I remember Tony Blair’s time in government. He used his massive majorities in Parliament (179, 167 and 66, respectively) to push through his agenda. In later years, especially after the Iraq war, he became particularly bullish – no longer seeming to care whether an idea was unpopular with large swathes of people.
Blair, however, knew roughly how far he could push. A quality that is totally absent in current Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He thought having an 80 seat majority in Parliament would allow him to do what the hell he liked. Previously, he could – but the arithmetic means Tory rebellions could bring policies down if they gain enough momentum.
And vaccine passports are one of those policies that come with enormous risk to the Prime Minister. A number of prominent Tories are coming out against the idea – far more than I originally expected. Johnson could face a much larger rebellion than he thought if he tried to push this through parliament.
More and more, the policy strikes me as a response by politicians who just don’t know how to communicate to younger people – currently the group with the lowest vaccination rates in the UK. The answer to this problem is to communicate arguments for having the vaccine in an intelligent and forthright way.
After all, arguments about protecting granny don’t have quite the same impact now that granny is vaccinated herself, do they? So I think the message needs to be tweaked. And I also think celebrities should be employed to spread the message – many young people do not watch news on conventional media.
Threatening them won’t work. If anything, it could play into the hands of a new generation of illegal raves. Instead, it’s arguments about the right to privacy and civil liberties that are likely to give Johnson headaches. He doesn’t strike me as the type who’d want to face down a large rebellion and possible defeat on this one.
And notice how quiet the government has gone on this issue lately? According to people who used to work in this government – Dominic Cummings, for example – this often means a U-turn is being lined up. We shall see…