There is chatter in the Westminster village about Boris Johnson’s low-profile. Why isn’t he visiting flooded towns? Why isn’t he fronting efforts to reassure a country worried about pandemic coronavirus?
Here, I think it is worth quoting at length a speech given before becoming prime minister:
‘If we win the election we will get our heads down and get on with implementing the big changes I’ve spoken about today. You will not see endless relaunches, initiatives, summits – politics and government as some demented branch of the entertainment industry. You will see a government that understands that there are times it needs to shut up, leave people alone and get on with the job it was elected to do. Quiet effectiveness: that is the style of government to which I aspire. And I also know that because we believe in trusting people, sharing responsibility, redistributing power: things will go wrong. There will be failures. But we will not turn that fact of life into the tragedy of Labour’s risk-obsessed political culture where politicians never say or do anything that really matters, or really changes anything, for fear of getting some bad headlines. If we do these things that I have said, I believe we will be able to bring about the change the country needs.’
That, I think, is a pretty good summary of the thinking that underpins Boris Johnson’s submarine strategy.
It’s also, to my mind, very sensible. I spent over a decade of my working life as a political reporter covering the day-to-day ‘news’ from Westminster: the relaunches, initiatives, summits and – above all – the announcements. Oh, God, the announcements. I’d hate to know what proportion of my time as a Lobby correspondent was spent writing about politicians announcing they would do something. I guarantee it was far more time than I spent writing about whether they actually did that thing, or what actually happened to the services, people and places who were supposed to be affected by that thing.