‘Dead Cat’: Boris Distracts Nation from Party Scandal with Fresh Lockdown Threats

An anti-Conservative Party protester holds a placard with an image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson including the words "Now Partygate" backdropped by the Houses of Parliament, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was "furious" after a …
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

UK PM Boris Johnson was accused of employing a ‘dead cat strategy’ — killing a bad news story with a worse one — by planting lockdown rumours after damaging revelations about an allegedly rules-busting government Christmas party emerged in the press.

Senior government sources reportedly told Sky News on Wednesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ‘minded’ to announce Plan B measures, and possibly as soon as tonight, according to Westminster gossip — which include working from home, mask mandates, and the introduction of vaccine passports for entry to large events. The prime minister had in late November already reintroduced mandatory masks in shops and on public transport in response to the discovery of the Omicron variant of the Chinese coronavirus.

The Times also reports sources making the same remarks and that measures may include restrictions on the number of people visiting elderly care homes, which could ruin the Christmases of many seniors. The newspaper of record also alleged that government ministers are due to meet today to agree to the measures.

The Telegraph, also claiming that it is aware of the plans, reported that there is a rift in the Cabinet over the highly-controversial threat of imposing vaccine passports, with Michael Gove and Nadine Dorries said to be in favour of forcing Britons to show their papers to engage in some aspects of life.

However, some have questioned the timing of the Plan B leaks which appears to have coincided with the release of the damning footage appearing to corroborate reports in the last week that Number 10 held a Christmas party last December in contravention of lockdown rules, with footage last night revealing Downing Street staff joking about such a party during a press briefing rehearsal last year. Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s adviser who featured in the leaked video, has since resigned.

Conservative MP William Wragg questioned whether media reports of the winter Plan B weren’t, in fact, a “diversionary tactic” to take attention away from what has been dubbed on social media as #PartyGate.

“COVID passes will not increase uptake of the vaccine, but will create a segregated society,” Mr Wragg said during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, asking Johnson: “Is the prime minister aware very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic?”

The prime minister replied, neither confirming nor denying: “No decisions will be taken without consulting the cabinet.”

Mr Johnson’s former advisor and Vote Leave ally Dominic Cummings, now a vocal critic of the prime minister, likewise made the observation, accusing Johnson of “dead cat” tactics.

Referring to Mr Johnson in tweets using a shopping cart emoji — an allusion to the prime minister’s indecisiveness and out-of-control motions, like a shopping trolley banging into aisles, left and right — Mr Cummings wrote on Monday: “Lots of [Johnson] action today — Martin need a fucking dead cat army matey, yeah yeah Plan B great…. [thumbs up run from room] CRASH. Noooooo that will make the party story worrrrrse Martin, need something else. SMASH. [183 whatsapps in 4 mins from flat] Argh poor MEEEEEEE CRASH”

‘Martin’ could potentially be Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary, a senior official who runs the private office of the prime minister.

Writing later: “Any Cabinet Minister who supports [Johnson] announce[ing] Plan B today in [a] lunatic attempt to dead cat the parties is defending the indefensible.

“Now is the time for Cabinet to #takebackcontrol & tell [Johnson] NO, first you must resolve this catastrophe you’ve created.”

Deputy leader of the Laurence Fox-founded Reclaim Party Martin Daubney also slammed the reports, likewise picking up the dead cat tactic: “Disgusting authoritarianism from Number 10 to bring in vaccine passports.

“Worse, they’re under such pressure over #PartyGate they’ve thrown the biggest dead cat out to avoid scrutiny. Shameful governance from a broken government #NoVaccinePassportsAnywhere”

Any new restrictions, however, could now be difficult to justify or even enforce.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage remarked on the footage: “I think this is actually the beginning of the end of Boris Johnson as prime minister, because any further edict over Omicron, any regulations that now get put in place, why the hell would millions of us obey them when clearly we’re being led by people who treat us with such a low level of contempt?”

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