Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Boris – behave ‘fearlessly with common sense’

Sunday shows round-up: Boris – behave 'fearlessly with common sense'
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Boris Johnson – People must behave 'fearlessly but with common sense'

The Prime Minister joined Andrew Marr this morning, and inevitably the interview began with a focus on Covid-19 and the government's efforts to suppress the virus. Johnson's key message for the public was one of stoicism, saying that the virus would still be hovering around for a long time yet, and that the UK needed to adapt itself accordingly:

BJ: We have to keep our economy moving and keep our society going... What we want people to do is behave fearlessly, but with common sense... To follow the guidance, whether national or local, get the virus down, but allow us as a country to continue without priorities... as far as we possibly can.

The road will be 'bumpy through to Christmas'

Marr challenged Johnson on the impact of the local restrictions to combat the virus, with several council areas in the north of England having introduced still tighter measures over the past week. He highlighted Manchester and Oldham, where the number of cases had continued to rise, despite lengthy spells under tight controls. Johnson said that he 'appreciated the fatigue' that people were experiencing, but said that people should not expect things to ease up over the winter:

BJ: I know people are furious with me and they’re furious with the government but… it's going to continue to be bumpy through to Christmas. It may even be bumpy beyond. But this is the only way to do it.

'Buoyancy and élan' inappropriate for Covid-19

Marr asked Johnson about the discontent on his backbenches over his command of events. Both the Labour party and opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer have made up considerable ground in recent opinion polls, with Starmer now seen by more of the public as prime ministerial material. Johnson said that the pandemic had required a more dour approach, given the seriousness of the situation, and that he hoped to be able to return to his usual self before long:

BJ: 'This is a government that's facing an unprecedented crisis, and I think if people wanted me to approach it with the sort of buoyancy and élan and all the other qualities that I normally bring to things, I think that people would think that was totally inappropriate. And it is.'

EU trade deal 'there to be done'

The chances of reaching a trade deal with the EU appeared to have experienced a sharp setback following a recent standoff with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, with questions over Northern Ireland, the British fishing industry and state aid rules all contributing toward a deadlock in the negotiations. However, a further month of negotiations has since been agreed, and Johnson remained optimistic about these talks reaching a positive outcome:

BJ: 'I think it's there to be done. Alas, there are some difficult issues that need to be fixed... [Our proposed deal] is a very good deal for the EU. All we're asking our friends and partners to offer is terms that they've already offered to Canada.'

Idea that I have 'long Covid' is 'balderdash'

Marr asked Johnson if he might have any leftover complications as a result of his contraction of Covid-19 back in April. 'Long Covid' is the term that has been used to describe this manifestation, and the long term health effects can be severe. The Prime Minister dismissed this out of hand:

BJ: 'I had a nasty bout of it, no question, but no ['long-Covid'] in my case... It's balderdash... I am fitter than several butcher's dogs... The issue is that, alas, when I got this wretched thing, I was too fat.'

Jonathan Ashworth: Government should stagger pub closures

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was Marr's other major political guest of the day. He called on the government to change its rules on curfews for pubs, which have been mandated to close at 10 pm:

JA: 'I think the government have to explain the evidence for it... We're asking the government to consider staggering throwing out times, because actually, part of the reason we introduced staggered leaving in pubs in the first place was to get around the problem of everybody piling out of the pub on the dot.'

Douglas Ross: Government hasn't done enough to strengthen UK

Sophy Ridge spoke to Douglas Ross, the newly elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Ross delivered a speech yesterday at the ongoing Conservative party conference, warning the party from remaining too focused on England alone. Ridge asked Ross about Boris Johnson's capacity to preserve the union of the UK at a time when support for Scottish independence is stronger than it ever has been:

DR: 'The Prime Minister is a strong supporter of the United Kingdom... but I think the Prime Minister would also accept that his government - and successive governments - have not done enough to strengthen the case for the union, and that's why I made my speech yesterday.'

Margaret Ferrier 'has no credibility as an MP anymore'

Ross also called on Margaret Ferrier, the SNP MP who flagrantly breached coronavirus rules, to consider her position:

DR: 'I'm surprised, amazed and shocked that she hasn't resigned. She has no credibility as an MP anymore. People look to MPs to set a standard... Her actions were irresponsible... and they have endangered many people she came into contact with.'

Sir Christopher Meyer: US 'has not been terribly open' about Trump's condition

Sir Christopher Meyer, formerly the UK's ambassador to the USA, told Ridge that he suspected that there was some wool being pulled over the American people's eyes with relation to president Trump's health, after it was revealed that he had been given supplemental oxygen in the wake of his positive test for Covid-19:

CM: 'I don't think they've been terribly open at all... There's a good deal of scepticism about what his private doctor is saying, and what he, Trump himself, is saying... I'm astonished at the reasoning he has given... that he wanted to join the American people and share their suffering and show leadership. This is rubbish.'

Nigel Farage: Trump is 'the Harry Houdini' of politics

And finally, Nigel Farage, the UK politician who probably knows Donald Trump best, spoke to Ridge about the president's health. He said that Trump had been counted out of the race once before, and that hadn't stopped him then:

NF: 'Short term, this is bad for his campaign... but remember four years ago... for all the world, the presidential election was over, and yet, he's the Harry Houdini of politics... If in two weeks time, he's back, fighting fit, he stands before the American public and says 'Look I've had this... I don't underestimate it, but we have to get on with our lives...' [then] this is not over.'