05 January 2021 22:32
Government indecision risks public trust as country goes into third lockdown Without public trust in leadership, Mr Johnson cannot hope to carry people with him – which is crucial for the new lockdown to be effective The lead up to Boris Johnson's announcement of a seven-week national lockdown ticked all the Covid-19 Bingo boxes: a row over schools, a screeching last-minute U-turn, a non-committal Labour stance and the grim backdrop of soaring virus numbers. The chaotic decision-making coming out of Downing Street on Monday is rumoured to have infuriated some Tory MPs – but that could well be the least of the Government's problems if members of the public are equally as scathing of Mr Johnson's leadership. The i politics newsletter cut through the noise Email address is invalid Email address is invalid Thank you for subscribing! Sorry, there was a problem with your subscription. Public think the PM was too slow A snap ComRes poll in response to the Prime Minister's announcement found 79 per cent of those surveyed supported the lockdown, but 62 per cent believed the Government reacted too slowly.
This included 53 per cent of those who voted for Mr Johnson's Government in the 2019 election. The results of the poll demonstrated clear public support for a national lockdown, with many willing to do whatever is needed to stop the rapid spread of Covid-19. But without public trust in Government leadership, Mr Johnson cannot hope to carry people with him. And for the lockdown to be as successful as it can be, public compliance and understanding is critical. The dithering over Monday's announcement represented a failure of Mr Johnson's coronavirus strategy – both because the cases are so high that lockdown was needed in the first place, and because the Prime Minister, again, demonstrated a lack of decisive leadership. Lessons have not been learnt The back-and-forth over school safety was reminiscent of mistakes made throughout 2020, as the Government grappled with education services, creating the impression that ministers had not learned from their past mistakes. The City of London on the first morning of England entering a third national lockdown since the coronavirus outbreak began (Photo: AP) The Government needs to have a clear plan in place that it can be seen to be delivering while people are expected to stay in their homes for the ensuing weeks, or possibly months. Unlike previous lockdowns, Mr Johnson has outlined a plan of working towards the target of vaccinating 13 million people by March in order to lift the measures. Everything is riding on the vaccine roll-out. But the programme has already fallen behind original targets and there are doubts over the Government's capability when it comes to delivering the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history within the next two months. To build public trust, the Prime Minister must set out clear milestones, with regular updates and maximum transparency regarding vaccine targets and lockdown timelines. Leaving decision-making to the last minute as he did on Monday would only serve to undermine his messaging. The country has endured months of Covid-19 restrictions and it now faces even more, with virus case numbers higher than they have ever been. As lockdown fatigue sets in, the Government cannot afford to lose public engagement at such a crucial time.