It’s hard to grasp that Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for just “nine changes of the watery star” – to bung in a Shakespeare reference that he would undoubtedly pick up.
His near-landslide election win in December gave him real authority. His death-facing experience in intensive care forced him to lead by example – suffering alongside those that he has been tasked to lead during this crisis. So he now has a certain moral authority too, at least when it comes to dealing with the Coronavirus,
And if he has won only one election to date, not three like Margaret Thatcher, he has led a change greater even hers, by taking Britain out of the EU and thus delivering Brexit.
Which underpins how much the Government has missed him. There is more to Johnson now than the usual vivid language we heard this morning, with its image of the British people fighting back against a mugger virus. Listening to him was like being jolted awake after snoozing off.
Not that he said all that much. Or rather, he tried very hard not to say too much – balancing the need to keep the lockdown going, to protect the NHS, with the need to get the economy going, to help it and all the rest of us.
Johnson was not going to announce an easing-off of the lockdown today. But for all his art, unwillingness to let a Coronavirus second wave drown the NHS, refusal to say “when” a lockdown relaxation might happen, reference to the five tests and cunning feint at drawing in Keir Starmer, he could not conceal the fact that easing is coming soon.
The Government will say “in the coming days”, he said. The papers are stuffed with details of the relaxation plan, some of them convincing, and the lockdown is fraying at the edges a little.
ConservativeHome believed that the Prime Minister would announce some easing after next week’s May Bank Holiday. Our reading of his statement this morning is that he wants to get on with it before then.
Oh, and a mention in dispatches for Dominic Raab. We’ve have been happy for him to announce a relaxation plan. He chose instead to help oversee the drawing-up of one, avoided grandstanding and strove not to act as a de facto Prime Minister. That shows a level head.