THE public’s holiday respite from politics came to an abrupt end yesterday with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who seemed to have visited a butcherous hairdresser, holding a press conference and Sir Keir Starmer giving a major New Year speech in Birmingham.

Both men need a relaunch. Mr Johnson’s calamitous pre-Christmas has given Labour a first lead in the polls, which suggest the Conservatives would lose all of the “red wall” seats they won in the North East in 2019. His problems are all in front of him, with reports on parties to come, tax rises to bite and his right-wing backbenchers rebellious.

Sir Keir sought to strike a contrast between Mr Johnson and himself: he spoke of the need for “straight leadership”, of making a “solemn agreement” with the electorate, and of how politics is a “serious business” and not a branch of the entertainment industry.

The Labour leader is right. They have not enjoyed being “taken for fools” by Mr Johnson and his restrictions-breaking entourage, but could Mr Johnson’s current gamble buy him time? If sticking to his Plan B in the face of omicron pays off, the public may again be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt; if it goes badly wrong and hospitals are overwhelmed, he has no capi-tal in the bank to enable him to survive.