Boris Johnson has been a man in a hurry as he removed the remaining Covid restrictions in England. He is right about one thing: we do need to “learn to live with this virus”. Yet the prime minister’s haste has been driven not by a desire to set people “free” but to throw “red meat” to hungry Conservative backbenchers.
Some of his critics are on the libertarian wing of the party and for them, lifting the curbs cannot come a moment too soon. His living with Covid plan is part of a ploy to persuade Tory MPs to live with Mr Johnson, whatever their verdict on the final outcome of the Partygate investigations by the Metropolitan Police and senior civil servant Sue Gray.
Mr Johnson gave the game away when he preannounced at Prime Minister’s Questions on 9 February that he intended to end restrictions a month earlier than the originally planned date of 24 March – before any real debate with his cabinet or scientific advisers.