Boris Johnson’s address the the nation on Sunday evening has not found wide-spread approbation across the nation. Some commentators have focused on the mud-like clarity of the new directives but others have dug into deeper causes for concern around the implied message of the content and the nature of how it was delivered.
Jon Alexander makes a case for the shift from “stay at home” to “stay alert” being a cynically motivated move from leopards who have not changed their spots. He suggests that since there is growing discontent about Government failures while they have been telling us what to do, the new wording sets the Johnson camp up to pass the blame onto the public (we frequently demonstrate that “common sense” is an oxymoron) while simultaneously letting them deride anyone who objects as not having faith in the people of England (Alexander says “Britain” but the other three national governments have retained responsibility for now). It might sound clever, a wizard wheeze, but it stinks of cynical populism and the worst caricatures of public school wickedness. I hope Keir Starmer asks some pointed questions at Prime Minister’s Questions today.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 tweeted a clip of Conservative MP Peter Bone delivering a scathing critique of how Johnson delivered the message. He argues that the rules of a parliamentary democracy mean that new policies should be discussed in the house first before being thrown out to the public. Johnson is inclined to surround himself with zealous supporters and play to the crowd. However, since he isn’t a fictional president but the elected Prime Minister of a country that is deep in a hole, he needs to give a lot more thought to his responsibilities rather than his reputation.
Given that we are in a period of crisis, I would much rather be able to voice support for the Government but I want to see more evidence that they are supporting and caring for the country they have been elected to serve.