Fourth, thinking ahead. Mr. Cuomo was the first leader I saw openly to put concerns about mental health at the heart of his strategy, and he announced the plan for a network of online psychologists and psychiatrists to help New Yorkers. He showed empathy and humor, spelling out how lonely many people were already, even before mandated self-isolation. It was hard, he said, for families forced to spend day and night together, and noted that as for himself, “I’m even getting annoyed with the dog.”
Fifth, inspiration. This is vital in a leader — it is inspiring to watch Mr. Cuomo. You feel part of his narrative. You feel the hurdles are enormous, but confident they can be overcome, as with his reminders that society will continue to function, the world will still be here once the crisis is done. I have felt none of that sense of a shared voyage when watching Mr. Trump or Mr. Johnson.
Sixth, just the right amount of poetry amid the prose. Twenty-five minutes or so of hard fact and prosaic explanation, then a little bit of poetry for the end — about the acts of kindness and compassion by which we will be judged; about how life will go on, but things will be different; about how the crisis, as well as being a challenge to all of us, leaders and citizens alike, is also an opportunity to show what kind of people we were.
Mr. Johnson still has time to improve his communications. I know he is busy. I know he is facing enormous responsibility and making huge decisions that affect all of our lives, and now doing so in new and difficult circumstances of self-isolation. But I really do recommend that he take half an hour to watch a Cuomo briefing, and five minutes to watch a Trump one, with the president’s racism, petulance and narcissism on naked display. Then, when planning his own, and when he is out there in front of the country, all alone down the line from 10 Downing Street, Mr. Johnson should try to operate by this mantra: “More like Cuomo, less like Trump.”
Alastair Campbell, an author and consultant strategist, was chief spokesman for and strategist to Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1994 to 2003.
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