Yet another U-turn leaves PM Boris on a slippery slope

“Mask Mayhem” says Mail Online this morning, blaming UK PM Boris Johnson fairly and squarely for the about-turn on advice to schools about pupils wearing face masks. Even worse for the Government it looks as though Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is making UK government policy (everything she does they copy, even when they say they’re not going to.)

Strange in a way that yet another government about-turn still makes headlines, given that throughout the coronavirus outbreak there have been so many of them.

So does it matter? Arguably these garbled communications do matter because Boris and his cohorts (Dominic Cummings et al) are rapidly losing the support of the media who matter – to Conservatives anyway.

There are two powerful Tory-supporting media forces in the UK: DMG Media, formerly Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday) and News Corp (the Sun, The Times and the Sunday Times.) Lose the support of one of these you’re in trouble (even if you’re prime minister with a majority of 80), lose them both and the exit beckons.

So far, even though they’ve both been officially supportive of Boris (great campaigner etc, life and soul of the party) their scepticism has been growing. “Buck up Boris” messages have started appearing in the leader columns alongside swathes of coverage of government fumbling and bungling.

In amongst these are various reports that Boris himself is intending to quit, maybe because he hasn’t fully recovered from the coronavirus himself. Dominic Cummings’ father in law is said to have told a passer-by that Boris won’t be there in six months. Cummings has been recuperating up north following an operation he delayed; reportedly ignoring emails and messages – which may help him but maybe not Boris.

In the not too distant past News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch would have taken himself to 10 Downing Street to read the riot act. But Murdoch is now 89 and probably more engrossed in US political matters. His Fox News is just about Donald Trump’s only remaining US main media supporter.

But the knives are out for Boris, big majority or not.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.