HENRY DEEDES: An explosive moment? No, it was more of a weedy pop

HENRY DEEDES: An explosive moment? No, it was more of a weedy pop

Boris Johnson may have fired the starting pistol – but there wasn’t much of a bang. Well, not unless you count the giant thunderclaps echoing over Westminster.

This was supposed to be an explosive moment. It turned out to be more of a weedy pop, a squeak, a disappointing fizzle.

The PM had come to the Downing Street briefing room to confirm that Covid restrictions would be lifted on July 19.

Stage four, here we come. But it is clear that so-called ‘Freedom Day’ will be far from the collective eruption of euphoria we all dreamt about back in January.

Boris Johnson may have fired the starting pistol – but there wasn’t much of a bang. Well, not unless you count the giant thunderclaps echoing over Westminster

He wanted the return to offices to be gradual. He expected people to still wear face masks, particularly in enclosed spaces.

Oh, and that business about our route to freedom being ‘irreversible’? He hadn’t really meant that. Turns out it was more of an ambition.

Don’t think he won’t yank down the shutters again if he has to. ‘We mustn’t rule anything out,’ he said. The press conference had strong nursery school vibes to it. ‘Don’t run, children, each wait your turn, we all have to be patient.’

I lost count of the amount of times Boris used the word ‘caution’. A dozen at least. ‘This is not the end of the pandemic,’ Boris warned. ‘We cannot simply revert instantly to life as it was before.’

Then he heaped praise on our vanquished footballers. Gareth Southgate’s side had ‘made history and brought joy to this country,’ he observed, while denouncing the boneheads who abused the players on social media. 

‘Shame on you. I hope you crawl back under the rock you came from,’ he said. Whitty and Vallance were there again. Sir Patrick’s face was tanned after spending his Sunday enjoying the tennis final at Wimbledon. Not sure what Chris Whitty did with his weekend. Possibly not much of a sports fan. Can’t help feel that PE lessons at school were a bit of an ordeal for him. He’d have been hopeless at the climbing ropes.

Don’t think he won’t yank down the shutters again if he has to. ‘We mustn’t rule anything out,’ he said. The press conference had strong nursery school vibes to it. ‘Don’t run, children, each wait your turn, we all have to be patient’

Both seemed a little less bolshie after their gloom-laden performances last week. Perhaps the No 10 communications staff requested they perk up a bit.

Whitty, eyes darting, refusing to focus on anything in particular, said scientists were in agreement over most aspects of the Government’s plans. The only thing they disagreed upon was the ideal date to reopen. ‘Because there is no ideal date,’ he said, lowering his voice an octave to give it an ominous flavour.

The man from the BBC wanted to know whether the PM would end the need for double-jabbed NHS staff to isolate after coming into contact with someone infected.

‘Yeah, that’s a good question,’ said Boris. And one which he couldn’t answer. He promised to get The Saj on the case pronto. Someone from ITV needled the PM over that ‘irreversible’ pledge on which he was now clearly backtracking.

‘We always said we hoped they were irreversible,’ Boris interjected. A palpable fib.

I lost count of the amount of times Boris used the word ‘caution’. A dozen at least. ‘This is not the end of the pandemic,’ Boris warned

Someone from LBC seemed very keen for mask wearing to be mandatory. Boris explained he was trying to move to a system of ‘personal responsibility’ as an alternative to relying on rules.

He wanted to stop having to play nanny all the time in other words.

A journalist from The Times was confused as to what all this ‘slowly, slowly’ stuff actually meant. Should we still not go to nightclubs? Should we still not host parties?

‘Don’t tear the pants out of it,’ Boris replied, quoting one of Professor Jonathan Van-Tam’s most memorable phrases from the pandemic so far. By the way, what’s happened to good old JVT?

His jovial teatime turns at these press conferences are much missed. Meanwhile, over in the Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle confirmed number restrictions in the chamber would be done away with next week.

The Speaker said he looked forward to seeing the place ‘buzzing’ again. But masks will still have to be worn. Bobbing up and down to catch the Speaker’s eye will still be forbidden. We remain a long way off ‘normal’.

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