Mid Devon shies away from withdrawing from GESP and votes for “Son of GESP” instead

Mid Devon seem to have opened a “can of worms” by deciding to fudge the issue of withdrawing from GESP. (Usually the only way to re-can them is to get a bigger can).

Sadly, people find it so difficult to let go of bad ideas when so much human capital has been invested in them.

Mid Devon are doing this a time when Councils would be advised to spend all the effort they can muster on preparing to address the Government’s new planning proposals (to be followed by the new devolution ideas).

Having been decisive, we, in East Devon, are now interested spectators and can concentrate on the more immediate problems.


At the 2019 election the Conservatives lost 11 seats and overall control of Mid Devon.

Current balance of power is Conservatives 18; Liberal Democrats 12; Independents 10; Greens 2.

Conservatives are in opposition against a coalition of the remaining 24 councillors. The Cabinet of eight is led by Councillor Bob Deed  (Ind) with four Liberal Democrats, two other Independents and a Green. 

Last night the full council discussed the recommendation from Cabinet to withdraw from GESP.

Report from Owl’s Correspondent who watched the debate on Zoom.

On August 6th  the cabinet of Mid Devon District Council discussed how they should proceed with GESP, as all four participating councils were tasked to do.

After much discussion , it was decided by a majority of 7-1 that the cabinet would recommend the following to full Council:

  1. Withdraw from GESP 
  2. Bring forward the preparation of the next Local Plan Review 
  3. Enter into discussions with our former GESP partners on a new Joint Strategic Planning Framework that ensures responsibility for development site allocations and targets is retained with the Local Plan

The one dissenting voice came from the leader of the Council, Councillor Bob Deed, who is Mid Devon DC’s representative  on  GESP. 

Full council discussed their membership of the GESP on 26th August. 

Again much debating, where various councillors proclaimed that ”GESP is dead”, life and working practises have changed post Covid , Mid Devon could become a suburb of Exeter whilst traffic would clog the roads as people travelled to work in Exeter. Indeed there was much criticism of the whole plan being “Exetercentric”. More than one councillor expressed dismay that the plans for huge numbers of houses outlined in the GESP would destroy the character and heritage of existing market towns and villages which would effectively become dormitory towns for Exeter. Another councillor reported that she had been inundated with messages from residents concerned about the disproportionate number of houses proposed by GESP  in their area. 

Meanwhile the Leader, Bob Deed had put forward an amendment, set out below, which essentially proposed a “son of GESP” (his words), to keep cross border agreements in place, especially in the Housing Market.

The Amendment

  1. Commit to prepare a revised joint strategic statutory plan; 


  1. Should Officers subsequently advise that 1. proves not to be the most appropriate option in planning terms, consider a review of other options for further strategic and cross-boundary planning matters with willing participatory authorities in the Housing Market Area; 


  1. Instruct officers to review and incorporate relevant elements of the GESP Draft Policies and Site Options consultation document and other supporting documentation and evidence that remain valid; 


  1. Jointly prepare necessary technical studies and evidence for the new strategic plan, including conducting a further call for sites process, align monitoring and share resources where there are planning and cost benefits for doing so; 


  1. Reaffirm the Council’s commitment to the delivery of high quality development at Culm Garden Village as part of the Garden Communities Programme and continue to work collaboratively as a group of Councils in the garden communities programme with Homes England; and 


  1. Task Officers to prepare a further report on staff resources to prepare a revised joint strategic plan with resources to be provided equitably to the team through equalisation arrangements. 


  1. Task Officers to bring forward the preparation of the next Local Plan Review.

 A vote on this amendment was carried by 25 – 10, with two abstentions.

In other words, the door is still open for Mid Devon District Council to form some kind of re-hashed GESP with the other two remaining councils, Exeter and Teignbridge. 

A second amendment submitted by Councillor Barnell that GESP could not go ahead following cabinet recommendation to withdraw, was not successful. 

Boris Johnson’s drive to build more houses will trigger the next Tory rebellion

(Isn’t this rebellion already happening? – Owl)

Conservative MPs angry that planning reforms could mean most new homes in suburbs and shires – and council will have less power to block

By Nigel MorrisAugust 27, 2020 inews.co.uk 

Boris Johnson is facing a fresh Conservative rebellion over proposed changes to planning laws, which party critics claim will accelerate housebuilding in the countryside.

