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A Tortoise File

Halloween 2020

Leaks, delays, mistakes and recrimination. This Halloween, there was nothing scarier than the British government’s handling of the second lockdown

First published
Monday 9 November 2020

Last updated
Monday 8 February 2021

Why this story?

It should have been a government announcement, but it wasn’t. On the evening of Friday 30 October 2020, two newspaper front pages revealed that England was on the cusp of a second national lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The official press conference came almost 24 hours later, on 31 October, having been pushed back, pushed back again, and pushed back still further. When Boris Johnson finally appeared, he didn’t really have the words, his two scientific advisers didn’t have the right slides, and all three of them were rubbing up against some of the country’s most popular Saturday night television. It was a shambles.

But what about the horrors we didn’t see? This Tortoise File, built around a special audio essay by Matthew d’Ancona, investigates what happened behind the scenes during that fateful Halloween weekend. Trick or treat? We shall let you decide. Peter Hoskin, editor