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Mixed messaging may not be too late to sort out, as long as rules are clear from now on.

 

For one awful moment I actually thought he was going to croon. He had already taunted Keir Starmer in PMQs with a Mariah Carey song (“All I want for Christmas is a view!”) Then, in his No.10 press conference, Boris Johnson channelled his inner Michael Bublé, riffing on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to get across his new message on Covid curbs this festive season.

Replacing “merry” with “very”, the PM showed once again that he can’t resist falling back on his usual repertoire, namely making lame gags despite the seriousness of the subject matter. His previous attempt at a similar Christmas hit – ”’Tis The Season To Be Jolly Careful” – had bombed in the charts, but he was clearly undaunted.

 

Unsurprisingly, Johnson showed he still wants to have his Christmas cake and eat it. Terrified of a public backlash (or at least a newspaper backlash, something else entirely) at the prospect of new laws and regulations, he kept saying “We don’t want to ban Christmas, to cancel it…” Of course, tightening the rules would not mean banning Christmas, merely reducing its scope. Which, it turned out, is exactly what his new guidance entailed.

 

While the PM protested that everything was ultimately down to individual responsibility, it rapidly became clear that he was changing the guidance significantly. Try not to see any elderly relatives until after they have been vaccinated. Isolate five days before you see anyone new at Christmas. Avoid the Boxing Day sales. Don’t travel unless absolutely necessary. This was a U-turn that dare not speak its name.

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Also Read: COVID-19: Public warned to ‘keep it short, keep it local’ as Christmas COVID rules change between UK nations