The workings of Downing Street throughout the Covid-19 pandemic are being ever more closely focused on through our reporting, as hospitality has never previously been so impacted by them.
Decisions taken affect our industry like never before. Decisions to close the hospitality industry have ultimately been taken by Boris Johnson. So, if you are a fan, you have him to thank for how the pandemic has been handled to date, and if you are not, you have him to thank for how the pandemic has been handled to date.
As Covid-19 made its way from China, through Italy and other parts of the world towards the UK, Boris Johnson was unperturbed. He skipped vital COBRA meetings planning for Covid’s onslaught to enjoy weekend’s off.
With gay abandon he continued shaking hands and ignoring social distancing until he ended up in intensive care as a direct consequence of his recklessness. He vastly underestimated the situation.
Johnson then delayed lockdown until he had no alternative, and then oversaw a stop start of opening and closing until once again in December things were out of control and he had no choice.
Throughout the past year control of international travel has been far too lax. Mutations of the virus, Brazilian, South African, most recently Indian, and others, have been free to come through customs and enter into UK society. All the while these ‘freedoms’ have been enjoyed by millions of people travelling in and out of the UK, your hospitality business and your customers have not enjoyed similar. Your doors were firmly closed.
Boris Johnson has done a truly exceptional job with the vaccination programme, which has saved countless lives. The polls at the moment would suggest that this success, an enormous one, sees his approval rating 11% ahead of disapproval with voters.
But as the graph above shows, his approval rate has fluctuated significantly throughout the pandemic, and the week ahead will in all likelihood see it fluctuate again.
Possible fluctuations could be shaped by the growing ‘noise’ around a culture of sleaze and cronyism at the heart of government.
Why does this matter to hospitality some may ask themselves. It matters because questions are growing around billions of pounds of tax payer money being spent on ‘Fast-Track VIP PPE contracts’ procured by government without due diligence being applied. Countless ‘friends’ of ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s sister are on a long list of contract awards now being taken to the High Court for examination.
That money, if it were squandered, could have been spent on providing more much needed support for hospitality.
To date, Johnson and many others in Downing Street and Whitehall have managed to avoid independent scrutiny of such accusations. But as they grow the time to provide answers draws near.
Johnson’s recent comments that the public “don’t give a monkey’s” about the Downing Street leak row underestimates the public’s moral compass.
His attack on his ex-chief advisor and confidant, Dominic Cummings seems like his emotions around political infighting between current and recent Downing Street factions got the better of him.
Dominic Cummings may be many things, but stupid is not one of them, and Boris Johnson should know that better than anyone.
The strategic and tactical planning nous of Dominic Cummings took Mr Johnson to No 10 and took the UK out of Europe. Many people will question either as an achievement, but there is no denying the ability to mastermind and execute both took quite some doing.
Cummings is extraordinarily unpopular, but he is used to living with that and is not vying for public office. He has nothing to lose in hitting back at Boris, that and many other things make him an extremely dangerous adversary for the PM to bait.
It is no secret that since Cummings left No 10 Johnson has developed a deep disdain for his former chief advisor. Picking a fight with his ex-advisor seems to indicate the PM’s ego got the better of him, as Cummings is likely to also in the days and weeks ahead.
The strategy deployed by Johnson would seem to be, blaming recent leaks from Downing Street and Whitehall on Cummings would dispel their credibility. But that would be partly reliant on Cummings staying quiet and taking the blame. Really.
Last Thursday, the Prime Minister picked up the phone and rang a number of newspaper editors to ‘brief’ them on the leaks by Cummings. Seasoned journalists would have seen through this ‘tactic’ immediately, and then added them, unattributed beyond ‘a government source’ to their homepage’s. Does the PM not imagine that most if not all of those calls will have been recorded for future use as the story unfolds. Again, underestimating, and/or not calculating the outcomes of his actions.
Cummings unsurprisingly to everyone except the Prime Minister hit back immediately and swiftly, in person, and he cut deep. Johnson yet again underestimated his enemy, severely.
In his Blog, Dominic Cummings wrote extensively not just answering the accusations of the Prime Minister, he brought fresh details into view of other matters the PM would rather lay dormant.
The statement from Dominic Cummings can be read here in full.
The accusations from Cummings are severely dangerous to the Prime Minister if they are proved to be accurate.
- James Dyson Texts: Cummings offered open access to the Cabinet Secretary on his correspondence with the PM around the leak of texts regarding Dyson Ventilators.
- Halt leak inquiry to protect Carrie Symonds and Henry Newman: Cummings refers to alleged conversations between he and Johnson and previous leaks around lockdown meetings. Cummings says the Cabinet Secretary knew at that time that the leak was neither from Cummings himself nor the then Director of Communications. Cummings states that the Cabinet Secretary said: “all the evidence definitely leads to Henry Newman”. He then claims that the PM was very upset about this and said to Cummings: “If Newman is confirmed as the leaker then I will have to fire him, and this will cause me very serious problems with Carrie as they’re best friends … [pause] perhaps we could get the Cabinet Secretary to stop the leak inquiry?” The use of [pause] in the quote, would suggest the conversation was recorded. Cummings goes on to state: “I told him that he could not possibly cancel an inquiry about a leak that affected millions of people, just because it might implicate his girlfriend’s friends.”
This part of the statement ends:
‘The Cabinet Secretary knows the above is true and obviously can see our messages regarding this on his own phone. He behaved with complete integrity during this difficult incident.’
- The Prime Minister’s Private Flat: Cummings states: The Prime Minister’s Director of Communications has also made accusations regarding me and leaks concerning the PM’s renovation of his flat. The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended. I refused to help him organise these payments. My knowledge about them is therefore limited. I would be happy to tell the Cabinet Secretary or Electoral Commission what I know concerning this matter.
- Cummings Concludes: I have made the offer to hand over some private text messages, even though I am under no legal obligation to do so, because of the seriousness of the claims being made officially by No 10 today, particularly the covid leak that caused serious harm to millions. This does not mean that I will answer every allegation made by No 10.
The proper way for such issues to be handled is via an urgent Parliamentary inquiry into the government’s conduct over the covid crisis which ought to take evidence from all key players under oath and have access to documents. Issues concerning covid and/or the PM’s conduct should not be handled as No 10 has handled them over the past 24 hours. I will cooperate fully with any such inquiry and am happy to give evidence under oath. I am happy for No 10 to publish every email I received and sent July 2019-November 2020 (with no exceptions other than, obviously, some national security / intelligence issues).
It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves.
I will not engage in media briefing regarding these issues but will answer questions about any of these issues to Parliament on 26 May for as long as the MPs want.
End of Statement:
Labour has requested a senior minister appear in Parliament today to answer a number of questions surrounding the recent workings of Downing Street and Whitehall.
Labour are also now asking why the government, which is supposed to publish the list of minister’s Interests twice a year, has not done so since July 2020.
So, for all the reasons above, hospitality should give “a monkey’s” about Boris’ behaviour.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Why hospitality should give “a monkey’s” about Boris’ behaviour. – 26 April 2021 – Why hospitality should give “a monkey’s” about Boris’ behaviour.