Coffee House Shots

Boris sets out the shape of an exit strategy

18 min listen

It’s been six weeks since the Prime Minister first sat down to give the statement to the British public that began lockdown. Today, as James Forsyth first reported in The Spectator two weeks ago, Boris Johnson announced that the lockdown isn’t over yet. From Wednesday onwards, the one form of exercise a day rule will be removed so that, social distancing provided, people will be able to spend time outside even when they are not exercising or shopping. But not much else has changed, and in his statement, Boris Johnson sets out why. The ‘R’ number simply isn’t sufficiently low enough. A new metric for judging the risk to the population with five levels has been devised, and we are somewhere between levels 3 and 4 (with 5 being the risk at its peak).

But on the podcast, Fraser Nelson tells James and Katy Balls that to base the entire government’s strategy on the ‘R’ number is unsound. This number is calculated partly by knowing how many infections there are in the country, but because of a lack of widespread mass testing, we are unable to know that. Fraser argues that nowhere else in Europe has government strategy relied so much on so ‘patchy’ a metric.

James also reveals that the Prime Minister will be dialling in on video call to speak to his own MPs on Tuesday night. Many of them feel that they have been left in the dark, and are itching for a clearer exit strategy. In particular, members of the Cabinet who do not make the core ‘quad’ of ministers – Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, and Matt Hancock – are irritated that they have been left out of the decision-making process. James impresses that the Prime Minister will need to get them all on side.

While not much has changed since the announcement this evening, the government’s tone certainly has, and this is seen through the new slogan. No 10 is now asking people to ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, and Save Lives’. At least, the English government is. Today Nicola Sturgeon announced that she does not intend to change the ‘Stay Home’ advice for Scots. Fraser says: watch this space.


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