Tory MP Says Boris’s Leadership Under Threat Unless He Lifts Lockdown

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 07: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference at No.10 Downing Street on January 7, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

A senior backbench MP has told fellow lockdown sceptics that unless Boris Johnson gives a clear exit strategy for Britain coming out of Chinese coronavirus restrictions, his premiership could be at risk.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker instructed Conservatives in the Covid Recovery Group of MPs to voice their concerns to Mark Spencer, the party’s chief whip — who is responsible for maintaining parliamentary voting discipline and arranging the business of the House of Commons — and to demand “a guarantee that this strategy [of lockdown] will not be used again next winter”.

England entered its third lockdown on January 4th, out of which it might not fully come until the relevant law expires on March 31st, 2021. Earlier this month, England’s chief medical officer suggested that even with the successful rollout of coronavirus vaccines, another shutdown might be needed for Christmas 2021.

“I am sorry to have to say this again and as bluntly as this: it is imperative you equip the Chief Whip today with your opinion that debate will become about the PM’s leadership if the Government does not set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored,” Mr Baker wrote in the letter seen by The Sun.

“Government has adopted a strategy devoid of any commitment to liberty without any clarification about when our most basic freedoms will be restored and with no guarantee that they will never be taken away again,” the letter said.

The MP for Wycombe added that “people are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership because they are not standing up for our values as a party.”

“If we continue forward with a strategy that hammers freedom, hammers the private sector, hammers small business owners and hammers the poor, inevitably the Prime Minister’s leadership will be on the table,” he added.

“We strongly do not want that after all we have been through as a country.”

On Wednesday, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said that lockdown and some form of social distancing could be in place until “mid to late spring”.

Mr Baker appeared to reference Van-Tam’s timescale, writing in the letter that “certain Government scientists have said that the current lockdown could last until late spring” and added that he did not believe there would be “any real resistance” in Prime Minister Johnson’s Cabinet “to the argument for greater and longer and more draconian restrictions on the public”.

“This could be a disaster. Nothing seems more certain to break the public than giving hope before taking it away, and doing it repeatedly,” he added.

This week, the leader of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers warned that the government has to consider how lockdown is “removing hope” from Britons.

Saying that “lockdown carries its own costs”, Sir Graham Brady explained: “Not just in terms of livelihoods destroyed and people who might lose their homes through unemployment, but also the health consequences and the mental health consequences — the danger that we’re removing hope and aspiration for young people.”

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