The great thing about being trashed in the polls is that the tiniest improvement looks like a triumphant comeback. At PMQs the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, needed to do some minor damage to Boris’s armour. The teeniest dent could be spun as a glorious revival.
But Sir Keir was defeated by his own strategy. He attacked the government’s red-amber-green system of travel restrictions. This metaphorical tricolour is easy to interpret: amber-list countries are safe to travel to except when they’re dangerous. And amber-list countries are dangerous to travel to except when they’re safe. It’s the legal equivalent of an ‘amber shopping day,’ when thieves can operate with impunity.
Sir Kier mocked the absurdity of this kaleidoscopic travel advice. And Boris helped him. ‘It’s very, very clear,’ said the Prime Minister, ‘you should not be going to an amber-list country on holiday.’ Then came a proviso. ‘Except…’ he went on. And he listed the reasons that would make travel to an amber-list country permissible.
Obviously he wants to create such a muddled, incoherent and idiotic policy that everyone loses faith in it and starts to do what they like instead. The traffic-light system is a classic exercise in small-state libertarianism. It is, in a word, masterful.
The PM let the truth slip when he said that ‘legal bans’ were not the future. He added, ‘We’re trying to move away from endlessly legislating for everything.’
That may be his most significant statement of the year.
Sir Keir ducked one obvious controversy. A nurse, Jenny McGee, who cared for the PM while he fought the superbug last year, has resigned over low pay and a lack of respect for her profession.