Fear is information, and Boris Johnson’s ill-judged address to his virtual party conference last week, in which he decided to not focus on the virus but on the bold future that lay on the other side of the crisis, told us something – it told us that the British Prime Minister is terrified.
The charitable explanation for the speech is that knowing he was about to announce important new COVID 19 constraints, Boris Johnson wanted to deliver hope with a picture of the United Kingdom after the pandemic.
However, right now, all that people want to hear about is how the crisis will end, not how the Conservative party will hold thereafter, and plans for a better tomorrow ring hollow if he can’t deliver a functioning test and trace system today.
A more confident leader would have squared up to the issues, rather than endeavouring to divert the issues and it’s not about learning to live with the virus, it’s about asking how many deaths is too many? And also how many families are they happy and willing to sacrifice?
But Boris Johnson no longer looks like a guy who believes in what he’s doing and he’s losing control of the pandemic, he’s losing control of the narrative and he’s losing the control of his party.
Thrust into policies he despises, he’s struggling to regain his political compass and is running scared of the rebellious MPs, of the right-wing press which has now turned on him, and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, whose positive approval ratings among party members contrast with his own negative rating.
The British public did not blame Boris Johnson for the situation and recognise that all decisions are challenging, but the continued failures are sapping his support.
Boris Johnson sees that the second wave can be linked to Government mistakes and yet, even in his latest plans splitting regions by infection levels, multiple tiers and responses to infection levels, there’s confusion where there needs to be transparency and confrontational actions, such as pub curfews, which are bounced through and never really defended.
Those around the Prime Minister still lash out at the failures of others. They condemn the smug, centralising tendency of Whitehall, which they say has hobbled the effect of test and trace rollout, or what one senior insider dubbed ‘the health deep state’.
None of these points is devoid of merit, but the crisis has raged for months, so when is the responsibility theirs? And increasingly, they sound like mourners at their own funeral.
The irony is that Boris Johnson has a tenable plan. The Government has prioritised hospitals, schools and most of the economy over socialising and the hospitality sector.
We can quibble over the specifics of his latest constraints, but there appears to be a precise, underlying principle and hopefully, it will be the right one, but he doesn’t know what to do or where to start, letting other people decide for him, which was his greatest blunder and failure.
But not to worry, Boris Johnson will probably stand down in the new year after the shock of Brexit hits home. That’s what they generally do, pass the buck to someone else so that they can take the flack.
However, it’s always easier to criticise when you’re not in the driver’s seat, and now that Boris Johnson’s in the hot seat, I bet it’s not so much fun.