Today is the big day when the Government in the person of the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the Prime Minister while definitely not being a Deputy Prime Minister, gets to tell us that the lockdown is going to be extended, not lifted. Everyone knows that. It has been hinted at by everyone with any authority in such matters for several days. But we still need to be subjected to the ritual of a formal announcement. Because the journalists who get to ask questions at the daily press conference worked out some days ago what the announcement will be, they have been pressing Raab to let us know what will happen after this extension, and they will continue to do so. What is the exit-strategy from the lockdown?
This is going to continue to be really irritating for the government. People who keep asking about the strategy are so annoying, in fact, that no less a person than the Minister for Health, Nadine Dorries, has issued an instruction to journalists to stop asking that question. It may need to be pointed out for the uninitiated that although she is Minister for Health, who would be top-dog in many countries, Dorries is only the Under-Secretary of State (for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety), to distinguish the office from that of the implicitly Upper-Secretary for State for Health and Social Care, Matthew Hancock. The implicit ‘Upper’ bit in the latter’s title is silent, left unspoken, lest the title should sound too pompous. Prior to being elevated to her present status, probably even now, Dorries is best known for having been suspended from the Conservative Party for taking part in the TV show ‘I’m a celebrity …Get me out of here!’ without getting the permission of her Chief-Whip. This was clearly an ideal qualification for the ‘Mental Health’ part for the portfolio, and Dorries very quickly demonstrated her ‘Patient Safety’ credentials by becoming the first MP to contract Covid-19.
Why is the exit-strategy question so irritating? Dominic Raab has painstakingly explained to the masses that the Government is absolutely not going to engage in any discussion of an exit-strategy because that would serve as a ‘distraction’ from staying at home during the lockdown. We, the great British public, are bears of so little brain and such intemperate urges that even the merest mention of the honey-pot of going shopping for non-essential items is likely to compel us to burst out of our social-isolation to indulge in an orgy of non-socially-distanced socializing. The cynics among us are inclined to believe that the government is finding questions about an exit-strategy so irritating because, quite simply, there isn’t one. It is rumoured that the cabinet is split down the middle between those who are, understandably, desperate to get the economy going again and those who are, equally understandably, fearful that lifting the lockdown will result in a second wave of Covid-infected patients hitting the hospitals. A split cabinet is not conducive to the formulation of any kind of strategy. In the meantime our government apparently hopes that it can buy itself some more time by telling us not to bother our little heads by trying to think about more than one thing at a time.