September 29, 2020
You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.
He’s Gaffe-Prone, But Will Boris Johnson Outwit His Backbench Critics Again?
In the 1970s, there was a spoof American soap opera called Soap which began with a brief summary of its complex plot, followed by the narrator’s line: “Confused? You won’t be after this week’s episode…” After Boris Johnson’s car-crash attempt to explain lockdown regulations in the north east on Tuesday, it seems his own communications strategy is now bordering on low farce too.
It’s to be hoped that the PM’s press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance on Wednesday will be much clearer than the baffling, bumbling performance the poor public had to endure today. The fact that he had to put out a tweet correcting himself (it’s illegal to mix households in any indoor setting in the north east, and advisable to avoid mixing even outdoors) said it all.
There was even a phenomenon rarer than hen’s teeth, an actual Johnson apology, though only for misspeaking rather than any policy error. But that hint of regret was in fact nowhere near as strong as the PM’s overall bullish approach to the local lockdowns. They were for the good of those involved, and that was it.
There was a similar note of defiance too in his skills speech today, as he went out of his way not once but twice to stress that his planning reforms were essential to getting more affordable homes for families. One Tory backbencher said to me recently that the rebellion over the planning changes would be “miles bigger” than either the Covid revolt or the unease over BREAKING international law.
But although the PM is authorising concessions on both Covid accountability and the Internal Markets Bill, neither really means giving up real power. The Neill amendment melted in the face of government flattery and so too may the Coronavirus rebellion (no one is really changing the fundamentals of the 1984 Public Health Act’s draconian powers).
Similarly, while there may at some point be some small tweaks to his planning reforms, it seemed today that this was a PM who has made his mind up and wants to just get on with it. That Dominic Cummings is a big backer of the housing development drive to end Nimbyism is not a coincidence. And while Johnson doesn’t share Cummings’ dripping contempt for Tory backbenchers, some may think he’s hoodwinking them nevertheless.
And on Covid more generally, it seems that Johnson is sticking to his strategy (stubbornly his critics will say, doggedly his admirers will say) of avoiding a second national lockdown. Today’s big jump in the number of cases of Covid in the UK will worry many that Whitty and Vallance’s projections are coming true, but figures for hospitalisations and deaths are what seem to really be the PM’s focus.
And on both, his supporters think there are glimmers of good news, with both either rising slowly or plateauing in recent days. While some measures don’t appear to have prevented big case rises in certain areas already in lockdown, the low hospitalisations and deaths are at least encouraging.
If they do start ticking upwards, however, the PM will be in very difficult territory. Being gaffetastic about the rules is one thing, looking like you’ve lost control is another entirely. Defiant adherence to a plan could easily curdle into dangerous deafness.
If hospitalisations do indeed spike, he may have to consider not just a national lockdown, not just heavy penalties for those who break the rules, but also something he’s not been willing to envisage so far: a generous, realistic wage subsidy for those forced to self isolate but who can’t currently afford it. Maybe the really bold thing to do would be to get on with that now, without waiting to see if numbers rise or stabilise.
Add in chancellor Rishi Sunak’s own gamble of refusing to come up with a strong furlough replacement, and the growing north-south divide over corona curbs (lots of Tory MPs pointed out they had zero cases in their leafy constituencies today, not a great look even if true) and the next few weeks are going to be quite a risky ride for the PM. Related... Boris Johnson’s Covid Restrictions Could Face Legal Challenge, Top MPs Warn NHS Test And Trace Appoints Sainsbury’s Boss To Run Testing, Leaked Email Reveals Boris Johnson Admits Lockdown Rules Are 'Confusing' As He Struggles To Explain Them
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
See inside the $11M NYC apartment where Jennifer Aniston grew up | Page Six Celebrity News
January 22, 2021
Rolu0nEerZE
Mira Furlan, ‘Lost’ and ‘Babylon 5’ actress, dead at 65 | Page Six Celebrity News
January 22, 2021
oWn6ovHp8Kc
‘Too Hot to Handle’ star Francesca Farago and new girlfriend pack on PDA | Page Six Celebrity News
January 21, 2021
GhpFhAiVuD0
Jamie Dornan & Eddie Redmayne Remember Nightmare Auditions When They Were Roommates Actors on Actors
January 24, 2021
R7yV_QSFM5I
Andra Day & Leslie Odom Jr. On Playing Musical Icons Billie Holiday and Sam Cooke | Actors on Actors
January 23, 2021
WFD7JFy5G-s
‘WandaVision’ Star Teyonah Parris on Embodying Marvel Superhero Monica Rambeau
January 21, 2021
8Ul8IaG7ypQ
Frontier Airlines Passenger Complains About Sick Passenger and Told He Should Drive | TMZ
January 24, 2021
VC2XrqJX6_8
Mattel Honors Poet Maya Angelou With Barbie Doll | TMZ TV
January 21, 2021
nEnK5Q3VqeY
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend Go Horseback Riding With Kids | TMZ TV
January 21, 2021
5CpLrILyT1U
Selena Gomez: A Voice for Change
January 24, 2021
QnqEnITH9OM
Madison LeCroy Pulls Out Jay Cutler "Receipts" After Kristin Reunion
January 24, 2021
didPkNObNKA
Kate Middleton & Prince William Get a New Puppy
January 24, 2021
NGlorQqPvuo
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
24
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Schalke - Bayern Munich
24
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Valencia
24
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Elche - Barcelona
24
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Verona - Napoli
24
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Bologna
24
Jan
ENGLAND: Championship
Middlesbrough - Blackburn
24
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Hoffenheim - Koln
24
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Sampdoria
24
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Celta Vigo - Eibar
24
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Sassuolo
24
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Cagliari
23
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Alaves - Real Madrid
23
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Inter Milan
23
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Atalanta
23
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Spezia
22
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Monchengladbach - Borussia Dortmund
21
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Eibar - Atletico Madrid
21
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Burnley
20
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Aston Villa
20
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Bayern Munich
20
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Fulham - Manchester United
19
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Dortmund
19
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Chelsea
18
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Newcastle United
18
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - AC Milan
17
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Juventus
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.