Confinement in England, severe political failure for Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the press conference following the re-containment announcements on October 31 at 10 Downing Street, London.

When Boris Johnson decreed the first confinement – on March 23, a week behind most other European countries – nearly one in two Britons had a good opinion of him (46% according to the YouGov institute). He also had a docile Conservative majority in Parliament, overwhelmed by the “realization” of Brexit, which occurred a month and a half earlier, on January 31.

The situation has changed a lot for the British Prime Minister, who is addressing a reconfinement of England in a much more fragile position: 59% of Britons questioned by the YouGov polling institute believe that he is running the country “badly”, so that rebellions within his own camp follow one another at a now sustained rate. It pays for its very poor management of the first wave (more than 41,000 direct deaths due to the coronavirus) and an accumulation of failures – in particular that of the system for tracing contact cases.

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By announcing in the haste, Saturday, October 31, a new hard reconfinement of a month from November 5 (only schools, essential stores and universities remain open), Boris Johnson operated yet another spectacular backpedal that risks ‘damage its credibility a little more. Since mid-September, he has been resisting urgent appeals from SAGE, the scientific committee advising Downing Street, already in favor of national reconfinement. The latter would have “Disastrous financial consequences” for the country, the Prime Minister said at the time, “I will do everything in my power to avoid it”.

Historic revolt of mayors

On October 12, he announced a three-speed restriction system for England. Only areas with a high incidence of the virus – in this case, the north of the country would be partially reconfined. A national reconfinement would be “So damaging to our economy that it would jeopardize our long-term ability to finance our healthcare system and other crucial public services”, Boris Johnson insisted. This regional approach sparked a historic revolt of mayors (in Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool) considering their region unfairly treated by London, and resulted in the formation of a “Miniparti in the party”, after the sling of conservative deputies from the north of the country against their prime minister.

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Political capital burnt to waste: in recent days, Boris Johnson has been brutally overtaken by the figures. “The virus is going faster than the scenarios of our scientists. (…) We risk thousands of deaths a day, peaks worse than in April [sans des mesures radicales] , he admitted on Saturday to justify the containment, when the threshold of one million contaminations was reached and the average daily deaths from Covid-19 over a week stood at more than 200.

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