The prime minister’s behaviour, and the suggestion that he is beholden to no one, has provoked a crisis of government
A public that feels cheated by its prime minister knows that the holiday season will be cut short for the good of the NHS. The only question is when. Boris Johnson isn’t prepared to say what his plans are – for fear of a backlash, not from voters but from a mutinous party. Ordinary people want to, and will, do the right thing – perhaps only grudgingly in the reasonable belief that they have been deceived. The Guardian obtained a picture that showed Boris Johnson drinking wine with staff in the Downing Street garden. This looked like a social gathering, not a meeting – one which, by some accounts, turned into a late evening party. It took place when Covid rules meant that funerals were kept so small that some family members could not attend. People tweeted to say that they were fined for breaking the lockdown at the time. The No 10 gathering appears, to the wider public, confirmation that Mr Johnson wants people to do as he says, not as he does.
Mr Johnson’s behaviour, and the suggestion that he is beholden to no one, has provoked a crisis of government. Caught between the spread of a highly infectious Omicron variant and a Tory revolt, the prime minister dithered and delayed. His own scientific advisers say that there are likely to be between 1,000 and 2,000 Covid hospital admissions a day in England by the end of the year. The case for more Covid restrictions, they say, is overwhelming. Yet cabinet ministers dismiss the modelling – signalling to backbench rebels that they are with them. Others are perhaps afraid of being blamed for cancelling Christmas when people begin travelling around the country. Mr Johnson calculated that he was too weak in office to risk a Commons showdown with his party over new restrictions. Policy is being decided by Tory MPs, many of whom have no plan beyond “let Omicron rip”.