"The government should keep going and not think about Boris Johnson," says Alastair Campbell

7 April 2020, 15:30 | Updated: 7 April 2020, 15:43

By Fiona Jones

Former communications chief Alastair Campbell stresses that while this is an alarming time for government, they must keep going, keep making vital decisions and not think about the Prime Minister.

Former communications chief Alastair Campbell wrote a series of supportive Tweets advising the government on how to respond to the hospitalisation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Campbell outlined to Shelagh Fogarty the message he was sending: "It's obviously a huge shock to the system at any time to have the Prime Minister ill and then not just ill but in hospital, and not just in hospital but in intensive care.

"The basic point I've been making is it's really important that the public understand and the government understands that the government has to go on."

Mr Campbell acknowledged that the UK government doesn't have a written constitution but said people must "step up", make decisions and keep moving forward.

"I know this is difficult because they're all human beings and Boris Johnson will not be a colleague but a friend, but I think it's really important they...have to park the fact he's now in hospital."

"There's no concealment, he's now clearly not well enough to be doing the job in the way that he would normally wish to, therefore...don't even talk about it, try not to think about it too much because there's nothing they can do about it.

"Their job now is to focus on what they can do and that includes the day to day management of crisis, some very very big decisions coming up," Alastair Campbell said.

Analysing the current positions of power, Mr Campbell advised that Dominic Raab - who is currently deputising for the PM -should continue being in charge of strategy with the direct support of the Cabinet.

He complimented Michael Gove and Matt Hancock's communication and handling of the health service, adding that the government should not focus too much on communicating about Boris Johnson's condition.

"Thousands of people are in hospital, millions of families are anxious, there's a real danger it becomes a distraction if we all just talk about one person," Mr Campbell said.

He had written similar advice on Twitter: "I strongly advise they do not spend all their time talking about, and worrying about, what is happening at St Thomas’s. There is nothing they can do about that. They must focus on the things they can do, including big decisions ahead and how they will be made."

"There’s a real risk that this distracts them from task in hand. They must be aware of/guard against it. The PM is the most high profile of many sick people. The government must focus on all. There must be no jockeying or grandstanding. Briefing against civil servants must stop."

"Once the initial shock subsides, Opposition/ media must continue to ask, with genuine respect, questions of government in order to improve decision making."