On Monday the 11th of May 2020 Boris Johnson ruffled up his coiffure and with customary big arm movements made a major announcement. Johnson cheerfully proclaimed that, in two months time, on Saturday the 4th of July to be exact, we could all go to the hairdressers again. To add a bit of froth, the pubs would open too. Had Johnson been visiting Mystic Meg or had he just peered into Dominic Cummings’ very own crystal ball?
The country was in the darkest hour of Covid lockdown, new coronavirus cases were exploding daily to above 32,000, deaths from Covid-19 were soaring to what then seemed a staggering 14,573. We were all clapping our carers on Thursdays and children would likely not be back in school till September. So what did he know that the scientists didn’t? What magic did Saturday the 4th of July hold, that would wash away our virus woes?
The answer, of course, is that Boris Johnson did not know and the 4th of July does not have any particular powers over global pandemics. What it does have, being the American Independence Day, is great recognition value. And that’s something Boris Johnson does understand – style over substance. Johnson could smartly sell this as the British Independence Day. Ironic really, given how the original July 4 came about – declaration of US independence from the rule of the British monarch.
So, this was purely a, now familiar, case of shipping out the science, and just picking another daft date with which to navigate the nation’s viral tsunami, never mind the fallout. Medics and scientists are nervous, to say the least, that, after three months of idle beer pumps, pubs are opening on a Saturday. “Can’t it at least wait till the quieter Monday?” they ask. No, Monday is the 6th of July and that sounds just a bit lame. No sound bite and oven-ready headline for Johnson to trumpet.
And the Tories do have form when it comes to picking daft dates. Here are a few of their recent prize picks:
01 April, April Fool: Day One after Brexit (it didn’t happen, fooled you?)
31 October, Halloween: Announcing a new Brexit date (Zombies?)
31 December, New Years Eve: Brexit – (again)
04 July, US Independence Day: End of the (First?) Covid-19 lockdown
At least this daft-date map comes in handy for planning our own future diaries. We can at least guess which dates we can expect for more big headline announcements from the Government:
13 July, Battle of the Boyne (controversial)
31 August, Summer Bank Holiday (let’s send this virus packing! Again)
25 October, End of Daylight Saving (darkness falls…)
05 November, Guy Fawkes Day (could be a winner)
08 November, Remembrance Sunday (in case Guy Fawkes doesn’t work)
So there’s our Boris Johnson/Dominic Cummings event roadmap for the next six months. Forewarned is forearmed. Wear a mask, wash your hands, carry a tape measure. And your diary.