It’s about leadership, Mr Johnson.  Are you up to that?

This is a time of literal crisis. Forget about the mistake of the deluded “herd immunity” approach. No sane person thinks the intentions with that weren’t of the best, but please recognise that it was misguided (the science didn’t “shift”, only the QA of the modelling) and learn from that.

You didn’t of course create the underlying problem, but that’s not the point either.  That’s all sunk cost & we are where we are.

You need to step up and lead. Stop the reactive, piecemeal, just-in-time approach. No more waiting till the next issue is upon us. You’ve announced various measures over this week, today’s being some protection for those renting their homes. That’s great, but it’s a drip-feed, creating alarm each time over the areas not yet covered.

We need a big picture approach, which has the end-goal in sight, not just the next individual hurdle. It is already plain what is to come, so act now to try to deal with that.

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Economy & Jobs

There is no point in grants to businesses to help with rents and offering rates relief if no income means there’s little hope in any event of continuing as a going concern. Your Chancellor’s proposed loan to help with staff costs may work for some, but many will judge that there’s no point in racking up further debt. A holiday for National Insurance is a waste of time, on the scale of the proverbial bringing a water pistol to fight a fire.

Trump is to try “helicopter money”, by making a general payment of $1,000 each. It may be an established practice in the US, but the logistics are immense (physical cheques by mail) and there are known gaps in the coverage. A one-off payment of this size is far too low in any case.

The more important point is that this measure isn’t enough on its own. This is where the big picture is vital, looking beyond the immediate.

The entire economy needs to be placed in hibernation. The protection must be for all jobs, all businesses and other places of employment, all homes of whatever kind and any other aspect essential to day-to-day survival. No evictions for non-payment of rent.

The economy is collapsing around us.  We don’t have time to implement robust, thought-through UBI or anything similar. We have to make use of existing mechanisms. That means directing employers (including here the self-employed) to continue to pay staff (or themselves) regardless. Banks must be told to allow employers to go overdrawn for this purpose.

Macron has made a big commitment of this kind for France, without saying how it will work. The truth is that, no matter the spin, it can only be successful if the State ultimately picks up the tab. (Let’s leave aside “taxpayers’ money”, affordability and MMT-related arguments for now.)

The guarantee to employers should be that the State will indemnify them, subject to a specified limit on the payment per person, the size of which should be the only point for debate (but certainly a helluva lot more than JSA).

What will all that cost?   Who cares.  This is what the societal credit card is for.  The alternative is unthinkable.


Essential Supply

Never mind having income to spend on food, we need the supply guaranteed and its delivery protected from selfish and criminal abuse. A war-time rationing system would be ideal – and do proceed with that when you can – but, again, we need action long before that could realistically be in place.

The larger supermarkets are taking the initiative here – this morning’s statement by Sainsbury’s is a particularly commendable one. That’s great as a first step.

The Government needs to go further, however, directing that such measures have the full force of law and that they apply to all retailers of food and other essential products, with enforcement measures set out.

All of the supply chain here needs to be working in our national interest. You shouldn’t be aiming to take it all over, but make it plain that you will do exactly that should it prove necessary.

Oh… and severe penalties for those who try to profiteer.



It’s obscene that we seem to be negotiating with the private hospitals over how we bring them into the national effort to deal with this epidemic.  No room for debate over this: we will cover their operating costs, but not their putative loss of profit.

Call it nationalisation, commandeering … call it whatever the hell you like.  Just do it.  Any delay in making use of them will be unforgivable.



It’s about leadership, Mr Johnson.

The Westminster approach of sparring and point-scoring will not help us at this, the greatest hour of need in any of our lifetimes. For the sake of all of us, let’s have a government of national unity without delay.

You can claim successes: the supermarket moves referred to above and the offer by Royal Mail of the use of its network for the delivery of essential supplies to the vulnerable.  The AA has announced that it’s available to help as well.  Now you need to wrap all that into a coherent, unified picture.

The art of communication is the language of leadership.”[1]

The daily press conference gives you the platform for communication.  Cut out the waffle: the “fanTAStic” this, the “treMENdous” that.  No more distracting bluster (“land of freedom”) in response to questioning.

Start telling us what the planning goals are over the medium term and an outline of how we deliver those. If the plan needs to change over time, just tell us that & why.

The message must be clear and consistent. Yes, many details will have to worked out as we go along – it’s an evolving environment – but you need to give us all confidence that you’re on top of this.

You wanted the top job so badly. You manged to get there.  Just being in post isn’t good enough, though.

It’s your moment, Mr Johnson.  Step up and lead.

If you’re not up to it – and no-one could reasonably judge ill of you if you conclude that you aren’t – then move aside for someone who would be.





1. James Humes, US author and presidential speechwriter.

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