I was deeply unpopular with some in Twitter for making this comment yesterday:
Why can Boris Johnson go to his second home when no one else who has one can? Are we really all in this together?
— Richard Murphy (@RichardJMurphy) April 12, 2020
I made the comment for three good reasons though.
The first was concern for the Prime Minister. Tim Brooke-Taylor sadly died yesterday. His friends thought he was recovering from Covid-19. He clearly wasn’t. The relapse must have been quick in that case (as doctors keep saying is possible with this virus), and it was literally deadly. There is similar risk, surely, for Johnson? Shouldn’t he be at No. 11 then, where he lives, because then he is within minutes of St. Thomas’ Hospital? Doesn't that make complete sense, when Chequers doesn't?
Second, No.11 (not 10) is his main residence. And the rules on the lockdown are quite clear. A person is meant to be in and to stay at their main residence. Second-home use is not permitted. And let’s not pretend he cannot stay in the No.11 flat: people all over the country face the same constraint. Why are there separate rules for Johnson?
Third. let's remember that the former Chief Medical Officer in Scotland was forced to resign over going to a second home and that Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is in virtual political quarantine for breaking the rule. But now Johnson is going to a second home.
Third, in that case this makes no political sense. Johnson wants to play the hero. His video message makes that clear. But he can’t be a hero playing by different rules to everyone else, and by breaking the very guidelines he established. As it is his government is on borrowed time. PPE failures, the falsification of deaths figures, the past lack of support for the NHS, the failure to prepare for a pandemic that is now widely understood, and the sheer hypocrisy of thanking immigrant nurses whose lives Johnson wants to make much harder in future with barriers to entry and extra charges to use the NHS they actually work for will all come back to haunt him. As will business failures, unnecessary job losses and sheer hunger. Playing by separate rules on isolation will only exacerbate that. In the politics of this era going to Chequers will be seen to be a big mistake in the end. The sense that there’s one rule for the rulers (as the testing of one of Gove’s family also proved this week) and another for the rest of us will not, eventually, go down well. His political antennae have failed him here.
I’m more than happy to stand by comment in that case, even if Tim Montgomerie was stirring up sentiment against me and the few others willing to question this decision.
And most of all, I genuinely hope this folly does not put Johnson's health at risk. I fear it might. But apparently saying that requires that you be called out by right-wing Twitter. I will never understand their indifference, and their sheer sense of entitlement that makes them believe that the world is divided into the categories of rulers and those who obey. I will, however, be pleased to see it consigned to history.