Today’s statement by Boris Johnson was a reminder of how difficult the politics of this second wave is going to be. In the first 50 minutes, there were only two Tory soft balls to the PM. The other questions from his own benches all had a degree of scepticism in them, and some were clearly hostile. Andrew Mitchell, the former Tory chief whip, echoed the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street’s complaint that the region had been placed in tier 2. Caroline Ansell, the Eastbourne MP, argued that hyper local restrictions would be better than this new system.
Perhaps the most interesting exchange, though, came when Steve Baker – one of the Tory MPs who is most sceptical of these restrictions – asked when the vulnerable would be vaccinated. In a shift from Boris Johnson’s usual emphasis on how the cavalry is coming in the spring, he stressed that despite the encouraging signs coming from some of the Covid trials, people have to be realistic given that there still isn’t a vaccine for Sars. This answer will be seized on by Tory MPs who think that the policy of suppression until vaccination isn’t tenable.
Boris Johnson will hold a televised press conference this evening. But that has now been pushed back to 7pm as the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle – who recently accused the government of treating parliament with contempt – wanted Johnson to do a long session in the chamber with MPs before speaking to the media.