One of the primary undertones of Boris Johnson’s paean to Britain’s wartime leader, The Churchill Factor, was the extent to which the Prime Minister sees similar leadership skills in himself.
The book, written when he was the Mayor of London, invites readers to see the two men as supreme orators, literary masters and slayers of spineless Conservatives, John Kampfner noted, and certainly formed part of Johnson’s positioning to become a future leader.
And now, alas, it appears that his moment has arrived.
Seriousness, competence and presentational ability
After displaying fetish-like behaviour towards Churchill during the Brexit process, Johnson now has a situation on his hands that warrants parallels with war time efforts.
The questions is, does he have the seriousness, competence and presentational ability to handle an event of this magnitude?
The early signs offer little comfort in this regard.
With the epidemic spreading at a rate of knots Johnson has yet to implement measures adopted by many countries in similar positions across the world.
He hasn’t shut schools. He hasn’t shut pubs or restaurants and has offered lukewarm guidance on social gatherings and travelling.
He did advise those aged over 70 not to go on cruises, until they realised they had got their entire strategy wrong altogether.
Last night a team of experts who have been advising the government confessed that the government realised “in the last few days” that its Coronavirus strategy would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths”.
Own the crisis
But one of the most disconcerting things is that Johnson doesn’t seem to want to own the crisis.
In 2008 as the financial crisis gripped Britain Gordon Brown had the right diagnosis and did largely the right things, and he made sure the public was kept abreast of what he was doing and what the consequences might be.
It wasn’t until after significant public pressure that Johnson announced daily briefings, and Sadiq Khan has only just been permitted to attend COBRA briefings despite London being at the heart of the outbreak in the UK.
The prime ministerial qualities possessed by Churchill, who led a coalition government for most of the Second World War, appear to have gone astray as Johnson prepares to imitate his hero.
“Welcome to politics’ darkest hour”, Matthew Karnitschnig wrote politico.com, where the first victim of the coronavirus is leadership.