The Breakfast Briefing: Peak Boris Johnson, ministers bullish on testing - and Keir Starmer waves the flag
Boris Johnson takes part in the latest ‘Clap for Carers’ on Thursday night.
Your morning guide to what’s moving in Westminster, from PolHome acting editor Matt Honeycombe-Foster
Say what you like about Boris Johnson, but he delivers a decent newsline. Last night’s Downing Street press conference was full of them, with the PM declaring that the UK is “past the peak” of the coronavirus epidemic and on the "downward slope”.
Downing Street had been cautioning against a big bang announcement on easing lockdown measures, but it was clear Johnson - back at the lectern for the first time since his own brush the virus - wanted to at least signal that there are better times ahead. Vowing to set out plans next week to “suppress the disease and at the same time restart the economy”, Johnson promised a “roadmap, a menu of options” in a bid to address the clamour from businesses for some kind of plan. Note, as ever, the caveats: "The dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic, what the data is really saying.”
Beyond the planned remarks, the questions teased out some more choice morsels on the Government’s thinking. Face coverings will be “useful” in giving people the "confidence" to get back to work, the PM said. Savage public spending cuts to get a grip on ballooning government borrowing after the crisis? Not so much (a position that may raise a few Conservative hackles given eye-watering borrowing predictions from the Office for Budget Responsbility yesterday).
Downing Street had been cautioning against a big bang announcement on easing lockdown measures
The Prime Minister also revealed that the UK just might hit Matt Hancock’s 100,000-a-day testing target after all, with 81,611 tests carried out on April 29, a big leap in a single day. The final figures for April 30 will be unveiled later today, and Cabinet minister Grant Shapps decided to make himself a hostage to fortune on Question Time last night by saying it was “very likely” the goal would be reached. Shapps also said it was “quite possible” and “quite likely”, so revisionist historians will at least have a “menu of options” of their own when looking back on that one. BuzzFeed’s Alex Wickham has a typically informed long-read this morning on the Department of Health’s battle to hit that goal which is well worth your time.
Meanwhile in Labour land, Keir Starmer has been making headlines of his own, triggering the latest round in the party’s endless culture wars/savvy repositioning (delete according to faction) by saying Labour should be “proud to be patriotic” and defending Brexit voters. The Labour leader also used his first ‘Call Keir’ session to address the brewing row over the participation of MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Rebeiro-Addy in a Zoom call that included former members expelled from the party amid claims of anti-semitism. Both the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement have demanded action from the Labour leader over the online event, and Sir Keir said he was “looking at the circumstances of the meeting ”. Expect that one to run.
And finally, the calendar tells me there’s something called a ‘weekend’ coming up tomorrow - so do have a good one, even if you are staring at the same four walls you've been looking at all week.
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