A week ago, something strange seemed to be going on. We were told by No 10 that the prime minister was going to hold a news conference at 4pm on Saturday. We knew he was going to announce a second lockdown, because that decision had been leaked the night before. Then the news conference was going to be at 5pm; as 5pm approached we were told it would be 5.30pm; it wasn’t until 6.45pm that Boris Johnson, flanked by Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty, finally appeared.
Something must be up. Journalists speculated that someone, a minister or an adviser, must be threatening to resign. No one did, and the boring explanation from No 10 was that the lockdown announcement took longer to finalise than expected, while the prime minister was keen to talk to anti-lockdown Conservative MPs to try to minimise the Commons rebellion.
The assumption that all was not what it seemed had taken hold, however. It was reported that Johnson had not finally decided to go for a lockdown at the meeting with Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove on Friday, and that he had asked for more information over the weekend. The theory promoted by opponents of the lockdown was that the leak of the meeting’s tentative conclusion had been designed to bounce the prime minister into going ahead with it.
The leak certainly forced the news conference to be brought forward from Monday (after an announcement in the House of Commons) to Saturday, but my understanding is that the decision on Friday was clear and unanimous. The most significant dog that didn’t bark was the chancellor, who had previously resisted greater r