return to work for construction and manufacturing. Matters were no better in the Commons this afternoon. Questioned by Keir Starmer all he could do was bluster and chunter as it was revealed the rules governing the return to work hadn't been released yet. Compounding Johnson's woes are the - right - refusals of the governments of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland to follow his plan, and the absurdity of some of the new rules too. You can arrange to meet a family member as long as the appropriate distance is adhered to, but only one at a time. With the wheels coming off, is Johnson finally in danger of being seen less Churchill, and more over the hill? Is this the beginning of the end?

I made the mistake of nearly writing Johnson off before. That was in a period of acute crisis in his party operating in a hung parliament. Now he has a huge majority and is soaring in the polls, although this has more to do with sections of the voters rallying around the government as the sole means of organising the nationwide struggle with coronavirus. Therefore, while it is obvious to the great bulk of people reading these words think Johnson is making a hash of it, is this the case for ordinary punter land? For the centrists gripped by Keir's Commons outings it's obvious quoting numbers and dates at Johnson, for whom detail is delegated to minions, are so much gotchas. But if the never-ending political crisis of last Autumn taught us anything, with larger audiences, constitutional outrages galore and some of the most awful performances ever turned in by a Prime Minister Johnson's incompetence was confirmed only among those who already thought Johnson was incompetent. For those who switched to the Tories in December, it merely confirmed his seriousness of intent.

Alas, this situation requires adroitness and skill. One cannot simply barrel through and call the opposition disloyal or motivated by petty point scoring, though that hasn't stopped some Tory outriders. What is going to do for Johnson are not the mixed up figures and stumbling delivery, but the direct experience of voters themselves. Among cohorts of workers getting sent back to work on Wednesday is that layer of older manufacturing workers who voted Brexit, and lent the Tories their votes to get it done. Giving the government the benefit of the doubt is easy when other people are in harm's way, but grows more difficult when you and your family are expected to risk yourselves. And as the infection rate goes up as per the easing of lockdowns everywhere else, so will the jitters, the worries, and the discontent. Likewise, as others start losing their jobs because they refuse to return to work, this will have knock on effects not to the Tories' advantage. Even the ludicrous switch from Stay at Home to Stay Alert, with its lists of absurd dos and don'ts is problematic because it impinges on the everyday and introduces confusion into what was an irksome but easily understood set up. When even Philip Schofield is articulating the worries of his daytime audiences and saying "if this was in a farce in the telly no government would arse it up that much", the government have got to watch themselves. But it appears not. Almost, you might say, as if they have other concerns at the forefront of their approach.

This then is the moment of maximum danger for Johnson, and is make or break time for the remainder of their government. The leeway gifted him by the situation is not infinitely wide, and while he has escaped political penalty for the accumulating count of largely unnecessary and preventable deaths, easing restrictions amidst a muddle of new rules and sending millions back to work where a new spike in infections awaits means his Covid-19 honeymoon is likely to get cut short. A pity, an entirely avoidable pity that many lives will be too. There is then no hiding for Johnson this time. This reckless and unforgivable decision is entirely his.

Image Credit


Anonymous said...

Just watched Starmer make a an absolute monkey again of Johnson at PMQT today. It's now beyond embarrassing for the Tories. What a ramshackled mob this lot are.

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

So the UK has one of the highest death rates, it locked down way too late, didn't lock down nearly hard enough and it has decided to end the lockdown way too early. Basically the Tories are playing roulette with all our lives.

The Tories are spitting in all our faces.

The Tories are a bigger danger to the life of Brits than ISIS.

Economics is not science its human madness, there is no scientific basis behind the idea that sports direct not opening leads to starvation. It is just bat shit crazy economic 'reasoning'.

When ecenomists debate it is on a purely meta-physical level. It is the equivalent of two religious people debating whether God created the word in 6 or 7 days, ha, but he rested on the 7th!

In other words this crazy system is in crisis because people are only consuming what they need.

I don't think capitalism can survive any of the challenges that are around the corner, to be honest this system cannot cope with the present.

Anyone defending this system and asking for an end to lockdown is as reactionary as it can possibly be.

And incidentally Keir fucking Starmer, there is no such thing as an Exit strategy, only exit. the strategy you should have been calling for was a lockdown strategy, but I am guessing your advisors said the whole the exit strategy shtick would look good among the AB, C1 and C2 social groups - those fuckers love a strategy!

Anonymous said...

Great morning read Phil - you should charge a wee sum for this.

George Carty said...

Wow, it looks like just as surely as the Brexit vote did with the racists and Islamophobes, the Covid-19 crisis is bringing the puritans and degrowthers out of the woodwork!

Italy had a far more severe lockdown than the UK but still has a terrible death toll. It seems though that care homes were a common factor in all the countries that have suffered high death tolls, often close to half of all the Covid-19 deaths.

The disease is largely spread by the care home staff which (in the UK) are often hired via agencies and work in multiple locations. Many of them will have been asymptomatic, while others who were showing symptoms were still showing up for work because they couldn't take time off (because they didn't get sick pay, and/or were on zero-hour contracts).

Doesn't this suggest that the way to prevent similar disasters in future is use regulation to ensure care home staff get adequate sick pay, and are prevented from working at more than one location? In addition, during pandemics it would be prudent to actually lock the staff in along with the residents, so that no-one goes in or out of the care homes for the duration. This approach has been followed in Malta and as a result they have suffered no Covid-19 deaths in their care homes.

Of course, the government would need to at least double their pay in compensation for this loss of liberty (as well as providing care for any of their young children or other dependents) but this loss of liberty is far less than that from locking down the wider society.

Martin Davis said...

Mind you, this article did nothing good for tOSPOPE's blood pressure...

DFTM said...

"Wow, it looks like just as surely as the Brexit vote did with the racists and Islamophobes, the Covid-19 crisis is bringing the puritans and degrowthers out of the woodwork!"

Interestingly it appears to be the far right, Brexiters and Islamophobes who are most vocal in their opposition to social distancing, and it doesn't take a genius in virology to understand why social distancing is important in stopping the spread of viruses, though some people seem unable to grasp this and come up with all sorts of crazy shit to deny it. Yes looking at you Carty.

I mean there are some very basic questions that remain unknown:

Are people who have had the virus immune? - No one knows
Will the next phase of the virus be much more deadly as it was with Spanish Flu? = No one knows!
Will a workable vaccine be produced? - no one knows
etc etc etc

Given this uncertainty you would think caution would be the only way forward, but in the death cult that is capitalism that is shelved for lets all go back to work and pray this thing just politely goes away! The thing is if that did happen, if the reckless gamble of the Tories paid off then people would say how well they did, such is the idiocy out there.

It is ironic that the far right are most vocal in opposition to the scientific approach to this virus, i.e. social distancing. Ironic because anyone who breaks these social distancing rules is far more dangerous than a suicide bomber or someone carry a knife or machine gun. A suicide bomber can only blow up those in the immediate vicinity, those with a machine gun will run out of bullets, the idiots who break social distancing are potentially risking everyone's lives.

We should treat these people like we treat suicide bombers, actually if a woman is being gang raped in the street no one says it would be oh so puritanical to stop the fun that those guys are having with that woman! Again looking at you Carty!

Carty is a prime example of dumb fuck disease (see also Boffy) that seems to be a novel side effect of this novel virus!