Amid accusations he has activated England’s ‘Plan B’ coronavirus restrictions to distract from the scandal engulfing Downing Street, an old article written by Boris Johnson has revealed his love of “dead cat” politics.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph in March 2013, Johnson introduced the public to the ploy – pioneered by his former campaign manager, the Australian political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby.
“Let us suppose you are losing an argument,” he wrote. “The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case.
“Your best bet in those circumstances is to performer a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate’.”
‘Outraged, alarmed, disgusted’
The beauty of the move, he added, was that people would still be “outraged, alarmed, disgusted” – but they’d be talking about the dead cat, rather than “the issue that has been causing you so much grief”.
Johnson’s old column was dug up in Thursday’s edition of the Telegraph.
Sajid Javid this morning insisted that the shift to the coronavirus Plan B is an attempt to “buy time” to avoid the threat of a million Omicron infections by the end of the year, as he faces down anger on the Tory backbenches.
The Health Secretary defended the sudden shift in the government’s approach to tackling the virus in England, with an extension of mask-wearing from Friday, a return to working from home on Monday and mandatory Covid passports for large venues from Wednesday.
Javid acknowledged the decisions will have a “real impact on our liberties” but insisted that taking action now is the only way to avoid having to impose tougher measures later.
He faced a barrage of Tory criticism when he announced the measures in the Commons at the same time as Boris Johnson addressed the nation on Wednesday.
‘Real impact on liberties’
Conservative anger has been fuelled by suspicions the new measures were introduced as an attempt to distract from the prime minister’s troubles over an alleged staff party in Downing Street during last December’s lockdown.
Javid insisted the measures are necessary to “build our collective defences” through the vaccination programme in the face of the rapidly-spreading Omicron.
With a doubling rate of two-and-a-half to three days, Javid told Sky News: “It would mean, at that rate, by the end of this month we could hit about one million infections in the community throughout the UK.
“We’ve always been clear that should the data change and should it move in the wrong direction and it looked like the NHS might come under unsustainable pressure – remember what that would mean, we wouldn’t be able to get the emergency care not just for Covid but for a car accident, or anything like that – we would act and implement Plan B.
“I don’t enjoy doing that, no-one does – it is a very difficult thing for many people, asking them to work from home or wearing face masks and things, it is a real impact on our liberties.
“But I hope that people will understand that by taking decisive action now, we can potentially avoid action later.”