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2 April 2020

Is the UK government in trouble over the lack of coronavirus testing?

Today's newspapers may be the most hostile Boris Johnson has faced since the start of his premiership.   

By Stephen Bush

Is the tide beginning to turn for the government? Today’s newspapers are the most hostile that Boris Johnson has faced since the start of the crisis – and quite possibly since the start of his premiership.

The source of anger? The slow increase in the United Kingdom’s testing capacity and the lack of clarity from the government about the same. Even the Telegraph has joined the chorus of criticism.

The good news, from Johnson’s perspective, is that there’s probably never been a better time to have the newspapers out for you. A common area of consensus between the communications teams of David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, and Boris Johnson is that the way that bad frontpages hurt you is not because of who reads them directly – but because they set the mood music which influences the coverage that really does matter: the broadcasters, particularly the BBC. 

Has the era of social distancing disrupted that relationship? Well, we’ll see. For the moment, in any case, approval in the government among the public at large remains very high. 

The questions that will define how the public comes to see the government’s handling remains unknowable. How will the UK have done compared to the rest of Europe in fighting the disease? Is it just a temporary quirk, or a reflection on better decision-making, that NHS Wales is testing more people per head than NHS England? Will the economic package have done enough to preserve the economy? And, and this is the question that many Conservatives think will define the government’s future: how is all of this going to be paid for when it’s all over? 

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