James Forsyth

Boris’s lockdown speech was classic Blairite triangulation

Boris’s lockdown speech was classic Blairite triangulation
(Photo: Parliament UK / Jessica Taylor)
Text settings

Several of Tony Blair’s ideas have found their way into the government’s Covid policy, most notably the policy of prioritising first doses. The end of Boris Johnson’s statement today owed a lot to Blair. Johnson cast himself as charting a middle course between those who think the government’s plan is too ambitious and those who want restrictions eased faster. It was classic Blairite triangulation.

The road map is an interesting document. It is initially cautious and the decision to put five weeks between easing measures means that we won’t be able to sit inside a pub until 17 May, a long way from the idea that things would be heading back to normal by the Easter weekend. But at the end of the plan, the step up in freedoms is dramatic.

If all goes to plan, then on the 21 June England should go from a limit of 30 outdoors and the rule of six indoors to no restrictions on numbers, inside or out. Although, two reviews due to be conducted before then will have a big impact on how ‘normal’ this all feels. First, a review on social distancing will determine whether or not the one metre plus rule will still be required. If it is, then hospitality venues will not be able to operate at full capacity. Second, the government has said it will decide on ‘Covid status certification’ before then. In other words, we will know by then if venues can bar people who have not had a vaccine or a negative test from their premises. Both of these reviews will prompt fierce rows within the Tory parliamentary party, I expect.

The dates in this roadmap are meant to be ‘no earlier than’. But I suspect they are ones the government are confident of meeting. When Johnson was asked about why the dates were so cautious by a Tory MP, he replied that ‘people would rather have certainty than urgency’ suggesting that he’s pretty sure they will be hit.