Andrew Marr

The comment that baffled Boris

[Getty Images]

Real men are not supposed to confess to feeling fear. But I am frightened, second time round, about the plague. There is superstition involved. Back in March, I had an underlying belief that I would be somehow immune. This time, I feel differently. It’s partly those vertiginous graphs and partly my gloomy streak, a ‘just-my-luck’ sense that if I did succumb, it would happen with the vaccine only a hand’s-grasp away. So I’m cautious. For many people, the latest lockdown is atrocious, job-destroying, family-wrecking news. For me, it’s more of the same. Work aside, I go out only for a daily walk, hobbling along the local canal or round Regent’s Park, dodging knots of people, and standing ostentatiously aside for runners, like a pallid Victorian curate confronted by Painted Women. I’d been astonished by the big gatherings outside pubs, groups of dozens walking together, families packing up the car and disappearing every weekend, presumably to the country, as per normal. But even before Boris Johnson rummaged around looking for unfamiliar words for Tuesday night’s broadcast — ‘frustrating… alarming… cautious…’ — the mood had changed. The new variant has spooked people — more masks on the street, more instinctive social distancing. If — if — the vaccine is rolled out fast and effectively, all will be well. If not…

When Johnson came to be interviewed on Sunday — schools were still very safe, then, remember, and exams still on — he chided me for my ‘gloom’, so I ended by noting that it had been a conversation between a Scotsman and an Englishman. He was confused. Why had I said that? No constitutional point was being made. I was simply referring back to my natural, wintry-Caledonian, comfortless, slate-grey, east-coast temperament. He, of course, is different.

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