One in four will break rules at Christmas, as Tories tell Government to ‘treat people like adults’

Boris Johnson has been told by senior Tories to start "treating people as adults" as polling has found that one in four Britons will break coronavirus rules to see family and friends on Christmas Day.

The exclusive poll for The Telegraph comes just days before the Prime Minister is expected to set out his plans to replace the current national lockdown.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, made clear late last week that restrictions will be imposed, telling a press conference at 10 Downing Street that it would be "an approach that keeps people safe as well as recognising the importance of Christmas and the importance of seeing our loved ones over Christmas".

However, the survey by ORB International for The Telegraph found 25 per cent of all people agreed with the statement: "I would break rules that may still be in place on Christmas Day to see my family/friends."

Broken down by age, this rose to 40 per cent of adults aged between 18 and 34 years old.

The poll also showed that only 13 per cent felt that the pandemic is under control and that two in three – 67 per cent – would support extending current restrictions beyond December 2 if there were no significant improvement in the rate of the virus’s spread.

A majority – 53 per cent – also disagreed that having some resemblance of normality is a price worth paying even if the R rate increases in January.

Family gatherings at Christmas will ‘throw fuel on the fire’ of the pandemic says Sage advisor

Families are expected to be allowed to meet for up to a week at Christmas – but tough restrictions may remain in place until then – and it is not clear how many households would be able to join together.

On Saturday night senior Conservatives said The Telegraph poll showed that it was time to start treating "people as adults" in response to the pandemic, and let them manage the risk of catching coronavirus themselves.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee and member of the anti-lockdown Covid Recovery Group of MPs, said: "The whole country knows that this is a nasty virus that kills vulnerable people and that hand hygiene and social distancing are key. 

“The public has endured the huge sacrifice of repeated lockdowns and restrictions, so it’s now time to treat people as adults and transfer responsibility from the Government to all of us. People, especially older people, are well able to make their own judgment as to the right level of risk they should take.”

Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said: "I am surprised it is so few but I suspect that number will grow as we get nearer Christmas.

"This is why it is so important for the Government to come up with an initiative that allows families to get together over the festive period.

"This is important because if the Government fails to make this provision, people will do it anyway which will lead to the Government losing authority."

Fellow Tory MP Philip Davies added: “The Government is in danger of turning the law into a total ass. The rule of law is something which is the hallmark of the UK, but that is in danger of having irreparable damage done to it.

"Matt Hancock and Public Health England may enjoy the power of micromanaging everyone’s life, but out in the real world, people are not listening anymore.

"They are losing faith in the people making these decisions, which the public can see are entirely arbitrary and have little if any scientific basis to them, and are prepared to just do what they think is right.

"The Government should recognise that authoritarianism is over – this survey shows that huge sections of the British people are not prepared to tolerate it any longer."

Last week Sir Charles described a minister’s response as "Orwellian" after he asked the Home Office whether "all protests attended by more than two people [were now] illegal".

Kit Malthouse, a Home Office minister, replied in a Commons answer: "In these unprecedented circumstances, any gathering risks spreading the disease, leading to more deaths, so it is vital we all play our part in controlling the virus.

"People must follow the rules on meeting with others, which apply to all gatherings and therefore protests too. Any larger gatherings, save for very limited exemptions such as funerals, are unlawful."

BigBrotherWatch, the campaign group, said this was incorrect as the rules permit gatherings organised by "a political body” in a “public outdoor place” if the organiser has carried out a risk assessment.

ORB International carried out 2,094 interviews between Nov 18 and Nov 19, representative of the UK population.

Would you break coronavirus rules to see family and friends on Christmas Day? Tell us in the comments section below and read what Telegraph readers had to say on restrictions at Christmas. 

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