The Tory aide and social media guru behind government's NHS messaging
Inside the Downing Street coronavirus bunker: Tory aide and social media guru are masterminding the government’s NHS messaging while Boris Johnson self-isolates in No11 after testing positive for bug
- Australian Isaac Levido, 36, has been central to the government’s communications strategy and its key slogan
- He has been brought into Downing Street alongside Ben Guerin, a top social media expert from New Zealand
- The political aides were credited with helping the Conservative Party secure their large majority in December
- An ally of Boris Johnson said the pair were ‘trying to change behaviour to save lives’ with the NHS messaging
- Government is desperate to get Britons to listen after pictures emerged of seemingly oblivious sun-seekers
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The man who mapped out the Conservative Party’s recent thumping election victory has been brought in to encourage Britons to stay indoors as many continue to flout the rules.
He is little known outside Westminster, but 36-year-old Australian Isaac Levido has been central to the government’s communications strategy and its central slogan: Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
He has been brought into Downing Street alongside Ben Guerin, a social media expert from New Zealand who masterminded the Tories’ general election social media strategy, in order to push the Government’s NHS message during the lockdown.
The political aides, who were credited with helping the Conservative Party secure such a large majority in December, have been subcontracted by the civil service to ‘build a wall of noise’ around the central message of staying home.
It comes amid concerns not enough Britons are following the government’s advice. The advice says the public should leave their house only to shop for groceries, provide or receive medical care, travel to work or exercise, which is limited to once a day.
But pictures this week emerged of seemingly oblivious sun-seekers soaking up the rays in Southsea, Bournemouth and Somerset.
He is little known outside Westminster, but 36-year-old Australian Isaac Levido has been central to the government’s communications strategy and its central slogan: Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives (pictured, campaign chief Isaac Levido (right) with the PM that he helped to victory)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who yesterday said he has tested positive for coronavirus, stands behind a podium with the government’s key NHS message: Stay Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives
Isaac Levido (left) has been brought into Downing Street alongside Ben Guerin (right), a social media expert from New Zealand who masterminded the Tories’ general election social media strategy, in order to push the Government’s NHS message during the lockdown
Britain’s coronavirus death toll surged by 181 yesterday as Government advisers warned that even stricter social distancing measures could be on the way. It is by far the biggest daily increase and means the disease has claimed 759 lives, including young and previously healthy people
Police up and down the country are exercising their new powers to enforce the coronavirus lockdown – stopping people having picnics and dog walkers in the Peak District by chasing them with drones.
On top of the disobedient Britons it was revealed yesterday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both tested positive for coronavirus. Just hours after they confirmed they had the virus, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who has been the face of the nation’s coronavirus response, revealed he too had symptoms.
The government hopes however that with the help of Mr Levido and Mr Guerin, the government’s key NHS messaging will get across and the country will begin to recover from the virus.
A senior ally of Mr Johnson told The Times: ‘[Levido] is a specialist in message discipline and the power of messages. He’s trying to build a wall of noise around our core message. This is a campaign.
‘In an election you’re trying to campaign to change behaviour and get people to vote a certain way, this is trying to change behaviour to save lives. They have gripped the comms.’
Softly spoken and sporting a black beard, Mr Levido was director of politics and campaigning in Conservative Campaign Headquarters – and the undisputed chief of the Tory campaign.
After the results of the exit poll were revealed, staff at the party’s Westminster HQ chanted ‘Oh, Isaac Levido’ – mocking the tribute to Jeremy Corbyn which used to be sung by Labour supporters.
A senior Tory source said: ‘Isaac showed real leadership throughout the campaign – he never panicked, lifted spirits on difficult days and had a laser focus on the end result.
‘He quickly gained the trust of everyone around him and deserves all the plaudits for an extremely well-run and disciplined campaign.’ Under Mr Levido’s plans the Tories targeted 50 swing seats and sought to defend another 50, under plans to secure a ‘functional’ majority.
People exercise in the early morning sun at Hyde Park in central London, during a lockdown over the spread of COVID-19
Members of the public exercising closely with a personal trainer at Paddington Recreation Ground in London, during a lockdown over the spread of COVID-19. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that people should only leave their homes for essential work, groceries, medical necessity and exercise
Shoppers keep their distance as they wait for a Tesco store to open in Leatherhead, Surrey. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have tested positive for the virus and are now self isolating
He is a former deputy to controversial Australian election guru Lynton Crosby, who masterminded David Cameron’s coalition-busting win four years ago.
