The Downing Street First Press Conference of the Prime Minister maintained his mask of pretending to know what he is doing
Let’s get started on the positive. There have been no improvements in government policy on the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
That in itself is cause for celebration after the chaos of the last few days, weeks and months.
A symbol at Westminster of much-needed stability.
The narcissism of Boris Johnson is an open secret. What’s less obvious is whether he’s also fundamentally cynical at heart: a politician who knows his own vulnerabilities and tries everything he can to cover them. Or if he is a person who is merely a product of his own imagination: a person who bends reality to suit his personality.
It’s difficult to tell which possibility is the more troubling.
But it’s a little of both, maybe.
One would have expected that, after declaring a third national lockdown the day before, Johnson might want to use his first Downing Street press conference to explain both how he came to that decision and the errors he made along the way.
Boris likes to talk a lot about leveling, but with himself and the country, the one thing he doesn’t seem to be able to do is come clean.
But there was nothing about the recent weeks’ delays, misunderstanding, and disregarded advice. The past is not only a different country for Johnson, it is a different geological age.
A location that bears no investigation.
And definitely not one who is deserving of an apology. Not only because he feels that the land is unable to bear the reality, but because he can’t.
He has spent his entire life running away from the horror of being Boris.
It turned out that Johnson didn’t want to talk about the effect on people’s lives of another lockdown. That was the news yesterday. Today, what he wanted to do was talk about the progress of the vaccine campaign he had designed, after rattling through the new alarming figures. By mid-February, the four most vulnerable populations, 14 million citizens, will have been vaccinated and the imminent danger will be over.
His old team, consisting of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance, who one would have thought might have offered a touch of realism, flanked Johnson throughout.
But while both were suitably pessimistic about the magnitude of the crisis, neither was able to challenge the optimism of the prime minister.
It seemed like both had given up trying to keep the cockiness of Boris in check for a long time and were now more interested in ensuring that they were not swept up in anything he might tell.
The first question from the BBC got to the heart of the issue. How could anyone trust the government, considering its track record, to take the right measures at the right time? The response from Johnson gave the game away. For some time, he had been staring at the numbers, hoping that with the steps he had already taken, they would magically decline on their own. Again, the failure of Boris to make difficult choices – his default stance, both in his personal and public life, had always been hoping for the best – had put the country at further risk.
When asked whether the vaccine timetable was practical, Whitty was more cautious. ‘Yes,’ he said hesitantly, unable to break through the confidence of the prime minister.
It wasn’t going to be straightforward, however, not least because it was far from evident that we had the logistics in place.
Not all of the vaccines were tested in batches, and we also had to set up enough centers to administer the doses.
But other than that, yeah, everything was totally real. Apparently, Vallance had agreed that saying as little as possible was his best tactic.
When asked when the Sage (Emergency Science Advisory Group) had recommended that schools not reopen in January, the date of his reply was mysteriously omitted. It was sometime in December, for the record.
The press conference continued with Boris promoting his vaccination program and the two experts being a bit more cautious about the threat situation, the risks of the South African version, and when the country might return to something like normalcy.
The rest of us don’t have our sights set too high. What we want is a straightforward answer as to when b is going to be