January Review: Lockdown Three, Vaccine Wars & Labour U-Turns mdi-fullscreen

Soaring Covid cases across the country meant 2021 started on a dour note: Christmas had already been cancelled for the South East, New Year’s Eve celebrations were subdued, and with most of the UK already under strict Covid rules (remember ‘Tiers’?), it was only a matter of time before everyone was housebound once again. On January 4, 24 hours after declaring primary schools “safe“, Boris announced England’s third nation-wide lockdown. The “one huge difference” this time, however, was the vaccine programme…

Time was of the essence. Fortunately, having withdrawn from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Britain had signed a delivery order with AstraZeneca three months ahead of Europe, so the jab campaign roared into action. This unambiguously good news still led to plenty of political embarrassments: Sir Keir attempted to rewrite history over his support of the EMA, Labour spent the whole month calling for things the government had already committed to, and the EU became so embittered by the glacial pace of its own vaccine rollout that it decided to declare war on AstraZeneca. A ludicrous row in which von der Leyen insisted the EU was entitled to a share of the AZ doses manufactured in the UK – a claim which was completely undermined by the bloc’s own signed agreement with the manufacturer…

The government, meanwhile, still made gaffes of its own. Guido exclusively revealed how Priti Patel broke Cabinet collective responsibility by telling Tory supporters on a Zoom call that she’d privately pushed to close the borders much earlier in the pandemic, confirming rumours that she’d clashed with Boris over his decision to keep them open. It wouldn’t be the only time Priti would make headlines over border policy this year…

Over in the US, Donald Trump spent the last days of his presidency pretending he’d won the 2020 election, and encouraged thousands of his supporters to march on Congress as it formalised Biden’s victory. Five people died, a shirtless man dressed as a viking sat in Mike Pence’s chair, and the result was still certified anyway. Biden was sworn in on 20th January.

Honourable mentions:

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