Here is a helpful reminder pulled from the drawer where statements of the bleeding obvious are kept. Boris Johnson was no saint before he suffered from Covid-19 and he won’t be one when he recovers.
Worth bearing in mind as we all wish the prime minister well during his spell at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Apparently, people were clapping for Boris the other night, but I didn’t hear anything round here.
Two weeks of clapping for the NHS and other workers was fine and inspirational; putting your hands together for a politician doesn’t appeal to me at all, although if you search “brilliant Boris” on Twitter you will uncover plenty of fans (some with accounts that ring fake when you tap them).
There is a social media push from the government to emphasise what a brilliant job is being done over coronavirus, with lots of similarly worded tweets and messages. At best such efforts are horribly premature. It’s not yet possible to say whether Boris Johnson’s Tories deserve ‘brilliant job’ or ‘total botch-up’.
A report this week for Reuters suggests multiple shortcomings from politicians, officials and advisers, with the politicians accused of being slow and reluctant to act after the first warnings.
One potential problem is that the government leading us through this crisis is one shaped by unblinking fealty to Brexit and Boris. What you need are contrary Cabinet voices willing to stick in an awkward oar, not compulsory backslapping all around.
Anyway, I have got this far away from the headline without mentioning Emily Maitlis. She is all over social media today and even inserted herself into our friends’ WhatsApp group.
The Newsnight presenter is much praised for comments she made before last night’s programme, although there was Tory grumbling too.
She said that the language around Covid-19 sometimes felt “trite and misleading”. “You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the prime minister’s colleagues will tell us,” Maitlis said, adding that it was a myth to say the disease was a ‘leveller’ between rich and poor.
She pointed out that those “serving on the frontline right now – bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers – are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.”
The lockdown would be experienced differently by rich and poor. It’s tougher in a tower block than on a country estate, you might say.
The Tory commentator Tim Montgomerie accused Maitlis of Fox News-style punditry, quite something from a hardworking pundit of the right. Thanks to all those helpful people on Twitter for pointing out that only the other month, Montgomerie was lavishly praising Viktor Orban, the right-wing leader of Hungary who is using the virus as a means to amass long-term power for himself.
Oh, give me powerful humanity and sense from Emily Maitlis rather than all that “battling Boris” nonsense in the Daily Express and other ruptured places.