Boris Johnson regards the lack of parliamentary oversight as a virtue. But without Commons scrutiny of fast-changing Covid rules, we have been left with error and confusion
Boris Johnson is in No 10 with a majority of 80 in the Commons. This has meant he has run his government during the pandemic in a presidential style, bundling parliament to the sidelines in March. The emergency law which enabled his power grab has to be renewed after six months. Scores of Conservative MPs appeared not to be in the mood to give Mr Johnson such leeway again. They have been rightly infuriated by the lack of parliamentary oversight of fast-changing Covid rules which ultimately govern the way people live. By one count these have been changed 200 times since March. Even Mr Johnson appears confused about what people are allowed to do.
There is a respectable argument that the government needed to be able to move quickly when dealing with an unknown and deadly viral pathogen. With no vaccine, restrictions on freedom were inevitable. We now have a much clearer idea of what tackling Covid means. Yet the government is exercising vast powers, without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, and undermining the law by having a shifting set of rules that few can keep up with. Commons debates have been permitted – absurdly – after the restrictions were announced or came into force.