Perhaps Boris Johnson has realised that being Prime Minister is not such a jolly good wheeze after all. I really hope so. Because in the next few weeks a lot of people are going to die before their time in horrible circumstances. And many, many businesses will go under leaving families on the breadline. There will be anger. There will be grieving.
I commend Johnson for relying on the science. I commend the Chancellor for a hard hitting and realistic budget. But now they must rely on the message. And that message is becoming confused.
Johnson must learn from the lesson that Macmillan taught Thatcher before she sent a fleet to liberate the Falklands. Don’t let the Treasury control events and let the experts, not the politicians, deliver the message.
The civil servant who delivered the terrible messages of loss and carnage was a rather dull man called Ian McDonald. They chose him simply because he was dull. They chose him because he just gave the facts. No spin. No hysteria. No emotion. And the public trusted him because of it.
As I have written many times before, this government and this Prime Minister will be tested almost to destruction over the handling of Covid:19. The public are not fools. They don’t want to be entertained. They don’t want to be given false levels of hope. They don’t want to be cheered up. They want to be reassured by people who know how to protect their friends and loved ones. They don’t want to hear hollow promises from here today and off to fill my boots with speaker circuit cash tomorrow politicians. This is a moment for the experts to tell us hard truths that many of us are terrified to hear. And it would be wise for the politicians and their ambitious advisors to nod in assent. The science is not perfect. But it has been war gamed for over a decade and it is fast moving. The experts are the people we can trust.
So please may we have a daily briefing from the professionals rather than Vaudeville? May we please have a moratorium on counter briefings from those who seek the main chance and have become experts on super forecasting after reading two sides of A4?
The nation is sitting on a powder keg of panic and dread. Cool, clear facts and honesty is something that the nation demands. They also demand clear leadership. And if they don’t get it God help us all.