As the months, ministers and advisers go by, Boris Johnson’s British government seems to be locked in a never-ending spiral of controversy. The latest one arose this Sunday around the new health minister, Sajid Javid, after he published a tweet in which he asked the British people not to be cowed by the coronavirus.
Javid included these words in the message in which he announced that he had “fully recovered” from the disease after being infected a week ago, as well as asking people who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. The message, which he later deleted, read: “I have fully recovered from Covid one week after testing positive. The symptoms were very mild, thanks to the amazing vaccines. Please, if you haven’t already, get the vaccine, as we learn to live with this virus, rather than cower.
Controversial words that have once again put the Johnson government on the back foot, given the lack of tact in some of his messages. Sajid Javid, who was appointed as the new health minister barely a month ago, apologised for the use of the verb “to cower” and assures that he never wanted to “minimise the impact” of the virus.
The opposition accuses the Johnson government of denigrating those who play by the rules and “try to keep themselves and their families safe”, while Jo Goodman, founder of a victims’ group, says Javid’s words are “deeply insensitive”. Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said 127,000 people have died from the virus and “tens of thousands of whom would still be here if it wasn’t for the catastrophic failures of your government,” she said on Twitter.
It was the health minister’s positive test result that caused another controversy involving Boris Johnson just a week ago. After it was announced that both the prime minister and finance minister Rishi Sunak had been in contact with Sajid Javid, both were to be quarantined like any other Briton.
Initially, however, Johnson and Sunak said that instead of isolating themselves, they would try a daily test as a form of control, which provoked outrage from the opposition and widespread criticism. Both eventually rectified their assurances and have been confined for the past week.
If Javid’s start at the helm of the health ministry does not appear to have been idyllic, the departure of his predecessor was not exactly a bed of roses. Matt Hancock resigned from his post a month ago after The Sun published images of him kissing his adviser, both from different cohabitation groups. Hancock’s resignation was a blow to the Johnson government, as he had broken one of the rules that his ministry had asked all Britons to respect, that of respecting social distance.
But the threat to the image of Boris Johnson and his party is not only coming from within. Since leaving his post as the Prime Minister’s star adviser, Dominic Cummings continues to shake the foundations of the Conservative Party with leaks and statements that leave Boris Johnson in a very bad light.
Earlier this week, in an interview with the BBC, Cummings claimed that Johnson had been reluctant to tighten restrictions last autumn as Covid infections grew because those dying were “essentially over 80”.
The former right-hand man of the Prime Minister and architect of the Brexit campaign also revealed that Johnson preferred Covid to “pass through the country like a wave” rather than destroy the economy. The Tory leader also reportedly insisted on attending his weekly meetings with the Queen, even though he knew the risk to her if she was infected.
The spiral of controversy continues to haunt Johnson and his party, while Europe looks on in astonishment at how since last Monday (with the so-called “Freedom Day”) the restrictions have disappeared in England, despite being immersed in a new wave of contagion. The third, according to British government estimates. By mid-August, the number of daily infections could even reach 100,000, with the Delta variant running rampant.