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Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Sometimes things happen for a reason, sometimes they are just pure coincidence – on other occasions, just plain spooky.

On Monday, the Jeremy Vine Show asked if I would set their series of seven multiple choice quiz questions which they put to their audience before each break, and then give the answer when they come back after the break.

I decided to base them around Prime Ministerial trivia. Just before the break at 9.55, I posed the question: “Which prime minister had 17 children?”

The multiple choice answers were a) Earl Grey, b) William Pitt the Younger and c) Boris Johnson. Just my little joke…

Anyway, we came back at 9.58am, and I gave the answer as Earl Grey, and suggested it must have been something in his tea… I’m just too funny. A minute later it flashed up on my phone that Carrie Symonds had just given birth. Now what are the odds of that happening…

Here are the other quiz questions. See how you do. No Googling. Answers at the bottom of the page

Which of these political interviewers stood for Parliament in a general election?

  1. Sir Robin Day
  2. Susanna Reid
  3. Jeremy Paxman

Who is Britain’s shortest serving Prime Minister?

  1. Sir Alex Douglas-Home
  2. George Canning
  3. Viscount Goderich

Boris Johnson was born in New York City. Only one other Prime Minister was born abroad. Was it –

  1. Benjamin Disraeli
  2. Andrew Bonar Law
  3. James Callaghan

Margaret Thatcher told a female TV interviewer in 1973 that “No woman in my time will ever be Prime Minister. Who was it?

  1. Valerie Singleton
  2. Lesley Judd
  3. Maggie Philbin

Who wrote the theme music for John Major’s election campaign in 1992?

  1. Cliff Richard
  2. Andrew Lloyd Webber
  3. Gary Barlow

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Today, we learn whether Health Secretary Matt Hancock has achieved his target of testing 100,000 people per day.

I suspect when the figures are released at 5pm, we will discover that he hasn’t. The reaction to this apparent failure will be interesting to observe, especially from the Labour Party as well as the media.

Some will no doubt and fulminate. Others will observe that the ramping-up of testing has been impressive to see, albeit: why didn’t it happen earlier?

But most will miss the point. It wasn’t a pledge, it was a target, and there is a difference. Oftentimes, you set a deliberately tough one to meet in the expectation that, even though many will see it as unrealistic, they will move heaven and earth to meet it…

…Whereas if you set an easy to meet target, psychologically it doesn’t really inspire ‘action this day’. If you set a difficult target some people react in a way that, rather than inducing a shoulder-shrug, drives them to say, “I’ll show you”.

And they do. I think that’s what has happened here. It will also be interesting to see how Hancock handles it. It’s a big day for him.

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One thing is for sure, when this crisis is over, the commercial property market is going to take a big hit. Barclays has said that, given its experience of staff working at home, it is reviewing the need for massive offices in the City of London and elsewhere.

Three of my friends who run small companies, each with 10-30 staff, have all told me that, when their current leases run out, they won’t be renewing them or looking for property elsewhere. If they need meeting rooms they’ll hire serviced office rooms as and when they need them.

I remember from my days at Biteback we seriously considered a homeworking arrangement when our lease ran out. That was several years ago, but then the landlord came up with an offer that allowed us to stay.

If I were still there now, I know exactly what I would be doing, and I’d be saving tens of thousands of pounds of overheads. It can be the difference between being profitable and not.

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Following on from what I wrote last week about being a tad fed up with ministers repeating the mantra: “We’ve made the right decisions at the right time” I think it is worth reiterating that, while the soundbite might sound good, it’s complete bullshit.

Think about it. In a pandemic timely decisions are vital – but nobody can make every decision at the right time. It is certainly more than arguable that the decision to go into lockdown on March 23rd came at least a week too late.

You only know if you’ve the right decision at the right time once you have some post-decision data to back it up. It’s a meaningless and trite phrase, and Ministers should stop using it.

The next big decision is the date for partially lifting the lockdown. The advantage of being a bit behind other countries in the development of the virus is that we can learn from them. It’s clear in retrospect that Germany partially lifted its lockdown too early (yes, folks, the Germans got something wrong), and that its reinfection rate is spiking again.

Our current lockdown will be re-evaluated at the end of next week. In my view, there is no case at all to merit a decision to do anything other than keep it, maybe with a few tweaks.

The decision to lift the lockdown in a meaningful way will, as I said last week, be potentially the defining one of Johnson’s premiership. He knows he cannot afford to get the timing wrong by more than a few days.

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Quiz answers A, B, B, A, B

78 comments for: Iain Dale: Hancock’s testing day – and why the difference between a target and a pledge matters

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