Tory MPs, who return to Westminster next week following a chaotic summer of policy U-turns by the Government, are also angry that the moves threaten to impose rigid quotas of new homes on local areas.

“If you think A-levels were bad, wait until people get their heads round these reforms,” a former Cabinet minister told the Spectator magazine.

The Prime Minister has vowed to drive through the “most radical reforms to our planning system since the end of the Second World War” in an effort to increase the supply of affordable properties for first-time buyers.

However, he risks a Tory backlash over a proposed formula for determining how many houses are required in individual council areas.

Cities will ‘stagnate’

As part of the Government’s plans to build more than 300,000 homes a year, every local authority will be given an estimate – set by an algorithm – of the projected demand for new housing in their areas. They risk sanction if they fail to set aside enough land to set aside enough land to meet that target.

Neil O’Brien, the MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, has warned the suggested system would lead to a steep rise in numbers of new homes in Tory-controlled shires and suburbs while city centres in need of regeneration would see little change.

“It would be quite difficult to explain to Conservative voters why they should take more housing in their areas to allow large Labour-run cities nearby to continue to stagnate rather than regenerate,” he said.

The proposed reforms will limit the ability of local authorities to block projects, which will speed up the planning process. However, it will also set up conflicts with Conservative council leaders – and supporters – in areas that will be expected to accept the largest numbers of new developments.

MPs restless and dismayed

When the proposals were unveiled this month, the MP for the Cotswolds, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, argued that watering down councils’ power of veto could lead to sub-standard homes.

He said: “We have got to be really sure that we are not building slums of tomorrow by building today at low quality.”

With a majority of 80, a Government could normally afford to shrug off voices of complaint over moves designed to breathe new life into an economy ravaged by coronavirus.

But many Tory MPs are restless and dismayed over Downing Street’s handling of the pandemic, and have seen Mr Johnson order a succession of U-turns.

Many are already exercised over the over the state of post-Brexit trade negotiations with Brussels.

His plans for massive housebuilding threaten to put him on a fresh collision course with his backbenchers.


Church misses chance to turn former school into affordable housing

Rishi Sunak and archbishop drawn into Yorkshire dales housing row

Harriet Sherwood  www.theguardian.com

Plan to turn church school into affordable homes undone by requirement to accept top bid

A plan to convert a former church school in the Yorkshire dales into affordable housing has been scuppered by a legal requirement to accept the highest bid for the property in a row that has drawn in the chancellor of the exchequer and the archbishop of Canterbury.

Rishi Sunak has urged church leaders to reconsider the sale of Arkengarthdale Church of England primary school, and members of the community have demanded the intervention of Justin Welby.

But the diocese of Leeds and the parish vicar say their hands are legally tied, even though a C of E commission is investigating ways the church can help tackle the housing crisis – including by building affordable housing on its surplus land.

The school closed a year ago after the number of pupils fell to five, a consequence of a declining and ageing population.

The building’s owners, Swaledale with Arkengarthdale parochial church council (PCC), put it up for sale with an asking price of £185,000. The school was bought in 1933 for £325.

The Upper Dales Community Land Trust, a not-for-profit company that develops and manages homes and other community assets, put forward a plan to convert the single-storey building into three two-bedroom homes and one one-bedroom home. The proposal was backed by the parish council, Richmondshire district council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The trust put in a bid for the property of £150,000 but found itself up against seven other interested parties that offered the asking price. Under charities law, the PCC was obliged to accept the highest bid.

“We went back to the trust and gave them the opportunity to raise their offer,” said Caroline Hewlett, the vicar of Swaledale. “We went round and round to see if we could sell it to them, but we had to keep to the law. We are legally bound to take the higher price.”

Stephen Stubbs, the trust’s chair and a former pupil at the school, said: “The church has taken a legal view but not considered its moral obligation to the people of Arkengarthdale. The school was bought through local people for the benefit of local people.

“The school building is the last chance to provide affordable housing to secure a more sustainable and brighter future for the community of Arkengarthdale.”

