OPINION - Evening Standard Comment: Forget ‘dead cats’, Johnson has used up another of his nine lives

·2-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Today London, like the Prime Minister, woke up to a huge headache. Yesterday’s sudden announcement of Plan B — and in particular advice to work from home if you can — has left businesses reeling and furious at the prospect of the city centre emptying weeks earlier than expected.

We know from all-too-recent experience that a wholesale shift to working from home is an economic disaster for the capital, estimated by leading economists to cost £750 million a month.

Leaders of businesses which rely on commuters and footfall are rightly asking: what is the exit strategy? Where is the financial support? And if this does not work, will further restrictions be imposed?

Further to this, the chaotic atmosphere in which Plan B was announced — barely hours after the Prime Minister’s former press spokeswoman had resigned over the now-infamous news conference rehearsal — has undermined public trust and the very credibility of Johnson’s message.

A sceptical public might also, understandably, wonder why they must follow the rules if the Prime Minister and his Number 10 staff do not themselves.

Then there is the confusing advice itself. We will shortly find ourselves in a position where employees cannot go to the office but can go out to a Christmas party — as opposed to last year, when parties were banned but meetings were permitted.

This winter was always going to be a test of the Government’s Covid strategy. The Omicron variant, which now seems to be significantly more transmissible than Delta, has only made the task harder.

This is why the country needs proper leadership and a Prime Minister we can trust to make decisions that are in the best interests of society as a whole, not for the short-term benefit of an elite coterie.

Whether or not the sudden implementation of Plan B is a so-called “dead cat” strategy, the Prime Minister would appear to have used up another of his nine lives.

Action on unvaxxed

Boris Johnon said last night that he wanted to open up a “national conversation” around mandatory vaccines. Listening to the initial responses from all sides of the political spectrum, it is unlikely to last long.

However, the Prime Minister is right to raise the issue of unvaccinated Britons. As many as 2.5 million Londoners over the age of 16 have not had even one dose.

Those who decline the jab risk not only their own health but that of their friends and family. They are exhausting intensive care capacity, extending NHS waiting lists and harming our economic recovery. Vaccine mandates may bristle with British sensibilities and it has little chance of becoming law.

Yet we do need to act on the great unvaxxed and find ways of bringing their number down, without which restrictions will continue to fall on everyone.

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