Enough clowning around! Why the PM needs to get a grip

Opinion /  / 
Boris Johnson. Pic by Jannes van den Wouwer Boris Johnson. Pic by Jannes van den Wouwer

After yet another whiplash-inducing U-turn from the government, vaccine passports are back on the cards for events.

Just two weeks after telling the nation that there will be no Covid certificate required for entry to any venue or event, the prime minister announced that actually, they would be required for some events. But he didn’t say exactly which ones. Or exactly when it would be happening.

The sad thing is, this woeful messaging from government has become the norm, and event professionals have grown to both accept and expect it.

When it comes to the prospect of vaccine passports themselves, many event professionals are actually warming to the idea.

If they were rolled out across business events in the right way, with a clear message to organisers and delegates and consistent implementation, vaccine passports could provide the security and confidence needed to entice people back to events.

Writing on LinkedIn, event professional Peter Grimster said: “This may actually be the cloud with the silver lining. If this does go ahead for exhibitions and B2B events then it may well greatly increase consumer confidence.”

“My concern is how long the Government will take to actually decide which event types may need vaccine passports.”

And he wasn’t the only one sounding a note of caution.

Elaine Dellar, founder and CEO of Dellar Davies, said: “Whilst this will be unpopular with some individuals, this move could mean that more people will be comfortable attending business events, and more companies will be willing to permit their staff to attend. That has to be good for a sector that has been in a pit stop for the best part of 18 months.

“But we need to know what constitutes large and/or crowded! It’s imperative that attendees know what to expect when registering for events, so the government needs to stop its perpetual indecisiveness and tell the event sector what the terms are now.”

The indecisiveness that has become a hallmark of Johnson’s premiership has been well in evidence this week. The screeching U-turn on Monday was Johnson’s second in as many days, following the farcical dithering on Sunday morning about whether the prime minister would be self-isolating after coming into contact with health secretary Sajid Javid, who later tested positive for Covid.

No, the prime minister will be taking advantage of a hitherto unmentioned pilot scheme that means he doesn’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else, came the message from No 10. Followed almost immediately by a total reverse-ferret when they realised how upset everyone was.

The unfortunate truth is that even in the country’s darkest hour the prime minister’s primary concern is to be liked. He has no interest in making a difficult decision when a crowd-pleasing one is available to him. Then he finds himself forced into making the difficult decision he should have made in the first place, but at a much later point than he needed to make it.

If event professionals ran events like this, we would quickly lose the confidence of our clients, suppliers and audience. It is astonishing that the country is being run like this.

I hope that the government will move quickly to confirm the details of the vaccine passport scheme for events. There are a number of questions that need answering, namely:

- What events and venues will the vaccine passports be required for? - What date will they be required from? - What will be the requirements of the vaccine passports? Will it be that people will simply have to prove they have had two jabs, or will there be any requirement for Covid test results? - What will happen to people that are unable to have the jabs for medical reasons? Will they be barred from attending certain events and venues? - How will vaccine passports be enforced? Will there be penalties for events and venues that do not check people’s vaccine status? What will these be?

Given the government’s track record, I expect a few more twists and turns before we receive any answers. Strap yourselves in.

Timeline of a U-turn:Monday 5 July: Boris Johnson tells the nation that “there will be no Covid certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event.” Monday 12 July: A Step 4 policy document reveals that the Government will consider making vaccine passports the law for certain events if organisers and venues don't introduce them voluntarily. Monday 19 July: The prime minister reveals that once all adults have had the opportunity to receive two jabs, Covid vaccination certificates will be made mandatory for crowded venues in England.

Paul Harvey
Written By
Paul Harvey
M&IT editor Paul Harvey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. He began his career in the local press, working for various titles across the north. Since joining M&IT in 2013, he has become a trusted and respected voice in the sector, championing event professionals and reporting on all aspects of the events industry for the brand.

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