HENRY DEEDES watches the Prime Minister laying down more coronavirus rules and regulation


To think that just a week ago he was a brandisher of boosterism, a purveyor of positivity, all whizzbang fizz and sparkle.

Turns out that pingier-than-propane conference speech of Boris Johnson’s was just a false dawn. 

A day-out distraction from death tolls, infection rates and all the other daily horrors that have become the new norm.  

And so, just when a dark, wet Monday couldn’t get more depressing, back we were in that drab Downing Street briefing room to hear about more rules, more regulations, more ruddy lockdown measures.

 Please Boris, however bad things get, keep these dreary events to a minimum. 

‘We must act,’ the PM said, a (noticeably less podgy) forefinger prodding the lectern. 

‘We must act,’ the PM said, a (noticeably less podgy) forefinger prodding the lectern

 Signs of a second wave were ‘flashing like dashboard warnings on a passenger jet’. 

The PM’s voice shook with a sense of urgency.

He talked us through his new ‘three-tier alert system’ – medium, high and very high, with their own mind-bending sets of restrictions. 

Boris’s delivery momentarily stuttered, his eyes whirring like little kaleidoscopes. 

Clearly he was terrified of getting his own rules wrong.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak had come along to share some of the load. Ostensibly he was there to talk us through his winter economic plan. 

But it’s quite possible Boris felt the public might swallow his plan more easily with the boy wonder by his side.

 ‘Thanks PM,’ chirped Rishi, before laying out his new support measures. He spoke in slow, staccato tones. 

Those Bambi eyes were turned up to full glare, beaming with sympathy. What a salesman the Chancellor is.

 If he appeared in one of those charity ads imploring viewers to ‘Pleeeeaase, just give £3 a month’ most of us would be on the phone setting up a direct debit in no time.

He talked us through his new ‘three-tier alert system’ – medium, high and very high

He talked us through his new ‘three-tier alert system’ – medium, high and very high

Professor Chris Whitty, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak address the nation from Downing Street on Monday night

Professor Chris Whitty, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak address the nation from Downing Street on Monday night

 Also present was chuckle-a-minute chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty. 

He always reminds me of a man taking part in a police identification parade. 

Something about those long dangly arms and the way his gloopy eyes dart nervously from side to side. 

Hallmarks of a man who’s terrified he’s about to be fingered for something.

As usual Whitty talked us through his ‘why I was right’ graphs. 

Infections up, hospitalisations up. He then announced he wished to be optimistic. 

Hurrah! Apparently, if the Government hadn’t instigated the current restrictions he’d recommended, it would all have been a lot worse.

If that’s the prof being optimistic, I’d hate to hear him in moments of despair.

The PM had laid out the new restrictions in the Commons earlier in the afternoon. His statement was slow and solemn. Levity was in short supply.

Sir Keir Starmer was his customary fountain of unhelpfulness. 

He trotted out the usual disaster movie cliches – ‘We’re at a critical moment’, ‘We’re at a tipping point’ etc – before accusing the Government of losing control of the virus.

 At no point did he say what he might be doing differently. He never does.

More supportive noises came from the direction of health committee chairman Jeremy Hunt. 

Mr Hunt remains in purdah for standing against Boris in last year’s leadership contest. 

Mightn’t it be time to bring him in from the cold? I noticed he and Rishi having a chinwag earlier behind the Speaker’s chair.

Most discomforting for the PM were the peevish voices on his own benches.

Jane Stevenson (Con, Wolverhampton NE) fretted about pubs and restaurants. 

Kate Griffiths (Con, Burton) was worried about breweries. Ed Timpson (Con, Eddisbury) bemoaned the decimated wedding industry.

Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) called upon Boris to start trusting the public to use their common sense a bit more. 

The PM had laid out the new restrictions in the Commons earlier in the afternoon

The PM had laid out the new restrictions in the Commons earlier in the afternoon

Cue noisy gurgles of approval from Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest W). The PM yanked his cheek into a wide grimace.

Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) elegantly argued how current restrictions around Birmingham were showing signs of working. 

Why did it need stricter ones imposed on it? Boris said that was the judgment he’d made and he was sticking to it.

The most sobering moment came when Steve Baker (Con, Wycombe) asked the PM when he expected a vaccine.

 Boris replied that this ‘can’t be taken for granted’. So possibly never. Does make you wonder what the long-term plan is. If indeed there even is one.

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