Sunak, the MP for Richmond, said he was disappointed by the sale to a higher bidder. In a letter to the PCC asking it to reconsider the trust’s offer, he said: “The trust’s mission to provide affordable homes for rent in the Yorkshire dales is an important one for the future sustainability of these rural communities which we are all proud to serve.”

Last year, Welby set up a commission on housing, church and community to identify ways the C of E could help tackle the housing crisis. It said the church had “a significant contribution to make in this area. We have land and resources that can be used to help meet the need for more affordable housing.”

According to Stubbs, “in this case, it appears his vision to encourage and actively help affordable housing to be created from [the church’s] estate is not borne out by reality as the exact opposite is happening, with his prophecy being sacrificed in the interests of short-term profit”.

On Wednesday, the trust released Lambeth Palace’s response to its call for Welby to step in, which said the archbishop was powerless to intervene in a diocese and parish matter.

The trust is now in the process of applying for charitable status with the Charity Commission in the hope of making it eligible to buy the school at below the asking price.


Tory critics force ministers to review planning formula

Dear “Minister”, we need to have a serious conversation about housing affordability in low wage areas, attractive to wealthy retirees, and the myth that developer-led “build, build, build” is a solution. Best wishes, Owl.

PS Are you reviewing the planning formula before or after consultation with the “plebs rustica”?

Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor www.thetimes.co.uk /

Ministers are reviewing an algorithm at the centre of planning reforms after a backlash from Tory MPs.

Under the changes to planning laws, local discretion over the rate of housebuilding will be removed and central government will “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, between local councils that will be required to designate enough land to meet the target.

Analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, has suggested that outside London much of the new housing will be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and the shires, rather than in town centres.

The Spectator reported that the algorithm, which is under consultation, was likely to be changed. “At the top of the housing ministry there is an acceptance that a more refined formula is needed,” it said.

However, the government is retaining its central objective of building more homes in areas with the worst affordability. “It is delusional to think that the housing problem can be solved by developments in ‘Labour cities’ while leaving ‘Tory shires’ untouched,” the magazine said.

This means that there will be a significant rise in the number of homes in relatively affluent, predominantly Tory-controlled areas such as the shires.

The reforms have been met with opposition on all sides of the party. In London, Tory MPs are concerned that they will have to accept a huge increase in new homes in their constituencies, leading to concerns about quality.

Elsewhere Tory MPs argue that more homes need to be built in city and town centres, on brownfield sites rather than on greenfield sites.

This week Neil O’Brien, the Tory MP for Harborough, Leicestershire, raised concerns that under the government’s plans fewer houses would be built in many city centres, putting more pressure on suburbs and the countryside.

“Lots of our large cities have brownfield land and capacity to take more housing and it seems strange when planning to ‘level up’ to be levelling down their housing targets to rates even lower than they have been delivering,” he told The Times.

“It would be quite difficult to explain to Conservative voters why they should take more housing in their areas to allow large Labour-run cities near by to continue to stagnate rather than regenerate.”

According to Lichfields, new housing will be built predominantly in London and the southeast. The number built in London would nearly treble, to 93,532, and in the southeast would increase by 57 per cent to 61,000.

The increase in the East of England would be 52 per cent, the East Midlands 33 per cent, the West Midlands 25 per cent and the South West 41 per cent. The North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber would all have lower overall numbers of homes built than the present three-year average.

There are significant disparities within regions under the model. In Leicester new homes would fall by 32 per cent, compared with a rise of 70 per cent across the rest of Leicestershire. In Nottingham housebuilding would fall by 30 per cent, but for the rest of Nottinghamshire it would rise by 73 per cent. In Liverpool new homes would fall by 59 per cent.

Mr Johnson has promised to rejuvenate the economy with a “build, build, build” strategy. Councils are to be given up to three and half years to designate areas for growth, renewal or protection. Once agreed, however, local politicians will have little or no say over specific applications that fit the rules.

Ministers have insisted that local residents will be consulted about how land is designated. They are braced, however, for opposition from councils, especially Tory-controlled local authorities. Requirements for developers to provide affordable housing are to be relaxed.

Mr Johnson and his senior adviser Dominic Cummings have long railed against the planning system, which they argue puts Britain at a disadvantage against international competitors.

A spokesman for the ministry of housing said: “The Planning for the Future White Paper sets out longer term reforms which will bring forward a simpler, more transparent planning system with a much greater emphasis on good quality design and environmental standards.