But he also went on to work on Zac Goldsmith’s failed London mayoral campaign in 2016 and Theresa May’s disastrous general election campaign the following year.
More recently Mr Levido worked for Australia’s Liberal Party which surprisingly won an election earlier this year.
Guerin on the other hand was brought in alongside Kiwis Topham, 28, to drive the Tories’ online election campaign amid fears that dire winter weather could scupper traditional methods of targeting voters.
The pair were brought in by director of politics and campaigning Isaac Levido to toughen up the Conservatives’ social media efforts after a dire performance in 2017.
The twenty-something pair, who run agency TG in London, formerly worked for the Tories’ Australian counterpart the Liberal Party, whose leader Scott Morrison surprisingly won an election earlier this year.
While there they were known for making ‘boomer memes’ – content deliberately crafted to look simplistic and basic. They targeted groups like older people online.
They also used content from popular television programmes like Game of Thrones to grab attention.
The intentionally clunky design of the memes meant they were shared widely on Facebook, which because of the way the platform works helped their harder political messages reach bigger audiences.
It comes as Britain’s coronavirus death toll surged by 181 yesterday as Government advisers warned that even stricter social distancing measures could be on the way. It was by far the biggest daily increase and means the disease has claimed 759 lives, including young and previously healthy people.
Government advisers said stricter social distancing policies may have to be rolled out next month if the grim figures continued to rise. The measures would be introduced in three weeks as the outbreak reached its peak to further reduce ‘person-to-person interaction’.
This week France announced that individuals could only exercise alone – unless with children – for a maximum of an hour and within 1,000 yards of their homes. Spain and Italy have banned exercise altogether, and there are concerns that Britons are deliberately misinterpreting the guidance by travelling to beauty spots miles from their homes.
Yesterday’s figures show that London hospitals recorded the highest number of new deaths at 54, followed by West Midlands hospitals with 19. But these numbers do not include patients who die at home or in care homes, meaning the true number may be higher.
A senior government adviser suggested the figures would continue to rise for at least the next three weeks, meaning the peak is likely to hit at Easter. The adviser said hospitals ‘should be OK’, but admitted ‘we can’t guarantee it’ and stressed some intensive care units may struggle to cope.
Boris Johnson pictured within six-foot of Health Secretary Matt Hancock before a press conference at No10 Downing Street on March 12. Both have tested positive for the virus and chief medical officer Chris Whitty, pictured at the top of the stairs, has symptoms
Boris Johnson pictured announcing to the UK that he has tested positive for coronavirus in a video shared to social media
Boris Johnson today announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus while Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (pictured left) has developed symptoms and will be self-isolating
And should the number of deaths rise significantly, ‘greater enforcement’ of social distancing policies would have to be introduced. This would include ‘anything that can be done to push it (down) further’ and prevent people catching the disease.
The adviser added: ‘I expect death numbers to increase over two, three or four weeks, and then to gradually decrease.’ Officials were generally ‘very happy’ with the levels of compliance with social distancing guidance, despite some Britons travelling some distance to beauty spots in the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales to exercise.
The advice says the public should leave their house only to shop for groceries, provide or receive medical care, travel to work or exercise, which is limited to once a day. The total number of confirmed cases in the UK now stands at 14,543, up from 11,658. But this is a huge underestimate of the true figure as most patients with the virus are not being tested.
Professor Jim Naismith, an expert in structural biology at Oxford University, said: ‘Although Covid-19 is a mild disease for over 80 per cent of us, today’s deaths will have come as a terrible blow to families. The increase in the deaths are following the exponential pattern predicted.
This means we are likely to continue to see further increases in the numbers of daily deaths until social distancing measures have their effect. ‘The deaths tomorrow and in the days ahead will be of people who were infected before the social distancing measures were implemented.
I understand the temptation to live on each day’s numbers, but what matters is what is ahead of us and what we can do to save lives.’ Dr Mike Tildesley, of the University of Warwick, added: ‘We may expect to see the number of daily confirmed cases continue to climb, before starting to decline once the current social distancing measures start to have an effect.’
Doctors and nurses have begged people to stay indoors during the coronavirus pandemic, pleading with people to stay at home and save lives.
