Alastair Campbell criticises the Government's mixed messages

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 3:47pm

Alastair Campbell believes "Ministers have to take responsibility for very clear messaging" and doesn't believe messages have been clear.

COVID-19 has caused Britain to be put in an effective lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday evening ordered most shops to close throughout the UK, introduced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and is only allowing the public to leave their homes once a day for one hour maximum.

Many have questioned why it has taken the British Government so long to introduce these restrictions on public life, with other countries like those in Europe already enforcing a lockdown. 

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Speaking to Andy Hodgson about the current situation the country finds itself in, former Downing Street Director of Communications, Alastair Campbell, had the following to say. 

"I think that we were involved in some pretty big crises when I was working with Tony Blair but nothing on this scale. I mean, this is just like, you know, is off the Richter scale in terms of crisis. 

"You know I'm glad you [Andy Hodgson] say that you think the government website has got all the answers because I do think there has been a lot of mixed messages put out by Boris Johnson in particular. But I do think now we're in a position where surely people now are aware that this is really really, really serious. We have to take seriously the advice has been given."

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On the issue of misinformation- the public not being able to catch all the information being stated and the problems which may arise if they have heard different messages being put out- Campbell stated: "You know one of the points I made in my blog is that I think people should not spend that much time scrolling through social media because I think there's a lot of stuff on there that is nonsense. There's a lot of conflicting messaging. 

"Just to give one example of a mixed message I've literally barely been out of the house for 10 days apart from taking the dog for a walk in the morning, and, you know, bumping into people and you see this business about who is the key worker? Who is not a key worker? Who should be using public transport? Who shouldn't be using public transport?

"And on the one hand, they're [the Government] saying 'we should all stay at home'. On the other hand, they're saying if you can't work at home, then the message seems to be that you go out. 

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"I think for an awful lot of people- if you're a self-employed painter and decorator and they're saying, 'okay, this is really dangerous, don't go out but if you can't work at home, you know, well go out'. And therefore if you're a painter and decorator, you can't keep painting and decorating your own house. 

"In another part of the messaging you've got the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, stands up and says we'll do whatever it takes and talking about 80% of wages and all this sort of stuff. But if you're self-employed thus far there's been nothing. 

"So I just think there's no, [and] i'm not for a second underestimating how difficult it is for them, I am sympathetic to the fact that the civil service will be working absolutely flat out to try to make this work, but I do think Ministers have to take responsibility for very clear messaging and I don't think it has been clear."

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