Govt Doesn’t Have Right ‘to Take Charge of People’s Lives’, Says MP Rees-Mogg

Police officers patrol the streets of Westminster as protesters gather for a demonstration against government lockdown restrictions in central London on June 14, 2021. - Britain was on Monday widely expected to delay the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions due to a surge of infections caused by the Delta variant. …
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

A senior Cabinet member has said the government “doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives, purely to prevent them seeing the doctor”, as the prime minister is reportedly battling rising discontent amongst MPs over the delay to ending coronavirus restrictions.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson based his rationale for delaying ‘Freedom Day’ until July 19th on increasing the vaccination of the adult population and “to give the NHS that extra time” as the number of cases of the Indian strain of the Chinese virus increase.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said during Conservative Home’s Moggcast on Tuesday: “Ultimately, the NHS is there to serve the British people, not the British people there to serve the NHS.

“Therefore, we may need to spend more money on hospitals. But you can’t run society purely to stop hospitals from being full. Otherwise, you would never let us get in our cars and drive anywhere or do any of the other things that people want to.

“So, there has to be some proportionality within that.

“The Government doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives, purely to prevent them seeing the doctor.”

Mr Rees-Mogg made the remarks ahead of a vote on extending coronavirus restrictions this evening — which the government is expected to win, thanks to the support from the official opposition, the Labour Party — and amidst reports of growing discontent from Conservative MPs.

The Times reports that Mr Johnson was frantically calling those wavering MPs last night, with one minister telling the newspaper of record that those frustrated with the delay were “more than the usual suspects” of lockdown sceptics.

“I’ve yet to speak to a colleague who thinks this makes sense,” a minister said.

While another Conservative MP is alleged to have said: “I don’t know why they don’t just put Chris Whitty and Sage in the cabinet seeing as [the prime minister] listens to them more than ministers.”

Anger is also being directed at advisors from the government’s influential Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), who some in the party have accused of wanting “to keep restrictions in force all through the summer and into autumn and winter”, according to Tory WhatsApp group messages seen by the newspaper.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, predicted that SAGE — which he said briefs both the government and the media — will not support the lifting of restrictions next month. Sir Charles warned that the longer Freedom Day is delayed, the more likely it would be cancelled altogether, with another set of harsher rules put in place by Autumn or Winter.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith also expressed his opinion on Tuesday that Britons had been “worried and frightened” into accepting lockdown due to SAGE’s “incorrect” forecasts, which he claims do not take into account the efficacy of vaccines in preventing hospitalisations.

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