Ambulances are seen outside the Excel Centre, London today while it is being prepared to become the NHS Nightingale Hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease
Medical equipment is seen outside the Excel Centre, London today while it is being prepared to become the NHS Nightingale Hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues
The Prime Minister has stressed that unless you are a key worker or helping someone vulnerable, the only reasons to go outside are to go shopping for essentials, exercise once a day or fulfil any medical needs.
This comes as police up and down the country exercise their new powers to enforce the coronavirus lockdown – stopping people having picnics and dog walkers in the Peak District by chasing them with drones.
Police chiefs are encouraging Britons to snitch on neighbours suspected of breaching Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown.
Humberside Police have created a ‘hotline’ where people can submit tip-offs if they flout social distancing rules, including gatherings of more than two people.
West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Avon and Somerset have also established online forums for ‘snoopers’ keen to punish rule-breakers.
The portals have been made in response to an increase in the number of calls to the non-emergency 101 number since Monday.
Despite this, forces yesterday were facing accusations of being overzealous as they use the sweeping new powers to crack down on people flouting the rules, using road blocks, drones and helicopters to enforce it.
Officers have already issued fines less than 24 hours after new laws were brought into force, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said.
Those who ignore the tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days – and another for £120 for a second offence. But fines could reach £1,000-plus for repeat offenders.
It comes as Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock faced accusations they had failed to follow their own advice on social distancing after both tested positive for coronavirus.
The Prime Minister and Health Secretary were pictured at close quarters in the Commons in recent days – well within the advised 6ft limit.
Just hours after they confirmed they had the virus, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who has been the face of the nation’s coronavirus response, revealed he too had symptoms.
Professor Whitty said he would be isolating at home for seven days having experienced symptoms ‘compatible’ with the disease on Thursday night.
In fact the Chief Medical Officer – who is also a consultant doctor – had even advised the Prime Minister in person earlier that evening after Mr Johnson complained of coronavirus-like symptoms.
It is not known whether Professor Whitty examined Mr Johnson or took his temperature, but he is unlikely to have been wearing protective clothing.
Police officers on horseback speak to motorists in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, after North Tyneside Council yesterday decided to close all public car parks in the area in an effort to stop people from visiting the seaside and instead stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus
Police patrolling the promenade in Brighton and Hove yesterday moved people on that were sitting on the beach. Britons have been told to only go outside if essential – including one piece of exercise a day
Police officers break up a group of people who had gathered in Glasgow city centre on Friday. Britain is under lockdown, its population joining around 1.7 billion people around the globe ordered to stay indoors to curb the ‘accelerating’ spread of the coronavirus
A Downing Street spokesman suggested it was unlikely the Chief Medical Officer contracted the disease from the Prime Minister, as the first signs usually take several days to appear.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, revealed on Thursday he was self-isolating with symptoms, and several Department of Health advisers are also thought to have the virus.
That the virus has infected so many senior figures who are co-ordinating the nation’s response will raise concerns policies to contain its spread will be impeded.
A Department of Health source said Professor Whitty only had mild symptoms and would still be coordinating the nation’s response in self-isolation at home.
Writing on Twitter yesterday, Professor Whitty said: ‘After experiencing symptoms compatible with Covid-19 last night, in line with the guidance, I will be self-isolating at home for the next seven days. I will be continuing to advise the Government on the medical response to coronavirus, supported by my deputies.’
Mr Hancock developed a temperature and sore throat on Wednesday evening – just hours after he had been in close contact with the Prime Minister.
As recently as Wednesday afternoon, he was pictured next to Mr Johnson and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who is considered more at risk from coronavirus as he has Type 1 diabetes, shortly after Prime Minister’s Questions.Mr Johnson, meanwhile, was photographed clapping for NHS staff on Thursday night with Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street, when he is likely to have had symptoms, although kept a distance apart.
In recent weeks Mr Johnson has continued to meet his Cabinet and key advisers, including Professor Whitty, while urging the public to work from home wherever possible. Although the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have both tested positive, the Chief Medical Officer has not himself undertaken a test.
Tests are only available to Cabinet ministers if they show symptoms, which raises the possibility that others may have contracted the disease and spread it without realising they were ill.
A spokesman for Mr Sunak, who is not self-isolating, said he has not had any symptoms and therefore has not been tested.
Downing Street has previously confirmed that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would stand in if Mr Johnson was too unwell to continue leading the nation.
If Mr Raab also became ill, the Prime Minister has the power to delegate responsibility to any of his ministers.
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