Is Boris Johnson in trouble

Comment: Boris Johnson is exposed

One could almost feel sorry for Boris Johnson when one has to watch how he writhes under the questions of Keir Starmer, who has chaired the Labor Party for a few weeks: "We have the highest death toll in Europe, the second highest in Europe the world - how on earth did it come to that? "

The new Labor leader is polite, clear, and hits the heart of the matter with pinpoint accuracy. The UK decided too late to impose curfews, is lagging behind with testing and monitoring the virus, and is neglecting the nursing staff in hospitals and retirement homes because they do not provide them with sufficient protective clothing.

A good mood bear, not a crisis manager

It is too early for international comparisons, the figures are not yet final, defends Johnson, and invokes "good, solid British common sense". But that is of no use to him. Starmer's questions are like an interrogation, he has learned his trade as a former attorney general - within a few minutes he exposes Johnson's weaknesses in the weekly question time "Prime Ministers Questions".

Birgit MaaƟ is a DW correspondent in London

Almost without exception, it becomes clear how little Johnson is preparing. His strengths are not in the details: He is a master of showmanship, a good mood bear with brisk formulations, which the British chose because they were worn down after the endless discussion about Brexit, and longed for optimism and a spirit of optimism.

As a crisis manager, on the other hand, the prime minister fails. He is not a level-headed state leader with foresight and common sense. He's impulsive, careless, and it almost cost him his life. At the beginning of March, when the crisis was already shaking the continent, Johnson proudly declared that he recently shook hands with a large number of people in a hospital, including corona patients. He allowed major events such as rugby games to take place and even attended one more - together with his pregnant partner. When asked by a journalist how he was protecting himself, he smiled mockingly. A short time later he was seriously ill himself and had to have an oxygen machine in the hospital.

Trying to catch up on initial failures

If he hadn't taken the danger seriously by then, his struggle with the disease changed that. The British government has been trying hastily over the past few weeks to make up for its failures. But there is still not enough protective clothing for doctors and nursing staff, over 100 of them have already died. The pandemic raged almost unhindered in the old people's homes for weeks and has so far killed almost 10,000 old and weak people. And there are still major difficulties with the tests as well.

The virus poses huge challenges - for every government. And there are also successes in Great Britain, such as the so-called Nightingale hospitals, which were built up out of the ground within a few weeks with the help of the army (nobody could have known that they would hardly be needed in the end). The public health system also withstood most of the pressure from the virus, not least thanks to the selfless efforts of the staff who obtained mouth and eye protection from hardware stores and cut aprons out of garbage bags.

The easing also raises questions

Now the number of new cases is falling and the curfew is being relaxed. But because so many mistakes were made in the beginning, the government is now cautious. Many Brits look enviously at the continent, where restaurants and hotels are now gradually opening, which people may even dream of a vacation in the mountains or in the south. For the British, a vacation abroad seems impossible. You don't even know whether it will be enough for a vacation on the pebble beach of a hazy English coastline.

But the easing in Great Britain also raises more questions than clarity. For example, why is there no obligation, just friendly advice to wear masks on public transport? Videos are now emerging on social media in which commuters sit together in a confined space and only every second person wears a mask. Why are cleaning ladies and nannies allowed to go back to work but grandparents can't see their grandchildren? The government's instructions remained vague, in part contradictory.

Even the Johnson fans are turning away

The fact that Johnson pushed ahead with easing without coordinating with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and therefore different rules now apply in England than in the rest of the country, was unpleasant. Even proven Johnson fans among the conservative commentators are now turning against the government - their handling of the crisis is a disaster, was the latest in the Johnson fan post "Daily Telegraph".

Boris Johnson won the elections just over six months ago, and his government is firmly in the saddle with a clear majority. Keir Starmer will still have many opportunities to unmask his counterpart.