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17 December 2020

The UK’s new Christmas messaging is too late to make a difference

What matters about the UK, Scottish and Welsh goverments' approach to Christmas rules is not what divides them, but what unites them. 

By Stephen Bush

What would we say if, seven days before a general election, a political party unveiled a new campaign? We’d say that the party in question was doing badly and that it was likely to be defeated.

Bluntly, I see no reason to believe that the Conservative government’s change of message over Christmas  just seven days before the travel window will open  will be any more effective than an eleventh-hour change of approach from a political party, i.e, not very. 

[See also: The Christmas rules are a far bigger danger than Covid-19 variants]

The same applies to the Scottish and Welsh governments’ divergence from the all-UK approach: the Scottish government is urging people only to link up with other households on Christmas Day itself and not to stay overnight, while the Welsh government is capping the number of households at two plus someone who lives alone  and putting that into law, to boot. 

[See also: Should you go home for Christmas?]

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Given that none of this can be meaningfully or consistently enforced, the only value of law as opposed to guidance is the signal it sends: but because there are only seven days for that message to be received, what matters is not what divides these three governments, but what unites them: that they are changing approach too late in the day for it to matter much, and everything they have done has made family reunion at Christmas more, not less, dangerous.