Britain's Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, Boris Johnson and British Army Brigadier, Joe Fossey (Photo by Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Is Boris pulling his leadership contest grift again?

Classics are classic for a reason

From the now revived for the duration of Lockdown No 10 Press Conference tonight, Boris Johnson and deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, seemed concerned that news of a vaccine would mean people might give up on keeping lockdown. The Prime Minister stressed “these are very, very early days” and “the biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at such a critical moment.” Not to be outdone, “JVT” said people needed to follow the restrictions “to the letter” in order to make them “as short as possible”… “and that means everybody”.

Analogies abounded this evening. Boris Johnson had an “‘arrow in the epidemiological quiver” and heralded “the distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill” proclaiming that: “tonight that toot of the bugle is louder.” But quick to dampen his own bugle, he stressed: “it is still some way off. And we absolutely cannot rely on this as a solution.”

Van-Tam warned people not to get “too over-excited” about the prospect of the vaccine but fell victim to his own giddiness by likening it to the moment when your football team is at the end of the playoff final and: “It’s gone to penalties, the first player scores, you haven’t won the cup yet but it tells you the goalkeeper can be beaten.” Later, perhaps in an attempt to curb his own enthusiasm – or appeal to Northern Rail passengers – he suggested the vaccine was like a train slowly driving towards a dark and windy platform but one that needed several safety checks before it would be allowed to open the doors. In a valiant attempt to bring together all the analogies of the night, the Prime Minister said he wanted to dissuade people from the idea that it was “necessarily a home run, a slam dunk, a shot to the back of the net.” Whether the shot was taken by Van-Tam’s footballer or whether one of Boris’s epidemiological arrows had been loosed, we’ll never know. Of course if the shot goes by train, forget about it.

He stressed the restrictions would run out, presumably a few days before before his MPs run out of patience

With one eye on his mutinous backbenchers, the Prime Minister was keen to mention the end date for the lockdown as many times as he could. The current date, that is. Said the current PM. He stressed that the measures would run out on 2 December, presumably – he was thinking – a few days before before his MPs run out of patience and the Bank of England runs out of lolly, wonga, spondulicks, folding stuff, wodge, historically cheaply financed debt on the international money markets. But the constant repetition of a date shoe-horned into every sentence rang a distant bell. During the leadership hustings last summer when he ran against Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson repeated the date for leaving the EU at every opportunity: “We need to get Brexit done by October 31st“, he told audience after audience. As we know, his minority government just didn’t have the votes and was forced to extend the date the UK left the EU. This time Boris Johnson may want to extend the Covid cutoff date himself but might be prevented by some of the same MPs who gave Theresa May such grief.

A year on from 31 October 2019 we’re still following Brussels’ rules, while Boris Johnson is claiming we’re no longer in the EU. Who would confidently say we won’t be out of lockdown in much the same In Name Only way come the start of next month?

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