7 O’CLOCK AND ALL’S NOT WELL: This was typical Boris bluster, some might call it ‘bolloxology’ – By Brian Rowan

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There is nothing precise about social distancing; nothing easy about having Covid-secure standards in the work place – yet Prime Minister Boris Johnson breezed through that Sunday television address as if saying these things was all that was needed.

Just step inside a supermarket with all its one-way arrows and distance markings and instructions and experience how that works in reality; over-taking where it is not meant to happen, two-way traffic in the one-way system – shoppers appearing unexpectedly from the side-aisles or roads.

For many, the Johnson plan should come with a two-metre tape measure or a cardboard cutout of the former international footballer Peter Crouch as a beginner’s -guide to distance demands and controls.

In this lockdown, there are many who are doing their best to keep to the rules; but there are many others who couldn’t give twopence about these virus-related restrictions.

Johnson speaks in elastic words; that’s his form – leaving room for interpretation, for sentences and meaning to be stretched. 

We all heard the concerns in Scotland, Wales and here in Northern Ireland as political leaders waited for that 7pm address on Sunday.

Who will have heard the ‘Big ifs’ and conditionality as the Prime Minister rushed and raced through his rehearsed and pre-recorded words? 

Many will not get that this was his plan for England; a solo-run that will add to pressures elsewhere in the United Kingdom with the predictable question: If it is happening there, why not here?

This was typical Boris bluster; some might call it ‘bolloxology’.


Then, there is the new messaging; stay alert, control the virus, save lives; for now, a message for England as others try to hold to their #stayathome brand that has done much to interrupt this virus on its deadly mission.

I’m alert on my daily walk; watching for a wave that might come over the wall or for a seagull that might drop something on my head, but I have not the eyes to see Covid-19 – this invisible killer.

Stay Alert is so short of what is needed at this time.


It strikes me that this is far too early to be re-working a plan; strikes me also that we might be watching a sleep-walk towards a second spike.

Could this be an attempt to deliver a back-to-work message through the back door?

How will back to work but avoid public transport work in reality?

How long before we see the pictures of over-crowded transport that caused so much concern not that many weeks ago?

Here, there is a chance for the Executive to shine.

It did the right thing last week when it extended the restrictions by a further three weeks.

Those at that Stormont top-table know that people are disengaging from the lockdown and knew that giving an inch, especially on a bank holiday weekend, could easily have become a mile with all the dangers that would bring.

A few days ago, I wrote on this website that we had escaped the worst of the worst-case scenarios through discipline – not chance.

Those in the briefing rooms will know more about the assessment of the presence of the virus in the community than we do.

This is why they are being careful.

I believe we can expect some modifications to the restrictions, but caution will be the watchword; baby-steps and not Boris-steps.

We need a plan made in Belfast – not in London or Dublin.

Where it is properly applied, social distancing works.

The Executive needs to stress that message and assert its way.

It needs to stay on that same page that it found last week on the restrictions and its roadmap planning.

If it can do that, then we might begin to believe that politics here can work.

What a prize that would be beyond these days of terror and fear.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie

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