Divisions are growing has Rebels threaten Tory unity over new national lockdown while making demands on constitutional changes
Boris Johnson’s plan to take England back into lockdown on Thursday was savaged by Tory MPs as they claimed the Prime Minister is turning the country into an ‘authoritarian, coercive state’.
Tory Charles Walker claimed PM is turning the UK into ‘authoritarian, coercive state’ He demanded the Government create a written constitution to enshrine rights Liam Fox called for a new committee to prove ‘cure is not worse than the disease’
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that rising coronavirus case numbers mean ‘there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level’.
The prime minister could not convince some of his own Party with ideological cracks beginning to show, Johnson was blasted by some of his own backbenchers as they accused the Government of ‘criminalising parents seeing children and children seeing parents’ as they demanded the creation of a formal written constitution to protect rights.
The Tory rebels are vowing to vote against the prime minister when he puts his new plan for an England-wide coronavirus lockdown to the House of Commons this week.
His critics argue the cure is more damaging than the disease — with the closure of businesses and the diktat to remain at home set to create further economic turmoil and damage Britons’ mental health.
Johnson this weekend announced new month-long restrictions which kick in Thursday and run to December 2, after telling the public the death rate of a second coronavirus wave could be double that of the first. MPs will vote on the plan on Wednesday.
Around 15 are expected to rebel against the government, according to senior Conservative MP Charles Walker. Others will back the plan through gritted teeth.
A few of Johnson’s critics have been pitching their own ideas about how the government might get a grip on the pandemic. They include:
1. A written constitution
During a Commons session Monday afternoon, Walker called on the U.K. to adopt a written constitution. Britain currently muddles along using various legislation, court precedents and other traditional rules, with no codified constitution to speak of. But Walker said the curbs on liberties imposed by the government require something stronger. “As we drift further into an authoritarian, coercive state, the only legal mechanism left open to me is to vote against that legislation,” he said. He argued a written constitution would guarantee the fundamental rights of the people. But Johnson had no interest. “I think what the people of this country want rather than delectable disputations on a written constitution is to defeat the coronavirus,” he said.
2. Vitamins for the people
Fellow skeptic David Davis, a former Cabinet minister, urged the government to roll out vitamin D across the nation. Indeed, in Scotland, the government is handing out supplements to the most vulnerable to help boost their immune systems. The vitamin helps protect against respiratory infections but is found in few foods and in the sun, of which there is little in the U.K. “Given its low cost and there is no medical downside, could our government consider the same approach in England?” Davis asked. Johnson confirmed the government was looking at the option of sending out vitamin D.
3. An actual plan
Liaison committee chairman Bernard Jenkin said he would back the lockdown because no one had put forward a viable alternative. But he urged the PM to publish a “white paper” plan setting out how the nation can live with the coronavirus through treatments, social distancing and an improved test and trace regime. Johnson said he had published data to support a national lockdown, but made no promise to set out a full roadmap for the future battle with the disease.
4. Legislative tweaks
Steve Baker, who has railed against lockdowns but appeared to be won over after a Downing Street briefing last week, called for new coronavirus rules to be brought in under the civil contingencies act on emergency powers. He said doing so would “increase scrutiny and legitimacy” of the new rules as parliament could have greater say. Currently, MPs get a single vote on whether new measures come in. But Johnson said the nature of the Civil Contingencies Act would not suffice, as a separate Public Health Act trumps it.
5. More data
Johnson was asked frequently in the Commons about whether he could publish more data to convince MPs of the need for a full national lockdown. But he insisted that all the information he had seen was now in the public domain. Another common demand was for an assessment of the economic and health impacts of the harsh restrictions compared to the impact of the virus coursing through the population. Johnson, for now, is avoiding those calls.