Mr Johnson behaved very much like a leader keeping his ear to the ground yesterday rather than one to whom the nation can look up.
At 8:07am it emerged the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been "pinged" by the NHS, having been in contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid on Saturday.
However, Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak would not self-isolate and would continue to work in Downing Street as they were taking part in a daily contact tracing pilot scheme.
This was followed by a highly predictable and understandable outcry. Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that it was unfair politicians appeared to have access to “VIP testing” to avoid self-isolation, while Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey asked if it was only available to “the privileged few”.
Iceland supermarket managing director Richard Walker wrote on Twitter: “Shame the hundreds of Iceland staff who’ve been pinged can’t avoid self-isolation. We can all do a daily lateral flow test.”
At 10:42am, a Downing Street spokesman announced that both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak would self-isolate after all.
Mr Sunak acknowledged the sense the rules were not being applied equally was damaging.
“I recognise that even the sense that the rules aren’t the same for everyone is wrong,” he tweeted.
It seems unlikely that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak did not sign off on the decision they need not self-isolate.
The U-turn suggests their actions were driven by public opinion rather than principle. This would not be the first time such an accusation has been levelled at Mr Johnson.
Today marks “Freedom Day” in England and yet three senior ministers – the Chancellor, the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister himself – are in isolation. This reflects the precarious situation in which we find ourselves, with case numbers soaring and the NHS buckling as restrictions are eased.
We need political leaders who lead by example because, as Churchill also said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.”