Politics

Lockdown 2: Boris Johnson attempts to head off fierce Tory rebellion in Commons showdown


Mr Johnson is in the Commons this afternoon attempting to head off a fierce Tory rebellion over the impending measures, which are scheduled to come into force on Thursday.

The Prime Minister insisted the plans were “time limited” and he hoped to lift the latest draconian restrictions on December 2 when the country will return to the coronavirus tier system.

However, furious backbench Tory MPs have called the latest measures “evil” and warned they will “ruin lives”.

Sir Charles Walker,  Conservative MP for Broxbourne, said he would not be supporting the government’s legislation and added: “As we drift further into an authoritarian and coercive state, the only legal mechanism left open to me is to vote against that legislation.

“That is all we’ve got left…if my constituents protest they get arrested.” 

He said people will “never ever forgive the political class” for criminalising parents seeing children and went on to call for a written constitution.

Sir Charles also predicted that there will be up to 15 rebels on the government’s benches during the vote on Wednesday, in comments he made outside the chamber.

The Prime Minister replied that people “overwhelmingly understood” why the measures had to be taken. He also said people wanted to defeat the virus, rather than “delectable disputations on a written constitution”.

During his statement to the Commons, Mr Johnson warned that scientific modelling shows that if the government does not act now, the country could see a death-rate over the winter that is “twice as bad or more” compared with the first wave.  

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He said that the government has “no alternative” but to take further action at a national level and added: “I cannot pretend that the way ahead is easy, or without painful choices for us all.

“And so for the next four weeks I must ask the people of this country to come together, to protect the NHS, and to save many thousands of lives.”

The strict measures include closing pubs, restaurants, gyms, and non-essential shops. Places of worship will also be closed, except in certain circumstances such as funerals .  Tory MP Philip Davies added: “Can I say to the Prime Minister that as a Conservative I don’t believe that collapsing the economy is ever the right solution to any problem.

“That’s why I thought we campaigned so hard to stop the Right Honourable Member for Islington North [Jeremy Corbyn] from becoming Prime Minister.

“Can the Prime Minister therefore tell me how many collapsed businesses and how many job losses he and his government believe are a price worth paying to continue pursuing this failed strategy of lockdowns and arbitrary restrictions.

Bob Seely, Tory MP for the Isle of Wight, asked the PM to publish the full scientific studies that went into the announcement as well as a fuller analysis of lockdowns versus shielding policies “so that people can then start to understand and trust the information which is being put out”.

Former Tory Cabinet minister Liam Fox asked the PM for reassurances that the cure was not worse than the disease. Meanwhile, former Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said she would “only very reluctantly” support the restrictions and called for a “compassionate” lockdown with support for mental health.

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Tory Huw Merriman said the PM had an “unenviable” set of decisions to make but asked him to recognise the frustration of his constituents in East Sussex where there is low Covid-19 rates.

He added: “The residents have clearly done the right thing but they are faced with a national lockdown. Can the Prime Minister demonstrate to me that the damage that will be caused to East Sussex by locking down on our economy, on liberty, on lives, on livelihoods would be a lot worse were we to do absolutely nothing?”

Conservative chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady warned lives could be lost and called for a full impact assessment to be published before MPs vote on the measures set out by the Prime Minister.

He said: “Can I ask [Boris Johnson] before Wednesday to publish a full impact assessment setting out the cost of the lockdown in terms of jobs that will be lost, businesses that will fail and the enormous toll on people’s mental and other aspects of their health, the lives that will be lost as a result of lockdown, as well as those that we hope to save?”

Sir Graham told Radio 4 last night: “If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil and here the removal of people’s fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has also warned that if the data was wrong in some way “we will have struck the wrong balance between saving lives and ruining lives”.

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Former minister Esther McVey has said she would be voting against the measures, warning of the “disastrous effects” this brings to lives.

<p>Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the leak was “discourteous and unacceptable”</p>
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Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the leak was “discourteous and unacceptable”

/ PA )

Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer has said his MPs will back the lockdown at Wednesday’s vote but has criticised the delay.

Some MPs are not only fuming about the new restrictions but also the way in which the announcement was handled.  

A rushed announcement was made on Saturday after details of a second national lockdown were leaked to the press.  

Mr Johnson apologised to his MPs and has launched an inquiry to find the “culprit” who leaked the details before his planned announcement on Monday.  

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the Prime Minister and Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg  had reassured him the leak had not come from Downing Street. 

Sir Lindsay if the person responsible is identified as an MP that member must make a full apology to the House for their “discourteous and unacceptable” behaviour.

The details appeared on the front pages of Saturday papers just a few hours after the decision had been made by the “quad” of the Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Mr Hancock.  

Asked if Cabinet ministers had been interviewed, or if police would be called into the inquiry, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “This is ongoing and I don’t think you’d expect me to comment on it.”



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