Nothing has changed. At the beginning of the Covid crisis, the PM would give press conferences abetted by Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty. Trying to lighten the proceedings, Boris did the jokes. There was no attempt at rivalry. A brief smile from either of the other two was as warm as a glint of midwinter sunshine on the brass plate of a coffin-lid. As for Boris, he never understood that there is a crucial difference between light touch and light-weight.
Judging by Saturday, he still does not. On either side, the two scientists flanked him like grim-faced gaolers. By all accounts, they had virtually stiff-armed him into the latest restrictions. That came after a characteristic Boris performance. Stubbornness was rapidly overtaken by insecurity. What if the scientists were right? The final phase was panic. To be fair to Boris, he is very good at eating his own words when they become inconvenient. No politician – conceivably no human being – has had more practice in doing that. So a man who would make a good Santa Claus ended up by banning Christmas.
In the short-run, this led to total confusion. On Saturday evening, St Pancras and King’s Cross were heaving. By Sunday morning, Waterloo was full of officious policemen, demanding to see passengers’ tickets and asking where they were going, and why.