After Boris Johnson used a statement to the nation on Monday evening to announce a third national lockdown, ministers made plans to recall parliament for a Wednesday sitting to debate the measures. But before Johnson faces the music in the Chamber, the Prime Minister addressed his own MPs in a 45-minute meeting of the 1922 committee via Zoom.
In his opening statement, Johnson tried to explain to his party why he felt he had no choice but to resort to a national lockdown – stating that 2 per cent of the population now have Covid. He said the aim of the vaccination programme was to create 'a force field of immunity'. He went on, however, to attempt to paint a more optimistic picture at least in the medium term.
Opting for a flower analogy, Johnson promised that things would be better, in terms of restrictions being eased, by the time tulip season was over – perhaps even by daffodil season. This led to MPs frantically googling floral seasons for a clue as to when restrictions would end (Tulips: early May). MPs then made the point that the dates of each season could vary depending where in the country you were.
In terms of the Q&A, there were so many questions from MPs that the session ran over by 15 minutes. Education select committee chair Robert Halfon made the point that the move to remote learning would result in levelling down rather than the government's pledge to level up. The Prime Minister was also asked whether local elections would proceed as planned given the uncertainty – he said he hoped they would as things should be much better by May.
Meanwhile several MPs queried why the regulations being debated tomorrow were valid until the end of March when Johnson said he hoped to lift the lockdown by mid-February. To that, Johnson said he planned to be back in the Chamber debating the issue well before then. In terms of firm promises, MPs viewed Johnson's performance as lacking.