Expectations were set high by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team in the lead up to his much anticipated roadmap speech yesterday evening.
Post evaluation of his roadmap speech sees most of us with no roadmap at all.
This would certainly include increased numbers of commuters driving their cars into work this morning.
Yesterday afternoon before Johnson’s speech we highlighted the ambiguity of the Government’s new slogan, writing: “We need a demonstration in leadership this evening. Not cheerleading.”
Unfortunately, cheerleading is what we got.
Why on Earth doesn’t Johnson put his hands under the table, clenching and waving his fists, seemingly uncontrollably, only distracts from his message.
The Government’s new slogan was unveiled by The Sunday Telegraph hours before he was due to announce it.
The leak, intentional or unintentional, raised expectations higher, and some sort of explanation of the new message was then expected and required.
The new slogan remains however, as open to interpretation as the hospitality industry is closed to its customers right now.
To then declare that subject to, almost infinite potential variations on where the county is in combating the Covid-19 crisis, hospitality could open on 1st July. Was unfair and irresponsible.
It raises an expectation that is unlikely to be met.
Much has been achieved in the past few months in combating Covid-19. If levels of infection continue to come down this allows for some optimism. But that optimism needs to be balanced with pragmatism. That pragmatism then requires decisive action.
Hospitality business owners want to open and trade as much, if not more, than most people look forward to enjoying an occasion of hospitality with their family and friends. They want to see their livelihoods come back to life, but not at the risk of exacerbating the crisis.
The UK was too slow to enforce lockdown, and the lockdown measures prescribed were not sufficiently strong medicinally to deal with the pandemic in its early stages. Hence, the levels of impact we have seen.
We need to learn from this and apply those lessons.
The old campaign slogan – Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives – was working.
To now change it to – Stay Alert, Control The Virus, Save Lives – is as inept strategically and tactically as it is literally.
‘Stay Alert’ to what exactly?
‘Stay Alert’ also suggests that by doing so, in no specific advised manner, somehow people can control infection, of themselves and others.
The new slogan and Johnson’s speech yesterday evening also implied that we are entering a new phase of ‘managing’ Covid-19. Then, both in tone and outright statement that we are able to ‘Control The Virus’.
The world is still learning, painfully, about Covid-19 and that includes the UK Government.
Some countries have now eased lockdown and have seen increased cases of infection. Though these are not approaching previous peak levels, increases are of concern, and see the prospect of a second lockdown in countries that have eased them. Germany being one example.
If the hospitality industry in the UK reopens before it is sensible to do so, a second lockdown could be even more damaging to it than the first. Painful to digest but self-explanatory.
Most hospitality business owners already realise this.
When we are able to resume in the business of hospitality, we will need to ensure that our colleagues and customers are free from any reasonable risk of infection from Covid-19.
This considered and patient approach, painful as it is and will be, is the best way of rebuilding our industry, individually and collectively.
The increased traffic in London this morning as well as overcrowded carriages in The Tube network shows what raising expectations through ill-conceived messaging achieves, chaos.