London: Folks who voted for and supported Boris Johnson against his detractors in 2019 are now disappointed with his performance as Prime Minister. Johnson is apparently finding running the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) difficult, it is as if he is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job he always wanted; government and governance is becoming increasingly autocratic and folks are wondering who is the autocrat?
The utterly confusing and frequent changing guidance and legislation around Test and Trace, social distancing or regional varieties of Lockdown have peeved off many of the public, plus a growing minority in the Conservative party. The Speaker in the House of Commons (HoC) preceded Prime Minister’s Questions with a statement telling off the government. Mr Speaker spoke for many when he was critical of how government have exercised their emergency powers, saying they had been unsatisfactory, hurriedly executed with unconvincing explanations; he called for more parliamentary scrutiny and debate, and for rebuilding trust with the HoC that the government’s recent “contempt” had caused.
The emergency powers of the Coronavirus Act 2020 were given a mere hour and a half to debate, the Act survived with only 24 brave MPs voting against it, including 7 Conservatives; the Brady amendment that was not accepted made the message quite clear, more oversight and participation is expected, although with only 59 MPs allowed in the HoC Chamber significantly less debate is possible than is desirable.
Johnson appeared not to know his own Covid restriction policies when asked this week, then he had to tweet his apologies saying that he “misspoke”. The reasoning that the PM is trapped by the scientific argument of his medical and scientific Chiefs no longer holds sway with the public.
A majority of 80 can disappear as quickly as it arose, Johnson needs to decide if the buck stops with him or someone else.
The government fear propaganda is refuted by the figures, infections are rising but hospitals overall admissions are on a downward trajectory and nothing like in the spring, Covid-19 is not the bubonic plague and there is more science available than in medieval times. Advice can be amended as well as repeated but the PMO and Cabinet seem to thrive in an echo chamber.
Apart from Boris the Covidly cautious, Johnson has styled himself as ‘Boris the Builder’ but the public have had enough of Johnson in hi viz and helmet gear, the public are looking for reassurance and some of the optimism that Johnson showed during the Leadership and General Election campaigns.
Only 42 Tories are needed to call for a leadership contest and it is thought that many of the junior Tory MPs who are shilling for the government on the daily TV programs would not be re-elected next time around. The Spectator and The Telegraph have untypically negative opinion pieces about the Johnson administration. Recent Times and Telegraph pieces are entitled “Tories are thinking about life after Boris Johnson” and “If it is not the Government’s policy that changes, perhaps it must be its leadership” respectively.
It feels like the government wants to close down society, permitting only very limited social life, dancing and singing only in groups of 6, with pub closures threatened; Johnson was always well known for upholding civil liberties, folks do not recognise Johnson the centralist. There is miasma of fear that the PMO is centralising everything, the first indication of this is when Dominic Cummings wanted to control Sajid Javid’s, former Chancellor, special advisors earlier this year leading to Javid’s resignation.
The messaging is topsy turvy at the moment, restoring an extra 4% of Britain to nature by 2030 seems a bit superficial when there is rising unemployment and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had to delay announcing the Autumn Budget. Conversely there is a desperate skills shortage for so many types of occupation from scientists in 4 disciplines, 7 types of engineers, software professionals, 9 types of medical professionals, teachers, financial people, artistic/creative people, bricklayers, welders, butchers and chefs.
With estimates of 1.4million unemployed and forecast of 4million by Christmas, surely government ministries, universities, apprenticeship schemes and internships can collaborate to provide relevant direction, access, incentives, learning and skills for useful future employment? Folks want to know where and whose is the post- Brexit vision?
This week Reuters called Michael Gove the “Brexit Supremo”, a title that once belonged to Boris Johnson, Johnson was elected on the pledge to “get Brexit done” but as reported in TSG on 9 August “What transpired in 2106 has never been properly explained, exactly what did Johnson and Gove agree that has repaired the rivalry and so-called treachery after the Brexit referendum.” One could be forgiven for speculating that Johnson was the charismatic frontman for Cummings &Co.