Friday, April 3, 2020

Ipsos-Mori poll suggests the public are aware that Johnson was too slow in ordering a lockdown

It's often said that leader ratings are more predictive of election results than voting intention numbers.  Given that governments almost always have sky-high approval figures in the middle of a major crisis, I wonder if it's also true that we need to look at other polling questions to get a more accurate sense of what the fallout for the current government might be in the longer run.  (Tony Blair, for example, was given the benefit of the doubt by the public during the Iraq War, but that swiftly changed after major hostilities were over and no WMDs were found.)

There are already some worrying signs for Boris Johnson.  A YouGov poll suggests that 31% feel the UK is handling the crisis worse than other countries, and only 27% take the opposite view.  OK, those aren't disastrous figures for Johnson, but they do suggest that a substantial minority have wised up to the failings on PPE, testing and contact tracing.  Even more telling is an Ipsos-Mori poll showing that 56% of respondents feel that Britain didn't go into lockdown soon enough.  At present, that seems to be the mistake that has the greatest potential to come back to haunt the Prime Minister.

There can be little doubt that the majority are right on this one, because the hundreds of people who are now dying in the UK on a daily basis were largely infected at a time when the government were still saying that large gatherings were fine (and that there wasn't much risk in the open air!), that schools should remain open and that pubs and clubs could carry on with their normal business.

The Scottish Government of course moved slightly faster than the rest of the UK in ending large gatherings, but it's difficult to give them much credit for that, because even when the decision was taken they still perservered with the silly fiction that "the science" showed that big crowds did little harm and that the only good reason for stopping major events was to reduce the burden on the emergency services.  That simply wasn't true.  Even the modelling that ministers were relying on at the time clearly showed that banning big public gatherings would reduce the rate of infection, and that if done in combination with the closure of schools, pubs and clubs, the effect could be extremely substantial.

As late as 15th March - less than three weeks ago - the Scottish Government inexplicably allowed a Lewis Capaldi concert to take place in Aberdeen, even though the decision had already been taken to stop gatherings of more than 500 from the following day.  Infamously, Scotland's National Clinical Director Jason Leitch told Good Morning Britain that people "should have gone" to large gatherings on the weekend of the 14th/15th, and that he would have "gone himself".  When Piers Morgan reacted incredulously, Leitch sneered at him and asked when he had received his Masters in public health.  The clip was shared thousands of times by social media users who were excited to see the unpopular Morgan being "taken down" by a Scottish Government "man in the know", but my own reaction was very different -

"There's probably no other circumstance in which I'd be on Piers Morgan's side in a confrontation with a Scottish Govt spokesperson, but my guess is that much of what Leitch has been saying in his tour of the TV and radio studios isn't going to age well."

Tragically, that guess has been proved right extremely rapidly.  The reality is that there was never any public health justification for allowing the Capaldi concert, or the Scotland v France game a week earlier, or the Cheltenham festival, or the Liverpool v Atletico Madrid game.  The evidence was clear that these events would fuel the epidemic - and for ministers and their advisers that was the whole point of allowing them to go ahead.  They actively wanted infections to occur (albeit at a 'managed' rate) because their crazy objective at that point was not to stop or limit the epidemic, but rather to "land the peak" at what they thought was going to be the 'perfect' moment.  

However much Matt Hancock may try to rewrite history, there is ample on-the-record evidence that this was the government's motivation for delaying the introduction of social distancing measures.  One estimate suggests that the delay means there'll now be an epidemic three times larger than would otherwise have been the case, and as a result thousands will die needlessly.

It looks like the public aren't all that far away from joining up these dots.


  1. Sweden still hasn't imposed lockdown conditions across the board. It appears that Swedes are currently fine with having more COVID-19 deaths (in absolute numbers and also per capita) than their neighbours, but based on their numbers, they appear to be about 10 days behind the UK in their epidemic, so harsher measures may be coming soon.

    The Netherlands have also really fucked up their response to the pandemic. I am concerned that if other countries—especially European ones—end up with even worse outcomes than the UK, Johnson & Co. will look responsible by comparison, and will escape some of the backlash they're due.

  2. In my opinion I feel there has been a lack of taking responsibility and waiting on the British government to make a move first. Why rely on a useless Boris and government when the WHO had proper guidelines look has China and other countries have managed ,where was the confidence that I have saw in the past,yes the Governments of the UK need to work together, in my eyes The British government has lead and the other governments have followed...just my point of view