The ideologues of Downing St now face the opposition of events

The Covid-19 outbreak means Johnson and Cummings now need the help of the government machine they have attacked

When Harold Macmillan, British prime minister 1957-63, was asked what worried him most, his celebrated reply was “the opposition of events”. This somehow got revised, as such quotes tend to, to “events, dear boy, events”.

The beauty of the original reply was that, with his characteristic sardonic wit, Macmillan was also having a crack at the supposed feebleness of the official opposition – Labour – at the time. But that opposition contained some political giants, such as Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell and his opponent in chief, Aneurin Bevan. The two were the titular leaders of the Gaitskellites and the Bevanites. Then, as now, the Labour party was at war with itself; but things were nowhere near as desperate then as they are now.

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