View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

Why can’t UK ministers be clear about foreign travel? Because they don’t agree

There are concerns among Conservatives that the government’s coronavirus objective has changed without parliamentary debate.

By Stephen Bush

Are foreign holidays dangerous and essentially forbidden, or all right in some circumstances? Is a foreign holiday even, perhaps, essential to some people? Those are the mixed messages coming from government ministers. 

Part of the reason for the confusion is the topic the government can’t discuss: the B1.617.2 variant and the failure to employ best practice on central quarantine, which means the new variant is now here in the United Kingdom. It’s easier for ministers to talk about whether people should go abroad than whether or not the government should have done things differently.

But the other reason is genuine division among ministers about what to do next. Don’t forget that we didn’t go into lockdown solely because of the consequences of Covid-19. We went into lockdown because of what an unchecked outbreak would have done to healthcare capacity in general: an uncontrolled outbreak at the start of the pandemic would have meant the effective end of modern medicine as hospitals would have been overwhelmed with coronavirus cases. That was the right policy – the problem was that we went into lockdown too late and then made the same mistake in the winter – but it was a policy with costs, particularly for children, university students and people at the start of their careers. 

Now some of the noises from Downing Street suggest that we might extend lockdown not to protect those of us yet to be offered a vaccine but those who refuse it (despite the UK being on course for the levels of vaccination necessary for herd immunity in the United Kingdom, as Anthony Costello writes), and that the purpose of the UK’s lockdown seems to be shifting.

This is one reason ministers aren’t toeing the line on foreign travel in public: they are increasingly concerned in private that the government’s coronavirus objective has changed, without a debate in parliament, or anywhere else, for that matter. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU