Boris - The Gambler

Throwing the dice - Boris the Gambler

Boris is between a rock and a hard place. Politically speaking ignoring SAGE's advice for a short sharp circuit breaker was ill advised placing him and the country in a very precarious position.  Wales having a circuit breaker themselves - is further heaping pressure on the PM. 

He has also handed the political initiative to Keir Starmer, who for most of this crisis has had to play second fiddle to Boris's conductor. Keir's demands for a short sharp lock down is an astute political move - that is ramping up the pressure on the PM. Laura Kuenssberg said as much in her summary the other night.

Boris would find it difficult to U-turn without looking weak and giving Labour the opportunity to pour scorn over his approach. And equally he knows that if he forces increased lockdown restrictions on Manchester he can kiss goodbye to votes from the North at the next election. People have long memories.

And in Manchester Boris is facing a determined Mayor - a consummate politician who understands national politics. Andy Burnham and his advisers have seen an opportunity to put him on the rack. Andy knows that something has to be done and that some form of increased restrictions is inevitable.  But this is his one opportunity to get a better deal for his constituents - many of whom may lose their jobs.

So where does Boris go from here? What is his next throw of the dice. I doubt he knows- and I am certain his scientific advisers don't know.   The ideal communications play book would be obfuscate, shift the agenda and throw in some positive news probably about the vaccine whilst negotiating behind the scenes.  I've worked with politicians long enough to know that they rarely back down to the opposition, if they can help it,  often take the knocks very personally and ignore the advice they are being given. Which appears to be the case here.  Negotiations appear to be bitter, protracted and  being played out in public.  The political squabbling makes the Government look shambolic, at a time when the country needs to trust the advice being given. Something has to give.

Boris is both an optimist and a gambler . And as a result we are playing a deadly game of roulette. It was a gamble that has backfired sending students back to University with rising figures - many are self-isolating in halls of residence. It was surely pretty obvious that students would party together. It was a gamble opening pubs and clubs and sending children back to school. Head teachers must be pulling their hair out- no sooner do they get the kids back into school than they have to send whole classes home because of a positive Covid test.

Boris is gambling and keeping his fingers crossed that the virus figures can peak and slow down at which point he can put Keir back in his box. But what happens if they don't? Politically - the wheels will come off the wagon. Surely the priority is to save lives. We want our politicians to set aside the political squabbling which is not in the national interest.

In truth - it was a no-win situation for Boris. Until the last few weeks I thought he was handling the crisis OK. But now I'm not so sure.  I suspect he is ruing his decision not to follow the scientific advice for a circuit breaker.  We can all hope his gamble pays off and it peaks. If not, I hope that he has the strength to listen to the medics - despite the inevitable political fallout and whispering in his ear from his advisers. I hope he is getting good communications advice as opposed to listening to political advisers



Jonathan Mercer is a communications specialist with experience working in the public sector. He can be contacted via his website at or by email at