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An awkward question hangs over the COVID-19-shuttered world of Downing Street. At his daily morning meeting, Boris Johnson, back to full duties after suffering a serious bout of the virus, recently asked who was in charge of relaxing Britain’s lockdown plan, with all of the risks and uncertainties that entails for a government. “There was just silence,” an insider told the Sunday Times newspaper. “He looked over at Mark Sedwill (his top civil servant) and asked, ‘Is it you?’ The official replied, ‘No, I think it’s you, prime minister.’”

Sedwill was right. The United Kingdom’s leader enjoys some of the strongest centralized powers in Europe — and yet, paradoxically, the man who fought so hard to gain control of his party and Britain’s destiny is reluctant to take responsibility.

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