“In addition, the consultation on changes to the current planning system sets out the elements we want to balance when determining local housing need, including meeting our target of delivering 300,000 homes, tackling affordability challenges in the places people most want to live and renewing and levelling up our towns and cities.”


Up to 30 Plymouth teenagers linked to coronavirus outbreak after Zante holiday

Matthew Dresch www.mirror.co.uk 

Up to 30 teenagers have been linked to a coronavirus outbreak in Plymouth after returning home from a holiday in Zante.

At least 11 youngsters have tested positive following the trip to the Greek island, which is not on the UK quarantine list, Plymouth Live reports.

Some of the infected teens reportedly went out partying in the city over the weekend, potentially spreading the disease.

Plymouth City Council said the people who have tested positive have either shown no signs of Covid-19 or just minor symptoms, such as a sore throat.

The authority said as many as 30 young people around the ages of 18 and 19, mainly from Plymouth, could be linked to the outbreak after returning home last week.

The council and supporting partners are now ramping up reminders to stay safe and follow social distancing guidance over the Bank Holiday weekend – and self-quarantine depending on if you have travelled back to England from a holiday destination not on the approved travel corridor list.

The latest countries to be removed and added can be found on the UK Government website  here.

Plymouth City Council’s Director for Public Health, Ruth Harrell, said her team were working alongside national systems to contact and trace the young people thought to have been affected – who have been ‘really helpful and cooperative.’

“This deadly disease spreads,” she warned.

“We know that some of these young people had no symptoms, and so carried on as normal, including a night out in Plymouth’s bars and restaurants, until they became aware of the risk.

Greece is not on the UK’s quarantine list (Image: Getty Images)

“That means more people could be infected. While young people might have fairly mild symptoms, and sometimes none that you would notice, our big concern is that we know it can be very serious for people who have existing health problems or are older.

“We are in contact with all the pubs and bars across the city to remind them of their front line role in stopping the spread of this virus. They need to help us to protect the city.

“But it also needs everyone to help too. If you think you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you need to stay at home.

“If you get any symptoms, get tested as well as isolate. There’s no two ways round it.”

She said that whilst the city was still ‘below the point of triggering a lockdown’ – this incident ‘just goes to show how easily life can change.’

“We all need to remain vigilant, whatever age we are and take proper precautions,” she said.

Leader of Plymouth City Council Tudor Evans, said: “We cannot afford to be complacent. If you are going out you must follow the guidance.

“This is our wake up call.”

A small number of workers at a medical factory in Plymouth, which makes products critical in the fight against COVID-19, also tested positive for coronavirus this week.


Returning holidaymakers cause of Devon’s covid case rise

Since this report about the overall case rise in Devon, reports have been coming in of up to 30 Plymouth school children having been infected on a Greek holiday (posted separately) – Owl

A spike in coronavirus cases across Devon which has seen the number of positive results more than triple in recent weeks is down to returning holidaymakers, the county’s Director of Public Health has said.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

While the number of cases in Devon remain very low compared to the rest of the country and below the national average, the average number of cases being confirmed a day has risen from less than two at the start of August to six as of now.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Devon County Council area in the last seven days has risen to 32, with clusters of three of more having been identified in Seaton, Teignmouth North and Bradninch, Silverton & Thorverton, as well as in Mutley in Plymouth and Wellswood in Torbay.

However, compared to the rest of the country, ‘rates still remain low’, Devon’s Director of Public Health, Dr Virginia Pearson, has said, adding the increase in numbers is largely due to Devon residents returning home from trips abroad, having contracted coronavirus infection while away on holiday.

They were picked up by the NHS Test and Trace programme on their return to the country, and all appropriate containment procedures, including self-isolation, have been followed, she added.

“These cases show how vital it is that we all remain extra vigilant when travelling at home or abroad,” says Dr Pearson.

“The NHS Test and Trace system has done its job here very well, and we’re confident that the risk of onward infection in the community is very low as a result of residents doing the right thing and taking the right actions quickly.

“What it does show is that people need to be extra careful when travelling abroad and must continue to respect social distancing, wash their hands regularly, avoid crowded areas and wear face coverings as directed.

