Express & Star comment: Political headache for Boris Johnson

This is a political headache for Boris Johnson and his government. Labels in politics tend to stick a long time. Mrs Thatcher, milk snatcher, for instance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson can see the looming label taking shape above his blond locks. Boris Johnson – The Prime Minister Who Cancelled Christmas.

That would dog him through the rest of his political career. And for Boris Johnson, who is the epitome of cheery optimism – to a fault, his critics say – it is the last thing he will want to see.

But the pandemic forecasts are against him. The prospects that things will be better in two months' time look remote. We are heading instead for a bleak mid winter.

A former governmental chief scientific adviser says 25,000 people could be in hospital with coronavirus by the end of November. Another expert says the Tier 2 and 3 measures are unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly, pointing to continuing high levels of Covid cases until the spring.

Pressure is coming from all sides. Families and friends want to be together at Christmas, businesses want to capitalise on the festive season, and yet Covid is once again threatening to overwhelm our health service unless it can be held in check.

There is the added complication of different tiers in the different local authority areas, not to mention different rules in different countries.

So what does the government do? Johnson has faced plenty of criticism for his handling of the pandemic but these really are unprecedented times. Choosing the correct path is incredibly difficult.

There is no point in trying to sugarcoat the bitter pill by suggesting that the festive season will be anything like normal. Tidings of comfort and joy won't wash. The public can see the reality of the situation.

Perhaps, guided by the science, "cancelling Christmas" would be prudent from a public health point of view. That would though be a heavy blow to public morale.

It is not necessarily checkmate for the PM. By emphasising closest family, and public and community spirit, he must aim to redefine Christmas 2020 to make it a very different occasion, yet with a different sort of magic.

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