Jacob Rees-Mogg on Thursday described Boris Johnson as “the most freedom-loving prime minister” for “at least 100 years.” It was quite the claim and, if true, the Prime Minister has a chance to prove it by meeting one very simple request: let the British people celebrate Christmas as normally as possible. If the season is “cancelled”, it would be the first time since the era of Oliver Cromwell.
Worryingly, it looks as if the public health lobby is trying to bounce Mr Johnson into yet more restrictions. Every day of Christmas celebrations, said Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, means two more days of harsh measures. Dr Hopkins was being too liberal, said Public Health England: it would mean five extra days. This is believed to be based upon modelling that has yet to be published. No 10 needs to make it crystal clear that whatever does happen in December, it will be a political decision, not a bureaucratic one. Every perspective must be considered.
Christmas is important for religious reasons, of course, and for family life – after several months of being separated, many look forward to reunion as essential to their mental health. Economically, the country needs the business: the winter season will be make or break for many enterprises. And the Government’s plans must be laid out well in advance to help households plan ahead.
Mr Johnson’s instinct is to trust the people – so, give us clarity, give us advice, and then leave friends and relatives to judge their own levels of risk and to manage things for themselves. This is a nation of adults. The Prime Minister, riding high on his reset of government, has a superb opportunity to show the public that he trusts them.