You constantly understand when a political crisis is really serious or there’s a big statement coming: the prime minister elbows some poor beleaguered cabinet minister aside and makes the big statement his or herself rather of the hapless minister.
However, in making his statement on when schools in England might reopen, Boris Johnson elbowed aside not just one cabinet minister however 2.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock had actually been because of make a House of Commons statement. His name was on the Order Paper.
And despite the statement having to do with schools in England reopening, the embattled Education Secretary Gavin Williamson – currently dealing with calls to be sacked – wasn’t even in the running.
Please utilize Chrome web browser for a more accessible video gamer ‘Not possible to resume schools in February’
Was this a sign the prime minister has lost confidence in him and his days are numbered? Almost certainly.
There was no sign of the bungling Mr Williamson at the Downing Street press conference either.
Rather, Mr Johnson was flanked by the familiar faces of leading researcher Sir Patrick Vallance and the popular and straight-taking medic, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.
So we had a treble helping of the prime minister within the area of 6 hours: his second 5pm Downing Street news conference in 24 hr, coming after an ill-tempered Commons clash with Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs and once again during his Commons declaration.
After his sombre tone at the previous night’s press conference, when the UK death toll tragically topped 100,000, this time the PM came by as supportive to the concerns of parents, his voice was soft at times and it was a carefully-pitched teatime address to people seeing in your home.
He admitted that 8 March is the earliest that children can start going back to school in England. It depends upon a great deal of things going right, he stated.
So 8 March is a target, nothing more, truly, and a great deal of targets have actually been missed out on by the government during this pandemic.
Please use Chrome web browser for a more available video player ‘Schools will not open instantly after half-term’
There were lots of promises from the PM, such as continuing totally free school meals, tutoring and aid in capturing up, as he attempted to make the best of the announcement that home schooling in England is now set to go on for a minimum of another six weeks.
He was challenged on the contradiction of his claim on 4 January that schools are “vectors for transmission” and his persistence now that “schools are safe”, however he neglected the concern.
But midway through the PM’s press conference, the charming JVT, the very best communicator among all the government boffins, brought it to life.
Responding to a question about kids and COVID, he rattled off a series of short, stylish questions with yes or no responses.
Can children get COVID? Yes. Can they get ill with it? Really rarely. Can they transfer it? Yes. Do teachers get COVID? Yes.
Currently something of a cult figure throughout this pandemic, the burly, pinstripe-suited deputy chief medical officer for England is a comforting existence at these press conference. He speaks plainly in language everyone can understand.
Later JVT exposed that he has actually now assisted with vaccinations at 3 websites in the Midlands, where he lives.
Imagine rolling up your sleeve for your jab and admiring see who’s wielding the needle and it’s that chap off the telly!
For the prime minister, however, this was a fairly low-key performance. He appeared eager to avoid debate.
Please utilize Chrome internet browser for a more available video player Van-Tam Q&A on schools and COVID
For example, the Brexiteer PM withstood the temptation to wade into the row in between the European Union and AstraZeneca.
He talked about global collaborations and multinational effort. No doubt his private view is a lot more X-rated and important of Brussels.
But similar to in his press conference 24 hours previously, there was no acknowledgement of errors from the PM.
His aim was to highlight his plans on schools resuming and he didn’t appear to want to be made use of other concerns.
For those watching on TV, there will be relief amongst moms and dads and instructors that the government has actually lastly provided some clarity on the date when schools will begin to reopen, despite the fact that it’s just a target.
His pledge to set out his plans for a route out of lockdown restrictions in England the week after parliament’s half-term break sounded like a sop to Tory backbenchers demanding a speedy easing of the existing shutdown.
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On this, the prime minister is certainly – and understandably – more concerned about demands from his own MPs than those from Sir Keir and other opposition leaders.
No doubt Mark Spencer, the government chief whip, has actually cautioned the PM that Conservative MPs – and not just the shouty leaders of the COVID Healing Group and the veterans from the Tories’ libertarian Right – are getting agitated.
The government understands it can likely count on Labour support for lockdown steps when it concerns Commons votes, but doesn’t wish to suffer the shame of a big Tory disobedience.
It’s also essential to note what the prime minister didn’t state in addition to what he did.
It’s now clear – and was confirmed later by Downing Street – that there will be no easing of any other lockdown limitations in England prior to 8 March.
The PM was clear that it’s schools that will reopen initially. And 8 March is only the start of schools re-opening.
So that indicates pubs, dining establishments, non-essential retail, hairdressers and other businesses are going stay closed for many more weeks. The PM can expect more grief on that from his backbenchers.
However no doubt when hospitality, stores and other companies do eventually reopen, on that celebration the prime minister will elbow the Chancellor Rishi Sunak aside and reveal fortunately himself.
Over 3 nights Sky News will host a series of special programs examining the UK’s action to the pandemic.
View COVID Crisis: Learning the Lessons at 8pm on 9, 10 and 11 February.