The government’s most unpopular policy on its own benches is its plan to make almost everyone arriving in this country quarantine for 14 days. Among backbenchers and the outer cabinet this policy is disliked with an increasing intensity. ‘Colleagues absolutely hate it’, one cabinet minister tells me.
Some backbenchers dislike it because it will hit their own constituencies particularly hard – airlines and airports will lay off more staff because of it. Others dislike the ‘Britain is closed for business’ message it sends out. While for a growing number of ministers it has become a focus of their resentment at how policy is made with their minimal involvement – cabinet committees are meeting far less frequently than they did. Ministers feel that too much policy comes out of focus groups, and not enough out of cabinet.
Three quarters of voters might favour a quarantine but it’s unlikely they’ll thank the government for rules that will deny them a break in the sun this summer. The opposition of the papers to it – just look at the leaders over the past few days in the Times, the Mail and the Telegraph – is also emboldening Tory MPs. One senior Tory backbencher tells me, ‘If the opposition came out on it, the government would have no choice but to retreat’ before the vote at the end of next month.