Shaping the UK Government’s public communications on COVID-19: General, follower, other?
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McVittie, C. (2021) 'Shaping the UK Government’s public communications on COVID-19: General, follower, other?', Qualitative Research Reports in Communication (In Press).
The death rate in the United Kingdom from COVID-19 is, per capita, one of the highest in the world. Here I examine three ways in which the UK Prime Minster, Boris Johnson, has communicated to the UK population the actions that are necessary to deal with the pandemic. Using principles of discursive psychology and Bakhtinian analysis, I consider how Johnson’s descriptions discursively construct the government’s actions, the actions that are required of the population, and agency for reducing the spread of COVID-19. Relying on metaphors of war, claims to follow the science, and expressions of concerned advice, Johnson’s communications are shaped to manage the accountability of his government and himself for varying potential outcomes of the pandemic, allowing them to take credit if their efforts are treated as successful but to attribute responsibility elsewhere should incidence of COVID-19 illness and deaths continue to increase.