You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist who mutters regularly about ‘sheeple’ to find the timing of Boris Johnson’s latest Covid update rather suspicious. This afternoon, he followed his dramatic Prime Minister’s Questions session with an announcement about the end of restrictions which had been introduced to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. They include an end to a number of measures, including compulsory mask-wearing in public places and guidance to work from home. The short-lived but controversial vaccine certification scheme has also been shelved.
The PM told the Chamber that the government had moved fast to implement the Plan B measures as soon as information about Omicron became available. He paid particular attention to the way the government had ‘delivered the fastest booster programme in Europe, reaching half our population before any European country’. He was very quick to attack ‘others’ who had called ‘to shut down our country all over again’. It was almost as if he was trying to point out to Tory MPs in particular that despite all the political turmoil, the government had been getting on with the most important job.
Sir Keir Starmer underlined this by saying Labour would continue to support the government’s Covid measures, provided Johnson ‘reassure the public he is acting to protect their health, not just his job’.
If this was a political rather than policy-based move, Johnson will be grateful that the first Tory questions came from Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt and were just focused on details around the policies, not the integrity and leadership of the Prime Minister. But the Chamber was quickly emptying: attention was largely elsewhere.