“He is sending people out to catch the virus.”
MP Dawn Butler accuses Boris Johnson of being “reckless” in his handling of the pandemic – but is told by Iain Dale: “Phrases like that are actually pretty disgraceful.”@DawnButlerBrent | @IainDale | @TheJeremyVine | #JeremyVine pic.twitter.com/G2bn1PEna2
— Jeremy Vine On 5 (@JeremyVineOn5) May 13, 2020
Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.
Apparently, middle aged white men are now not allowed to disagree with black female Labour MPs. Just by doing so, you automatically become a racist.
Well, I’m afraid I am not just going to sit by and allow someone to go unchallenged when they accuse the Prime Minister of this country of deliberately wanting people to die of Coronavirus. Dawn Butler, who on a personal level I like, and I were on the Jeremy Vine on Five on Wednesday.
We were talking about the lifting of lockdown, and she came out with this pearl of wisdom: “Boris Johnson is recklessly sending people out to work to catch the virus.” Effectively, she might as well have accused him of political manslaughter.
He has done no such thing of course. He has asked people to go to work if they safely can, and advised them not to use public transport. Dawn would have known this had she actually read the government’s 50 page guidance document, but she admitted she hadn’t read a word of it.
The Vine Show tweeted out a video of the exchange [see above]. And then the heavens opened. How dare I say what I did? I was a racist. I was trying to “tone police” Dawn, apparently.
I have to admit that was a new one on me. I said what I thought, and I stand by every word. It was a disgraceful thing to say on her behalf and she needed to be called out on it.
If Chris Williamson or any other white man had said it, I’d have reacted in exactly the same way. I don’t see skin colour in a political debate. I don’t judge anyone by whether they have a Y chromosome or not. I judge them by what comes out their mouth. And in this case, it was a load of irresponsible bile.
I mean, think of it this way. If you had contracted the Coronavirus and been at death’s door, just from a logical point of view, would you think that one of the first things you’d do when you came out of hospital would be to deliberately think “I know, I’ll do my best to make sure everyone goes through what I’ve just been through”? You’d have to clinically insane.
– – – – – – – – – –
Having said all that, I can’t in all conscience say it’s been the best of weeks for the Government’s communications strategy on virus.
While the PPE issue seems to have becalmed, and the strain on the NHS is reducing by the day, and the death rate is falling, the measures announced on Sunday evening were not explained in a manner which gives people confidence in them.
Some Opposition politicians have perhaps gone overboard in exaggerating the confusion, but confusion there was, and it stemmed mainly from the new “Stay Alert” slogan.
OK, we all know what “Stay Alert” means, but it is just a bit woolly, compared to “Stay at Home”. It allowed Nicola Sturgeon to grandstand but, frankly, it was rather difficult to disagree with anything she said.
Scotland is experiencing a higher death rate among the general population and also in care homes than the rest of the UK. Sixty per cent of Covid-19 related deaths in Scotland occur in care homes, compared to 40 per cent in England.
The number of deaths in areas of high poverty are far higher than in England, yet neither she nor the Scottish public health system or its NHS are coming under anything like the criticism that Johnson is.
Part of the reason for this is that she is doing better at talking a good game at her press conferences, and having a clarity of message which seems to be lacking in the same events down south.
She talks like a human being, doesn’t just repeat tired old soundbites, and answers questions from journalists in a seemingly straightforward way, albeit without allowing the journalists a follow-up question. Downing Street could learn a lot from her in communications, if not policy.
– – – – – – – – – –
Reshuffles in the Westminster political lobby are almost as eagerly anticipated (usually by journalists themselves, it has to be said) as their cabinet equivalents. Yesterday, we learned that Tom Newton Dunn, who has been Political Editor of The Sun for what seems like an eon, is moving to be the new chief political commentator for the yet to be launched Times Radio.
He, in turn, is being replaced by Harry Cole, the Deputy Political Editor of the Mail on Sunday. He used to do the same role at The Sun. Harry started out in life running the Tory Bear blog, before making a real reputation for himself as a story-getter for the Guido Fawkes blog.
Another Guido Fawkes alumni, Alex Wickham, sadly lost his job as political editor of Buzzfeed, when they announced they were closing down their UK operation. For my money, he has become one of the top three scoop-getters in the lobby, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him hired by the Mail on Sunday to replace Harry Cole. He ought to be in great demand.