From Consensus to Dissensus: The UK's Management of a Pandemic in a Divided Nation

Garland, Ruth and Lilleker, Darren. 2021. From Consensus to Dissensus: The UK's Management of a Pandemic in a Divided Nation. In: Peter Van Aelst and Jay G. Blumler, eds. Political Communication in the Time of Coronavirus. New York: Routledge, pp. 17-32. ISBN 9780367771577 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This Chapter conducts a thematic content analysis of the 92 daily coronavirus press briefings conducted by the UK government in 2020. It examines these within the context of the early months of the pandemic, the public and media response, and the intrusion of partisan politics, including the development of local, regional and national narratives that challenged the Westminster story. What vision of national leadership was presented? How did the briefings represent national identity? How successful were the government’s attempts to convey consensus, unity and equality? Three distinct phases are identified:

1. 2nd March to 27th March – establishing the lockdown led by Boris Johnson.
2. 27th March to 26thApril – Johnson’s absence with Coronavirus
3. 27th April to date – Johnson’s ‘bounceback’.

As astonishing as the government’s volte face, was the extent to which the opposition, public and media rallied round the flag during the first two phases. This did not last, but why? We argue that the answer will help us to identify the essential ingredients of public trust in government and governing politicians.

Item Type:

Book Section


COVID-19, government, media, political leadership, UK, Scotland

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


13 September 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2022 10:40

Last Modified:

17 Jan 2022 10:41


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