The Speaker
Sunday, 19 May 2024 – 19:37

Not a Happy Halloween for Downing Street

With England heading into a second lockdown in just a matter of days, it isn’t a particularly happy Halloween for anyone – but it especially isn’t for those in Downing Street.

This evening, Boris Johnson announced that England would be facing new month-long national restrictions, including a ‘stay at home’ order and the closure of all non-essential shops, pubs, bars and restaurants.

The announcement was never meant to be made this evening, but something went wrong.

On Friday evening, information about meetings between the Prime Minister and senior members of the Cabinet was leaked, with it claimed that a new national lockdown was under consideration and could be implemented as early as next week.

Downing Street has since launched an inquiry into the leak. After more leaks and speculation, few were left in much doubt as to whether a lockdown would be announced.

The PM and his team had to finalise their policy, make calls and work out what was to be said to the public over the course of Saturday – it is believed that an announcement was originally scheduled for Monday. A news conference was scheduled for 16:00 on Saturday afternoon, before being delayed until 17:00. It was then delayed again until 18:30 and didn’t eventually take place until gone 18:45.

The Government will likely face criticism in Sunday’s papers over how the situation has been handled and many have already questioned the Government’s competency. There are though, bigger, much more serious questions that Downing Street faces.

Why was the lockdown not implemented earlier, and how many lives could the decision not to implement one have cost?

Government ministers had insisted that its local lockdown approach was the right one, despite calls for a circuit-breaker lockdown to be implemented. Labour has been calling on the Government to implement such a lockdown since 13 October, after it emerged that at a meeting on 21 September, members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advised the government to implement a circuit-breaker lockdown.

Wales and Northern Ireland are already well into their own lockdown periods and it is a model that has also been adopted in France and Germany. However, until today, the Government had insisted that such a lockdown would be a ‘disaster’ and one that they were trying to avoid through the local lockdown approach.

As he started his press conference this evening, Mr Johnson said; “Apologies for disturbing your Saturday, I wouldn’t be doing this unless it were absolutely necessary.”

It is clear that the need to act has only been becoming more and more necessary – many will now ask why a lockdown didn’t happen earlier.

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