Another day, another embarrassing U-turn – this time not just for the government but the whole of the parliamentary estate.
With Boris Johnson having called on pubs across England to close at 10pm, The Times discovered that bars across Westminster Palace would not be subject to the same rules - on the basis that they fall under the description of "a workplace canteen".
Stricter rules on face coverings introduced for other licensed premises were also said to not have to be followed, while visitors to parliamentary bars weren't asked to supply a name and number on entry – with the job of tracking and tracing falling to a specific team on the estate.
An outcry rightly ensured, sparking a quick change of regulations to abide by the 10pm rule, with the addendum that because parliament has not worked late since the hospitality curfew was introduced on Thursday, no alcohol has been served outside regulatory hours.
A poor decision, or a "massive own goal" as one parliamentary wag put it, changed following public scrutiny. While you can't place this one entirely at the government's door it certainly plays into the idea held by many – particularly in the wake of Dominic Cummings's jaunt to Durham and a number of other questionable choices – that it is one rule for the elite and another for everyone else.
This may not be a direct government decision, but it will not help its image – and Johnson only has himself to blame. U-turns have become far too regular and a lack of clarity of communication over coronavirus restrictions, and it all plays into the same negative view of the government's recent handling of the pandemic.
It also smacks of a lack of thought and forward-planning – shouldn't somebody have noted the potential for a backlash to such a measure and act accordingly? A word in an ear to suggest it might not look the best policy when the rest of the country is on edge about a potential second lockdown.
A rift is already developing between those members of the public that are happy to follow re-implemented lockdown measures and those who aren't - with the relative harmony of support for lockdown measures that we witnessed at the height of the pandemic having dissipated. The government can ill-afford the strain to get much heavier.
A lack of thought can also be seen in how the issue of students has been handled, enforced lockdowns have left them worried and confused. Yet the government has had since August to formulate a plan about what happened when local lockdowns were needed after students returned to university and then communicate it clearly. If it hadn't been dealing with the fallout from another U-turn, on exam grades, that may have been possible.
More measures will likely be coming, whether locally or nationally, yet the government is in a very weak position when it comes to ensuring such measures are actually followed. This parliamentary estate issue will just crystallise in people's minds that the government has been unable to get ahead of the various problems that have beset them over the last few months. Johnson and his ministers may believe they are showing strong leadership, but that is not translating to the public.
This drinking on parliamentary premises rule may be tangential to the wider lockdown issues – but the government is doing a good job of making people believe that it is one rule for them and another for everyone else.