It was only six months ago, though it feels like a lifetime, that Boris Johnson was being heckled in Yorkshire and harangued in the Midlands for his sloth-like response to the devastating floods which ruined so many people’s homes and livelihoods.
Only five months ago that he took refuge in a fridge to avoid a television interview which would likely have seen him quizzed about an ill four-year-old who had been forced to sleep on a Leeds hospital floor as there were no beds available; since he was “empty-chaired” by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, who would likely have interrogated him about his plans should he become PM.
A lot has happened since, but one thing remains constant – he is a PM who appears allergic to the bleach of sunlight, the scrutiny of the media or the views of the public. Well, let’s see how that plays out at the next General Election. Mr Johnson might ride out the current row over Dominic Cummings but he will not be able to hide from all the devastated families across the land, who will not have forgotten his defence of his friend and advisor, and most definitely not be able to forgive. Grief tends to stick. They will not have moved on.
Douglas Ross, the Moray MP, came to that realisation earlier this week. No doubt nudged by the opinion polls too, showing 71 per cent of the UK public think Cummings should go, he resigned from Government. His majority is just 513.
His Scottish Tory colleagues in Holyrood are also extremely jumpy about the impact of their PM, his advisor and their preposterous decisions, on their electoral fortunes in Holyrood next year. Jackson Carlaw may have been pushed into mildly calling for Mr Cummings to go, but his front and backbenches know only too well that the little headway their party had been making under Ruth Davidson is fragile.
Polls already show that 82 per cent of Scots think Nicola Sturgeon has been handling the pandemic well, including 70 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019, with as few as 30 per cent believing Johnson has been doing a good job. But then, as Professor Sir John Curtice likes to point out, since devolution, voters in Scotland evaluate the Scottish Government more highly than that in Westminster – no matter the issue.
It seems to be playing out that way even with the Covid-19 scandals that the SNP Government is facing. Some of those are similar to those down south, such as a lack of PPE in the first months of the pandemic, and the discharging of older patients from hospitals to care homes without testing, and indeed the lack of hospital treatment for residents who do fall ill. Only yesterday this paper reported one woman’s awful story of how she was “haunted” by the fact her elderly mum didn’t get oxygen to help her in her final days.
Then there’s the Nike conference, now regarded as Scotland’s coronavirus “ground zero”. The First Minister may shrug off the responsibility of the very apparent shortfalls in contact tracing – saying it was down to the medical professionals to make the decision about just who should be contacted – but public faith in the new regime of Test and Protect is vital if it’s to succeed. If tracers missed the fact that the conference delegates were fitted for kilts and had taken on walking tours of Edinburgh, then the public is right to doubt that it will be effective.
The big difference between Sturgeon and Johnson however is that she is front and centre of the Government’s response – on our screens every day defending her Government’s actions.
Whether you agree with her or not, she cannot be accused of hiding.
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