“If people do fall ill with symptoms of COVID-19 while away they need to avoid contact with others as much as possible, be careful when travelling back from the airport, self-isolate immediately when back home and phone 111 for advice on testing.

“Fortunately, in this case, our international travellers have acted sensibly and followed this guidance.

“People should be aware of the risks associated with any travelling abroad and be careful on their return, and to be tested quickly if they feel ill.”

In the past week (August 19 to August 25), there have been five cases confirmed by specimen date in East Devon, eight in Exeter, nine in Mid Devon, two in North Devon, two in the South Hams, five in Teignbridge, one in Torridge, and none in West Devon, with a further ten cases in Torbay and sixteen in Plymouth – some of the latter are linked to the BD factory in Roborough.

Other recently-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Devon are not connected, Dr Pearson, added, saying that in each case the necessary containment procedures have been quickly followed.

“We must remember, while not for one moment being complacent, that the rate of confirmed cases in Devon remains very low,” says Dr Pearson.

“That’s how we want it to stay. We will see numbers rise and fall, but we must all focus on what we can do to keep those numbers low. That means wear a face covering when in enclosed spaces (to protect others), keep a safe distance – 2 metres where possible, wash your hands with soap and water often and use hand sanitiser if handwashing is not possible, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve if you cough or sneeze, and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.”

While the number of cases across Devon has risen, the number of people in hospital has not increased. Just 16 people across the whole of the South West are currently in hospital having tested positive for coronavirus – not necessarily having been admitted because of it – with the numbers having fallen in the past week.

The latest figures available by hospital trust show that as of August 13 – when there were 15 people in the South West in hospital – just one of them was in Devon, with one patient in Torbay Hospital.

Following the cancellation of the scheduled Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board that was provisionally due to be held today, which would have seen the rise in cases discussed, the Local Democracy Reporting Service had asked to speak to a member of the board, but no-one was available to speak. Devon County Council provided a statement that addressed the majority of the questions that would have been asked.


Solar Panel group-buying scheme will save you money and help save the planet – East Devon

Devon’s householders have the chance to help the county become net-zero by joining Devon Climate Emergency’s (DCE) solar panel group-buying scheme.


Devon’s householders have the chance to help the county become net-zero by joining Devon Climate Emergency’s (DCE) solar panel group-buying scheme.

DCE is made up of Devon’s principle public and private sector organisations, and they have joined forces to draw up a Carbon Plan, the county’s roadmap to carbon neutrality.

The DCE’s latest project is Solar Together and, with group buying experts iChoosr Ltd, they are offering homeowners the chance to buy high quality solar PV more cheaply than if they were buying alone.

Led by Devon County Council, the scheme is partnered by 10 of Devon’s planning authorities, who are all members of DCE’s Response Group (DCERG).

The scheme’s partners are East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge and Torridge District Councils, West Devon Borough Council, Exeter City Council and Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities.

Solar Together is one of the ways the DCE is helping local people take a positive step to reduce their own carbon footprints.

Research by the University of Exeter shows that 19 per cent of all Devon’s carbon emissions are created by our homes, with more than half of those by grid-supplied electricity. Installing solar panels will reduce the amount of grid-supplied electricity needed for things like hot water, with a transfer to more eco-friendly solar energy.

This scheme follows four similar projects run across the country last year which promise to deliver over 1,300 installations, saving an estimated 28,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from being produced.

If you are interested, the first step is to register for free HERE – by registering, there is no obligation to install panels.

A ‘reverse’ auction involving pre-vetted suppliers will then take place this autumn and the winning bid will be the most cost-effective one for registered residents to then consider.

Registered households will then receive a recommendation, specifically tailored to the details they submitted in their registration.

If they accept the recommendation, the specifics of their installation will be confirmed with a technical survey and then a date can be set for installation.

Dr Phil Norrey, Chairman of the DCERG, said;

The DCE is committed to ensuring that Devon is net-zero by 2050 at the very latest.

To achieve this, changes will have to be made at all levels, by everyone and every organisation.

We will all have to take responsibility for our own carbon footprints, work together as a community and make the most of the opportunities that new technologies offer in areas including generating electricity sustainably.

