When Boris Johnson stands at the dispatch box on Monday to deliver his roadmap for easing Covid restrictions for what he hopes will be the final time, there is likely to be a sigh of relief from his scientific advisers who will have won the most recent battle.
Johnson is now gearing up for the next tussle, which will be with his MPs. There is a truce with the cabinet.
Unlike the first lockdown, when newspapers were full of arguments between the hawks and doves around the cabinet table, this time ministers have kept their counsel when they have private doubts. They are largely sold on Johnson’s promise that slower means more permanent.
Cabinet ministers have been keen to avoid their press caricatures: Rishi Sunak as the bold re-opener whom sceptic MPs saw as their champion, and Matt Hancock the doom-monger lockdown fanatic.
“Matt has ended up being the one looking a bit exposed, ironically, because he’s been talking about a ‘great British summer’ and Rishi has not engaged in the debate whatsoever. You can see the entire cabinet just want to keep well away from this debate,” one Tory insider observed.
MPs have noticed how over the week leading up to the great unlocking that the prime minister has carefully emphasised in public the different points his scientific advisers have been making in private.