Published: 06:00, 31 January 2021
It was a week in which the government gritted its teeth and faced up to yet more bad news on the number of deaths due to Covid19 and dropped a hint about when schools could re-open. Our political editor Paul Francis casts his eye over the week's news.
An unwanted milestone: Boris Johnson's contrition over the grim number of corona virus deaths meant it was a sobering week dominated inevitably by the unwelcome news that more than 100,000 had fallen victim to the infection - of which 4,000 were in Kent.
Given that the government had previously suggested at the start of the outbreak a figure of 20,000 deaths might be a good outcome, it was little wonder that the Prime Minister cut something of a disconsolate figure at a Downing Street press conference.
He expressed his sorrow, saying he took full responsibility - which was perhaps a harsh judgement on himself as there are undoubtedly other figures who shoulder some of the blame.
Not that the PM wanted to dwell on the prospects of a public inquiry, saying now was not the time for a probe into the way the authorities responded to the pandemic.
It was, however, the time for the government to spell out its “route map” for when the country comes out of lockdown.
Call it cynical but this announcement about the staging posts for easing restrictions - notably around schools - seemed to be about diverting attention away from the undeniably depressing news of 100,000 deaths.
With thousands of parents losing the will to do yet more home learning and as many children getting over the novelty of lessons at home, the notion that it will be at least six weeks before any schools open their doors was not exactly good news.
The government is understandably cautious about giving firm commitments but the news of a possible date for re-opening schools was so heavily qualified that nailing jelly to a wall would have been easier.
Still, at least it gave parents battling through sets of home work a glimmer of light at the end of the very long tunnel.
Out For The Count: Will elections planned for May go ahead? And if they don't when will they? Despite the government’s insistence that the polls will happen on May 6, it’s not hard to find dissenting voices. One election agent says the logistics of the counts are a major challenge, not least in ensuring compliance around social distancing. How you manage that is anyone’s guess. Election counts are labour intensive - for obvious reasons. It’s not just about those counting but that most candidates and their teams are entitled to attend, raising the numbers still further.
Even if that could be overcome, there’s the problem of manning and operating polling stations. Another delay would seem to be on the cards, possibly until Autumn. Voters may be relieved or disappointed. Politically, a further delay might be beneficial to the Conservatives, who have been bracing themselves for a bit of a drubbing at the hands of disgruntled voters in the county council election.
Lose The Leaflets: The national lockdown has had one electoral consequence: you might not be getting quite so many leaflets stuffed through your letterbox from the different parties in the run-up to polling day.
The cabinet office has written to all the parliamentary parties instructing them to scrap leafleting and canvassing during and until the lockdown ends.
For some that might be a blessing in disguise; most of these leaflets tend to end up in the bin anyway. But some are distinctly unhappy, pointing out quite rightly that this seems to be picking on the politicians.
How come the ban does not extend to pizza delivery leaflets; mailshots by estate agencies and those odd ones asking if you got any gold to sell (who has?)
Brexit makes the medicine go down: After a rising clamour from MPs - including the ultra loyalist Rehman Chishti, Gillngham MP - for more vaccination centres, Kent has at last come on to the government's radar, with news of mass hubs at the old Debenhams store in Folkestone and another in Gravesham.There had been rumours of another in Thanet but if there is, it's not yet official. While the belated increase in centres is welcome, not so welcome is the wrangle over vaccination supplies - caught up in what some see as retribution for Brexit. The 'b' word just won't go away.