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Editor’s comment: Keeping everyone on message

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 April 2020

Wembley Arch was illuminated in blue to show its appreciation to the NHS amid the coronavirus outbreak in London. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

Wembley Arch was illuminated in blue to show its appreciation to the NHS amid the coronavirus outbreak in London. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

“Get Brexit done”, “get Brexit done”, “get Brexit done”.

Less than six months ago those words seemed to echo along every corridor and to blare from every television, radio and phone. As a campaign strategy it was phenomenally successful.

And we’re there once again.

“Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”, “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”, “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”.

Keir Starmer is certainly right to call for openness about the government’s “exit strategy”. Absolutely.

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But one of the reasons the government is so obstinately sticking to its mantra (that people must “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”) is that it is important to keep the message simple.

There are promising signs in how the NHS is coping and what the famous graph is doing. And to avoid sabotaging any good that has been done, people need to “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”.

But surely we can do that while discussing what the next stages might be?

Will any deviation from the core message lead to mass stupidity and disobedience?

That’s for the government to decide, but Sir Keir should certainly keep pushing.

The new Labour leader is also right that now is the time for constructive support for the government. A full assessment of how the pandemic was handled will come later.

A report in the Sunday Times this week (“Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster”) suggests a catalogue of failings as the approaching crisis became apparent. Warnings by experts about PPE and testing went unheeded, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson missed five COBRA meetings before attending. Michael Gove staunchly defended the PM’s delegation of responsibility to cabinet ministers, but when a full inquiry is carried out, Mr Johnson will have many questions to answer.


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