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The pandemic

A brave decision, but is it the right one?

London clubbers celebrating the end of lockdown restrictions. Rob Pinney/Getty Images

Freedom Day is Boris Johnson’s Falklands, says Matthew Parris in The Times. Not because it’s a war, but because it’s a huge, career-defining gamble. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t following “military science” when she sent warships to the South Atlantic. If we’d lost to Argentina, “she’d have been finished”. And, just as her MPs “watched shakily for every report of casualties”, Johnson will have his eyes trained on the graphs representing new Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The punt he’s made is a characteristic one. Our PM believes in freedom, “however scattily defined”, as shown by his repeated reluctance to lock down, or to sack Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock after their respective scandals. He proceeded with Freedom Day “despite soaring infections and rising hospitalisations”. I think it’s the right decision – and a brave one. But if it goes wrong and the NHS ends up “staring again at disaster”, scientists, journalists and Tory backbenchers will turn on the PM. Johnson is well aware of the risk – as a classicist, he knows all about the dangers of tempting fate. “He gambles like a god, then trembles like one cursed by the gods.” 

Read the full article here (paywall).