IF Boris Johnson had followed the science, as he once claimed to do, he would have made it illegal to gather at Christmas, but he is being pulled in the opposite direction by the right-wing of his party and the media which sees any clampdown as an infringement of civil liberties and a curtailment of personal freedom.

And so we’ve ended up with guidance in which the details are messy – it’s two households in Wales, eight people in Scotland and three or fewer in England – and the messaging is hazy – there is no easily understood “stay at home” slogan, for instance.

But at least the Government’s broad feeling about the forthcoming festive season is now clear: don’t do it.

If you follow the new guidance to the letter, you won’t travel, you won’t stay overnight, you won’t have any contact the elderly. In effect, you’ll cancel your family Christmas.

Mr Johnson has fallen short of imposing a blanket ban on people, but that may be acceptable because every family is different, and so one-size-fits-all restrictions would have been more frustrating than effective.

And he has stopped shy of giving legal force to the guidance, but that too may be effective because there was a collective in-take of breath a fortnight ago when North Yorkshire constabulary said they would be policing the boundary with Tier 3 Durham – that way lies a police state.

Perhaps by being torn between the science and the libertarians, Mr Johnson has fumbled to an acceptable solution. Let’s hope he’s not being too trusting in expecting all the British people to exercise their personal responsibility.