HE was not in the building at Sky News, nor was he to be found within a mile of a BBC studio, but there was no question who dominated the Sunday shows: one Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister is due back at work on Monday amid much speculation that decisions about how and when to lift the lockdown are looming.

In the absence of the man himself to pronounce on such matters, all the Sunday shows could do was put those questions to others. It is not just nature that abhors a vacuum: the news business is not keen on one either. But how to avoid getting the same non-answers to questions posed many times already?

The problem was evident in Andrew Marr’s interview with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Since the Scottish Government had last week published a discussion document on life beyond the lockdown, it might have been thought that Marr was on promising ground with the First Minister.

But it soon became clear that Ms Sturgeon was not in the business of raising false hopes, his or anyone else’s, or getting into too much detail, no matter how hard the BBC man tried. Try he did, at one point enlisting his own parents in the cause.

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“Let me ask you something people up and down the country are thinking about – grandparents and parents,” he began. “If they’ll forgive me my parents are not in their absolutely first flush, living outside Dundee. When do you think it’s likely that I will be able to go and see my parents?”

Ms Sturgeon was standing outside her conservatory at home in Glasgow. Perhaps it was a whisper of Spring breeze that could be heard after Marr posed his question. Or it could have been a sigh.

“I’m not going to give you a date for that Andrew because it would be irresponsible for me to do so,” said the FM. “I don’t yet have the information that gives me the confidence that I could say that with certainty.”

One of the most difficult aspects of the crisis was grandparents and grandchildren being separated, she acknowledged. “My own parents are suffering from that right now. It’s really tough, and nobody wants that to be the case for longer than necessary.”

Marr was not done yet. Ms Sturgeon had spoken last week about increasing the number of people with whom a person could be in contact. This would be a “bubble” of people, the same people, that could be seen regularly. How many would be in a bubble, Marr wanted to know. He might as well have inquired about the length of a piece of string.

“Again, I don’t know the answer to that,” said the FM. “This is very strange territory for politicians to say I don’t know, but these are the kind of things we’re looking at.”

Perhaps it was the news of the Prime Minister’s return and the hope that the drift of recent days would be halted, but Marr was fizzing with energy and anticipation. He had so much to cover that his already extended show was given another 15 minutes, forcing Gordon Brewer and Sunday Politics Scotland to wait till 10.30am to go on air.

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If Marr carries on empire building like this, his programme will be bumping up against Countryfile and elbowing Antiques Roadshow out of the way.

He had better luck with Andreas Michaelis, State Secretary of the German Foreign Office, in building a picture of life beyond lockdown. Germany hoped to have a contact-tracing app up and running by June, said Mr Michaelis, with officials estimating that a team of five could cover 20,000 people. Still bouncing around Europe, Marr also spoke to Isabella Lovin, the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, where up to 50 people are allowed to gather. “I think every country needs to take its own measures according to its traditions and its system of governance,” she said.

His final guest was Dominic Raab, First Secretary and Foreign Secretary, and chief filler-in for his absent boss, the PM.

As usual, Sky News waylaid the Minister on his way to the BBC studios. How was the Prime Minister, presenter Sophy Ridge asked. In the papers that morning, Mr Johnson been quoted as saying he was “raring to go”.

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It was another of the party’s favoured three word messages along the lines of “Get Brexit Done”, and one Mr Raab was happy to share. “He’s in good spirits. He’s taken the time and the doctors’ advice to rebuild his strength … As you can imagine with the PM he is raring to go.”

One of the first items on his Government’s to do list is to deliver on a promise of 100,000 tests a day by this Thursday. Mr Raab said they were “on track” to meet the target, though capacity was still half that.

Finally, a question you might think was easy for the Foreign Secretary to answer: was Kim Jong-Un dead? We don’t know, said Mr Raab, but the situation was “being followed carefully”.

From the shape of post-lockdown Britain to the health of North Korea’s leader: there is no such thing as simple questions and easy answers any more.


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