James Forsyth

Boris can’t cancel Christmas

Boris can't cancel Christmas
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An event where multiple generations gather indoors, exchange gifts and drink alcohol having travelled from far and wide sounds like a nightmare in coronavirus terms. On this basis, Christmas is one event that should definitely be cancelled. But, as I say in the Times today, regardless of whether they are hawks or doves when it comes to the virus, leading figures in government think that it needs to be saved.

One key Johnson ally says, bluntly, 'Christmas is not cancellable'. This could change, of course, if intensive care units are full in December. But right now the strong feeling is that there needs to be a way found to preserve as much of the usual family holiday as possible.

The great fear in government is that an attempt to maintain the rule of six and all the other restrictions on 25 December will be met by mass disobedience. 'If otherwise law-abiding people decide the rules are unworkable, then the whole system falls into total disrepute,' says one secretary of state.

Certainly, if huge swathes of the population defied the rules on Christmas Day you couldn’t expect compliance to snap back on Boxing Day or even in January. This is a particular problem given that February may, according to one estimate in government, be the most difficult month for dealing with the virus and some restrictions are likely to be in place until March. 

There are no developed plans yet for what precisely will be allowed at Christmas. But it is clear that with the public beginning to chafe at the ways in which coronavirus curbs are restricting family life, ministers are keen to ensure that there is, at least, some Christmas cheer to look forward to.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

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