In my latest Spectator column, I say how pleased I was to see the pictures of Michael Gove enjoying himself on a night out in Aberdeen. It will make it that much harder for him to resume his advocacy of vaccine passports.
Scotland, after all, is experiencing a record number of coronavirus cases following the reopening of schools a few weeks ago, yet the minister was perfectly happy to visit several hospitality venues in Aberdeen without having to certify his Covid status. The implication of Gove’s night of revelry is that, like many of us, he’s decided to say good riddance to the restrictions that have been crippling the economy and wreaking havoc with people’s mental health and learned to live with the virus. The pictures of him posing for selfies, arm in arm with total strangers, his face and shirt pouring with sweat, were particularly refreshing.
Admittedly, the influential cabinet minister may not have intended to send a message that it’s time to get back to normal. This was a night out in Aberdeen, after all, not a Downing Street press conference. But the fact that he let his hair down in this way will make it harder for him to resume his position as the government’s finger-wagger-in-chief when it comes to restrictions on our freedoms.
It’s widely predicted that cases in England will start to surge as a result of our schools reopening – and will accelerate even more when university students go back — and no doubt the usual chorus of scientific advisers, public health panjandrums and NHS bosses will be clamouring for another lockdown. Before this, they could have counted on Gove as their closest cabinet ally. Now they may have to look elsewhere. For the minister to call for vaccine passports and other containment measures in England when he didn’t modify his behaviour in response to a case surge in Scotland will leave him vulnerable to the charge he cares more about protecting lives in England than in Scotland.
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