Boris Johnson is putting more lives at risk by yielding to the demands of backbenchers

n the early months of the pandemic, the government’s catchphrase, offered with equal ease by Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove and everybody else, was that it was being “led by the science”.

It was a highly convenient phrase. The cover it provided to poor decision-making and soaring fatalities, particularly in regard to the outbreaks in care homes, was total. At the time, and indeed still now, “the science” was not in agreement. The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, admitted to a select committee that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) was significantly divided about the best way to proceed.

“The science” could lead you anywhere, both in foresight and in hindsight. In early March, still the pandemic’s most crucial days, “the science” was calling for an immediate lockdown and also calling for it to be delayed, so the peak of the virus would not come after people had become weary of lockdown itself. It was wrong and right, both before and after the event.

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