Boris and The Boffins were back – and the trio had some new material!

HENRY DEEDES: Boris Johnson and the Boffins were back — and the trio had some new material!

The old band was back together. Boris And The Boffins finally reunited yesterday, their month-long absence from the stage not the result of creative differences but a killer disease which left their charismatic front man struggling to fend off that great gig in the sky.

Back at last in their favourite Downing Street rehearsal room, the Prime Minister, flanked by his Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty, swayed gently at his lectern.

A touch wearier since we last saw them, yes, but almost certainly a little wiser too.

‘Welcome,’ said Boris, giving his notes an exaggerated shuffle. ‘I’m sorry not to have been with this trio for so long.’

At last, we got to hear a sample of some new material. ‘We are past the peak of this disease,’ the PM declared defiantly. ‘We’re past the peak and we are on the downward slope. There are many reasons to be hopeful.’

Britain’s Prime Minister was back on the podium for the government’s daily coronavirus briefing after being absent having caught the virus, and appeared breathless as he spoke

He promised next week to draw up a comprehensive plan of how to lead Britain out of the lockdown. But anyone looking for a ground-breaking new sound was left disappointed. The combo’s afternoon set list was otherwise all too familiar.

All the old hits were there: ‘Stay the course… Your sacrifice is working… Keep going!’ The lockdown, the PM made clear, was going nowhere for now.

Considering the coronacoaster he’s been on these past weeks, the PM managed to appear relatively chipper.

Desperate though the toll was – we’re on course to have the most deaths in Europe – he was determined to convince us there was an open hatch at the end of his route out of this.

‘We have come under what could have been a vast peak, as though we have been going through some huge alpine tunnel,’ he said, ‘We can now see the sunlight and the pasture ahead of us.’ He insisted the UK would beat this disease ‘with our resolve and ingenuity’.

We were shown a little film full of blips and blurps and little red and blue dots explaining why the lockdown would not be lifted.

Every expense had been spared on the video’s creation. By the looks it, it had been cobbled together on one of those 1980s Commodore computers that could play Space Invaders but little else. 

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, pictured, joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the coronavirus briefing on April 30 in Downing Street and shared the latest virus data

The media performed their usual intermission act. Surprisingly no one asked about the new Johnson baby. Pity. We could have done with some light relief amid the gloom.

Not the appropriate time perhaps.

ITV’s Robert Peston asked whether the crisis would herald a new age of austerity. Boris insisted the economy would bounce back strongly and gave Peston a light rollocking for using the word austerity.

There was an interesting moment when someone asked about face masks. Boris thought they would be useful when the lockdown was finally eased and people needed to find the confidence to go back to work. As far as I know, this is the first time he’s acknowledged this.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty joined Johnson and Vallance on Thursday, over a month after the trio made their first appearance at the government’s first daily coronavirus briefing

Whitty got quite animated, which is to say his left eyebrow half twitched, when someone asked what lessons had been learned. ‘Let’s not go charging in who’s won and who’s lost in this,’ he said sternly.

When this unlikely three-piece first appeared together in this very spot in March – seems almost a year ago now – Boris kept getting his two bandmates confused (‘Chris, no! Patrick,’ he would yell with an awkward ruffle of the hair.) Now they were almost finishing each other’s sentences.

Who knows, perhaps one of them might end up godfather to No10’s new arrival. Suspect the little one would do rather better out of Sir Patrick come Christmas time. He looks the sort who’d fork out on a case of vintage port as a Christening gift. Whitty would probably offer to name some new bacterium after the little fella.

Eventually, at 5.52pm the boys downed their instruments and trudged off stage. No bow, no encores. Not so much as a sweaty wave goodnight.

There’ll be plenty of time for those when they’re able to produce some different tunes.

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