Now it’s Tory civil war: Boris Johnson’s own MPs accuse him of panicking and fear there could be ‘lockdown without an end’ after he postpones Freedom Day
- Prime Minister received backlash from the Tory Party after four-week delay
- Backbench MPs warned of lockdown curbs lasting through winter and beyond
- No ministers publicly criticised lockdown extension and PM has Labour support
Boris Johnson faced a ferocious backlash from all wings of the Tory Party over his decision to delay Freedom Day last night – as his own MPs warned of curbs lasting through winter and beyond.
Horrified backbenchers expressed concerns about a ‘lockdown without end’ and said they were losing confidence in the prospect of coronavirus restrictions being lifted for the foreseeable future.
In the wake of the Prime Minister’s announcement of a four-week delay to removing curbs in England, they accused him of ‘panicking’ and said that they feared a return to even tighter curbs in the autumn.
The Prime Minister received backlash from all wings of the Tory Party last night after he announced the four-week delay to Freedom Day with lockdown curbs lasting until July 19
One Cabinet minister said last night the frontbench team were ‘resigned’ to the fact there would be a delay, but added: ‘We must now deliver on vaccinations.’
No ministers stuck their head above the parapet to publicly criticise the lockdown extension.
It emerged that MPs will be given a vote tomorrow on whether regulations enforcing the lockdown should be extended until midnight on July 19 – the new supposed Freedom Day.
But the enraged Tory rebels conceded they were effectively powerless to block the postponement as the support of Labour meant Mr Johnson was ‘unassailable’.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said: ‘I don’t see the evidence for us suddenly panicking like this.
‘If we are not careful we will drift into late summer and autumn, and the scientists will say, “You cannot unlock now because we are heading into winter”. Where are we going with all of this?’
The Tory grandee warned that the country needed to get ‘business going so we can pay our taxes and can afford the Health Service and cut our borrowing’.
‘We seem to think there is only one risk and that risk is Covid and everything else is irrelevant. That is a serious problem,’ he added.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, (pictured) accused Boris Johnson of ‘panicking’ and said he feared lockdown curbs lasting into late summer and autumn
Following the PM’s warning of further delays if other new variants emerge, former Tory minister Steve Brine added that he feared the country will be ‘held hostage’ by new variants as long as coronavirus is in existence.
Mr Johnson faced widespread anger from all sides of his own party. Stephen Hammond, a former health minister who had the whip removed over Brexit before having it reinstated, said it was ‘extraordinary we have more restrictions in place now than when we did not have the vaccine’.
Damian Green, Theresa May’s former deputy, warned of a ‘slight danger that people will assume that the Government is responsible for taking all decisions in their private lives’.
Another former Tory Cabinet minister, David Jones, said Mr Johnson urgently needed to ‘start liberating people again’.
He compared the lockdown extensions to the repeated delays to Brexit. ‘It does feel very similar to March 2019 when people had expected that we would be leaving the EU and of course the Government pushed it further into the long grass,’ he said.
‘The Prime Minister has got to take control. Whilst he has to listen to experts, he has to exercise his own judgment and free people again. The impact on the morale of the country is going to be massive – it is a lockdown without end.’
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs (CRG), said: ‘The data published today shows that the vaccines are very effective at preventing hospitalisation – both after the first and second doses.
Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, (pictured) also fears further lockdowns could be ahead saying he now has an ‘overwhelming sense of pessimism’
‘There’s nothing new in the data that we didn’t know when the PM was happy to proceed with June 21. It’s very concerning that the PM couldn’t rule out either a further delay beyond July 19 or the imposition of further restrictions in the autumn and winter.’
Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, also fears further lockdowns could be ahead. He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘I just have an overwhelming sense of pessimism now.
‘If you can’t lift restrictions at the height of summer, and we are in the height of summer, then you almost certainly are looking at these restrictions persisting and tightening into the autumn and winter. I don’t think the July 19 date will be met. If it is, it will be met for weeks before we enter further lockdowns.’
He added: ‘Eventually, if you say you are going to live with Covid-19, ultimately at times you are going to have to tough it out. Existing isn’t living.’
Asked if he thought the easing of restrictions could be reversed, Sir Charles said: ‘Yes I do.’
Labour sources suggested last night their MPs would back the renewal of lockdown regulations in the Commons vote. Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the CRG, said: ‘Labour again make Boris Johnson unassailable.’
The last time MPs voted on coronavirus legislation in March, they overwhelmingly backed an extension by 484 votes to 76.
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