Boris Johnson faces major Tory rebellion over 'disastrous' England lockdown

1 November 2020, 19:19 | Updated: 1 November 2020, 22:18

Boris Johnson is facing a revolt when the Commons votes on the new lockdown
Boris Johnson is facing a revolt when the Commons votes on the new lockdown. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Boris Johnson faces a major rebellion from his backbenches over the new national lockdown restrictions for England amid warnings that the measures would be “disastrous” for the economy.

The Commons will debate the Government’s shutdown to control the spread of coronavirus this week, with a vote expected on Wednesday, but some Conservative MPs have suggested they could vote against them.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, warned more than 80 Tory MPs could revolt against the new shutdown - mirroring the rebellion over sweeping Coronavirus Act powers last month.

From Thursday until 2 December, pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will shut along with entertainment and leisure sectors. Schools, colleges, universities and industries that cannot work from home can stay open.

The public “must stay at home” from Thursday, Boris Johnson said, but exercise, trips to supermarkets and for other essential reasons such as work and education are permitted.

Read more: ‘No idea’ why Government didn’t listen to SAGE in September, says Tory MP

Read more: Covid outbreak 'unlikely to be completely controlled' by December, SAGE member says

Sir Desmond Swayne hit out at a second national lockdown on Sunday and revealed he would not vote with Government on the notion.

“Lockdowns have one proven effect and that's to make poor people poorer, a lot poorer,” he told LBC’s Andrew Castle, warning that locking the entire nation down will have a detrimental impact.

“I'm not in favour of people dying,” he added, “but people will die anyway” regardless of if the nation is locked down or not.

He explained that through the number of deaths this year, “Covid is nowhere near chief” in being the number one killer of Britons in 2020.

Tory former Cabinet minister Esther McVey has said she will vote against the new lockdown measures. In a post on Instagram, she said: “I will be voting against the new national lockdown on Wednesday when it comes before the House of Commons.

“The ‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid.

“The world cannot be put on hold, and the Government must stop pressing the pause and stop button for the whole nation on a whim, with all the disastrous effects this brings to our lives, livelihoods, health and relationships.”

Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the announcement of another lockdown was a “body blow” to the British people.

Read more: Tory MP furious with second national lockdown

He tweeted: “Just as the economy was picking up, even giving cause for optimism, we’re now to impersonate the Grand Old Duke of York, giving in to the scientific advisers & marching England back into another lockdown.

“The way that the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has pressurised the Government into taking this decision has been unprecedented. Normally, advisers advise & ministers decide.

“Yet that system has broken down … with Sage believing its advice to be more like commandments written on stone and its members publicly lecturing the Government over the airways when it disagrees.

“This is despite the fact that many of its recommendations have been hotly disputed by other reputable scientists.”

Another Tory MP told the PA news agency there was “enormous frustration” from backbenchers and ministers about the Government’s handling of the crisis, with the leak of lockdown restrictions suggesting “incompetence” within Number 10.

But Conservative MP Steve Baker, who has previously been an outspoken critic of lockdown restrictions, appeared to have taken on board the dire warnings from scientists after a briefing with Downing Street.

It comes amid warnings the lockdown could be extended beyond four weeks. Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of the Government’s Sage advisory group, told LBC the UK’s second wave was “unlikely to be completely controlled” by the start of December.