Boris Johnson is acting too slowly on Covid – again – but will he be blamed?

When something similar happened a year ago, the prime minister did – for a time – appear to pay a price in public opinion, writes John Rentoul, but his popularity quickly recovered

Thursday 21 October 2021 13:05
<p>Boris Johnson is reluctant to act – but Keir Starmer is reluctant to criticise </p>

Boris Johnson is reluctant to act – but Keir Starmer is reluctant to criticise

It is Peter Pan time. All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again, as J M Barrie wrote. At this time last year, many were up in arms about Boris Johnson ignoring his scientific advisers. The Sage minutes for September had just been published, revealing that the advisers had urged the government to impose a short “circuit-breaker” lockdown to bear down hard and early on rising levels of Covid-19 infection.

Today, Edward Argar, the health minister, all but confirmed to Nick Robinson on the Today programme that the scientific advisers have urged ministers to reintroduce restrictions but that they had taken a political decision not to. “Ministers set out the stance, but don’t go into the detail of what advisers do or don’t say to them,” Argar said. “There’s a range of advice, views and considerations.”

Asked directly if Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, was advising “plan B” to be triggered, Argar avoided the question: “What we have to make a judgement call on is when is the right time to do plan B and whether it is the right time to do plan B.”

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