Parliament’s summer recess has been defined by exam chaos, quarantine controversies and local lockdowns, but the politics of the pandemic are about to shift gear.
The central question was once how best to battle the deadly virus, now it is increasingly how the country adapts to live with it.
With the discovery of a working vaccine or an effective treatment not to be counted upon this year or even next, the government is planning to replace its emergency response measures with more sustainable alternatives.
But according to Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, while the type of intervention that the government makes is going to change, the need for ongoing intervention of some kind is inevitable.
“The reality is we are nowhere near the end of this crisis – we are just heading into the phase where we see large rises in unemployment,” he told Sky News.
“As much as we’ve previously been talking about phasing out support, the actual truth is the government will be announcing new measures, new policies to try and see us through what are going to be very tough times in the months ahead,” Mr Bell added.
While MPs from all parties might have largely accepted the steps taken at the height of the viral spread in April, and backed the massive spending to protect as much of the economy as possible, few would anticipate such compliance continuing in the coming months.
The phasing out of the job retention scheme in October will likely prove to be the most contested of the government’s future plans, but there are numerous areas where ministers could have a fight on their hands.
Alongside grappling with the impact of COVID-19, Boris Johnson remains intent on delivering his ‘levelling-up’ domestic agenda, pushing through controversial planning reforms, restructuring the civil service and reviving trade talks with the EU in order to sign a trade deal by Christmas.
Even with a majority of 80, those ambitions create a legislative workload that could result in the government biting off more than it can chew.
Dr Hannah White, deputy director of the Institute For Government, says the combined effect of backbench disgruntlement and parliamentary time pressures could impact the balance of power.
“The government has a lot it wants to do, and not a lot of time to get it done in. That means that if someone is going to throw a spanner in the works that could be significant”.
“It puts power in the hands of the backbenchers who might want to see specific changes to legislation, not hold it up altogether, but pursue some of their own ends and that could cause trouble for the government,” she added.
Recent months have already shown that when it comes under pressure the government can be knocked off course and forced to back down on previously held convictions. The rest of 2020 is unlikely to be any more forgiving.