Solar Together brings together these three key elements, and by investing in a solar PV system, you will be part of the solution and will own your own solar ‘power plant’ which will continue to help reduce emissions and save you money for at least the next two decades.

I would encourage any of our residents interested in cutting their energy bills and contributing to tackling climate change to register.”

Councillor Marianne Rixson, Portfolio Holder for Climate Change at East Devon District Council said:

I welcome this group-buying scheme for solar panels. Not only will it enable home owners to have high quality solar panels installed at a more affordable price but it will also help our district to achieve its carbon emission goals.”

Marie-Louise Abretti, iChoosr UK Solar Manager added

With residents of Devon looking for opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions and save on energy bills, the Solar Together group-buying scheme offers a straightforward way to make an informed decision and access a competitive offer from a trusted provider.”

To register, click HERE.


Is Boris Johnson’s time as PM drawing to a close?

More speculation about the PM – Owl

Sean O’Grady www.independent.co.uk 

For his political enemies, in his own party as well as the opposition, it must be tempting to wonder if the brief, colourful and sometimes shocking Age of Johnson might soon be drawing to its close. With yet another U-turn, this time on face coverings, the return to schools in England could turn out to be as big a flop as the exam results fiasco, as the “world-beating” track and trace app or as embarrassing as various other faltering government initiatives in recent months (free school meals, NHS surcharge), it might indeed be difficult to see what use the Conservatives would have for Boris Johnson.

Johnson has already, lest we forget, spaffed a vast amount of political capital in the effort to save Dominic Cummings, and the prime minister has squandered goodwill at all levels of the Tory machine. Perhaps he’s outlived his usefulness now. Having won a general election (was it only eight months ago?) with a thumping majority, trounced Jeremy Corbyn and (sort of) got Brexit done, suddenly the dude Johnson looks more of a dud. He is surprisingly weak and vulnerable, unable to navigate out of the Covid-19 morass. The Tories have always been famously unsentimental about getting shot of failing leaders, no matter what their past achievements may be – May, IDS, Heath, even Thatcher were all publicly forced out. Michael Howard, back in 2005, was the last to go at a moment of his own choosing; before that you have to go back to Stanley Baldwin in 1937 to find a Tory leader who was entirely happy and content to retire, at peace with their successor, their party and its prospects.

It is always the next election that counts, and the Tories have lost too much ground in recent weeks to feel entirely comfortable with the current leadership. They’ve still got a modest lead, but it’s more thanks to lingering mistrust of Labour rather than confidence in the Conservatives. Keir Starmer’s personal ratings against Johnson look good. So too do Nicola Sturgeon’s in Scotland, where a different kind of political battle needs to be fought and won. Voters are more fickle these days too.

There are even some odd rumours circulating that Johnson himself may be contemplated soon standing down. He can sense where things are going. The fun’s stopped.

In the immediate term, parliament will be back soon, which will mean a resumption of plotting. The Tories have long been addicted to factionalism, and seem constantly on the search for some fresh channel through which to indulge their self destructive tendencies. What success they’ve enjoyed in their decade in power has been despite themselves. The modern Tory instinct for disloyalty is awesome.

That said, Johnson will probably be OK for a few months yet. The resignation of Ofqual boss Sally Collier and a last-chance warning for Gavin Williamson, as well as plans to reorganise the exams regulator, will probably get the critics off his back; and the science suggests that the schools won’t become centres for spreading the virus through communities. After all, all of the emergency local lockdowns happened while the schools were shut.

The longer term also looks relatively benign for Johnson. A general election need not be held until almost 2025; it is at least possible that Covid-19 and Brexit will be bad memories by then, and politics will look very different to today. The economy ought to be improving, if feebly, with luck buoyed by a global recovery.

It’s the medium term – the next six months to a year – that will be the most hazardous for the prime minister and his party. Brexit and a potential second wave of coronavirus, maybe combined with floods and flu will represent a quadruple whammy on an already sickly country. Imagine another national lockdown plus massive disruption from the loss of trade with Europe; the headlines would be of shortages and mass unemployment, evictions and collapsing public finances. Johnson’s enemies might consider it better timing to allow him to face his darkest hours (mostly of his own making) before they attempt to pick up whatever is left. He can then be left to write his memoirs, with whatever truths he chooses to embellish his tales.