Last month, Conservative members still reported significant unease about the Government’s approach to combating Covid-19.
Whilst there was a swing away from support for the ‘Swedish model’ as an alternative (in favour of a more effective test-and-trace system), there was still a majority for easing restrictions “faster and more widely”.
Opinion this month is much more evenly split. Support for a quicker exit from lockdown has fallen from 56 per cent to 37 per cent, whilst that for the opposing view – “more slowly and less widely” – rose from 11 per cent to 24 per cent. There was also a small increase in those who thought that Ministers have got it just right, from 31 per cent to 35 per cent.
It’s a similar story on the broader question of coronavirus strategy. Support for maintaining the restrictions “as at present” has risen from 18 per cent to 34 per cent, despite those measures getting significantly harsher with the advent of ‘Tier 4’. It therefore edges ahead of test-and-trace, the former favourite, which slips from 42 per cent to 33 per cent.
And the ‘voluntary social distancing’ option, which led as recently as October, falls from 38 per cent to just 29 per cent.
There are two obvious possible explanations for this shift in approach. The first is that members are much more worried about the new, more virulent strain of Covid-19 than they were about the original one. The second is that with the vaccination programme already underway, the case for knuckling down seems much stronger than it did when the prospect was potentially years of restrictions.