Guess what everyone? Covid has mutated again. Yippee. We are now down to Omicron in the Greek alphabet of variants, which tells you all you need to know about the extent of the déjà vu everyone’s feeling, like watching Groundhog Day on repeat for a year.
The impact of this is still pretty much completely unknown. As such, the news has been hideous for the last week, as expert after expert gets wheeled out to say “we don’t know yet” in slightly different ways. Jonathan Van Tam described it by saying that we have picked up a few yellow cards and have got an injury or two, but that our defenders are working hard to keep the ball out of the net. Loathed would we be to criticise the nation’s fav scientist, but why does our future livelihood need to be communicated to us like a particularly convoluted bible parable?
As such, the political implications of all this are also unknown for now. But Boris Johnson has lots of reasons to be worried if this does prove a harmful variant. First of all, there is some serious lockdown fatigue about, not just among the public, but within the Tory Party as well. We are getting to the point when an attempt at strict measures could genuinely be met by a back bench rebellion. And while public opinion is a mixed bag, with some support for increasing measures, any rally round the flag, wartime effort, rainbows in the window vibe is gone. If worst comes to worst and we end up house bound, expect the wholesome clapping for carers to be replaced by a daily ‘2 minutes of hate’ when we all hurl rotten fruit at effigies of Boris Johnson, shoulder to shoulder with half the backbench Tory MPs.
Secondly, a crisis now would expose how much the Government have taken their feet off the pedal. They only seem urgent about rolling out booster jabs at pace now that there is a scare. Why weren’t they pushing this more quickly in the first place? We seem institutionally incapable of peace time preparations. Fast action only seems to be possible when war is looming.
But the key thing is this. Covid just fundamentally makes us all want to headbutt a wall. Any new talk of the subject by Johnson will be met by anger and frustration, because the topic has become so anger and frustration inducing. Whatever he does to respond to a new crisis is likely to hurt him, be it for being too strict, too lax, or too inbetween. The PM just needs to get Covid behind him and desperately do something else with his premiership.
We all have our fingers crossed that this new variant won’t be a game changer. And for once, we can say that the people and the PM are all on the same page!