Ten Tories who are furious at lockdown tiers as ’70’ MPs threaten to revolt
Tory backbenchers are furious about the new tiers lockdown system for England (Image: PA)
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Boris Johnson is facing a major Tory revolt over the new lockdown tiers, with as many as 70 backbenchers poised to rebel in a crunch vote next week.
Many MPs are baffled that areas with low infection rates are facing tougher controls – including a ban on social mixing indoors – than before they went into lockdown last month.
Nearly all of England will be plunged into the top two tiers of restrictions on Wednesday, with 55 million people facing bans on seeing friends and family indoors.
Only Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight will be classified as Tier 1 – the lowest level – which accounts for around 1% of the population.
The move has sparked a ferocious backlash from Tory MPs, many of whom objected to the broad brush decisions to plunge whole areas into tough restrictions.
But the PM has refused to budge on his decision to place 99% of the population in Tiers 2 and 3.
Boris Johnson is facing the largest revolt of his premiership over the tiers rules
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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What tier am I in? Full list of tiers by area in England's new lockdown system
Mr Johnson faces the largest rebellion of his premiership, after 70 MPs in the lockdown sceptic Covid Recovery Group signed a letter suggesting they could not support the plan.
Steve Baker, a leading figure in the group, was among at least 10 Tory MPs vocally criticising the news tiers system, which will be put to a Commons vote next week.
"The authoritarianism at work is truly appalling," he said.
Ally Richard Drax said: “We need a new strategy based on common sense, not fear and more fear!"
Ex-Cabinet Minister Damian Green, whose constituents in Ashford, Kent, have leapfrogged from Tier 1 to Tier 3, told Times Radio: “I can tell from my email inbox during the course of of yesterday, that they are very angry indeed. And they just think it's just not fair."
Sir Graham Brady, the influential chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, accused the Government of infringing people's "fundamental human rights".
"The tiers have been applied in an unjust and unfair way – putting whole counties into lockdown when significant areas have very low levels of infection," he said.
Tory backbencher Steve Baker described the tiers rules as "authoritarian"
Conor Burns, a close ally of the PM, said he was "hugely disappointed" that his Bournemouth constituency was going into Tier 2.
He said: "To retain public confidence the basis of the modelling on which decisions are being taken must be published."
Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi, usually a staunch defender of the PM, also said he was "hugely disappointed" that his Stratford-upon-Avon constituency was being placed into Tier 3.
Culture Committee chairman Julian Knight said he would oppose the move unless there was targeted support for the hospitality sector.
Poole MP Sir Robert Syms said he had informed Matt Hancock that his Dorset constituents were "bitterly disappointed" to be in Tier 2.
Sir Graham Brady, another critic of the tier rules
"I am not happy this could last until next April so I am likely to vote against next Tuesday," he posted on Twitter.
Northern Research Group member William Wragg slammed the plan on Twitter.
He said: "Stockport’s Covid rates continue to fall sharply and will no doubt be lower still next week. We should be considered for tiering on a Local Authority basis."
York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said he would struggle to support the Government unless his concerns were addressed around support for hospitality and the roadmap out of tougher restrictions.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick acknowledged that the move was upsetting to many of his Tory colleagues.
He said: "It doesn’t surprise me that Conservatives find restrictions on individual liberty or on small businesses very difficult to stomach."
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The Prime Minister said he accepted people felt "frustrated" but he defended the latest tiered controls.
Speaking at a lab on Friday, he said: "I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area. I totally understand why people feel frustrated.
"The difficulty is that if you did it any other way, first of all you'd divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions – there has got to be some simplicity and clarity in the way we do this.
"The second problem is that, alas, our experience is that when a high-incidence area is quite close to a low-incidence area, unless you beat the problem in the high-incidence area, the low-incidence area I'm afraid starts to catch up."
At a briefing for journalists, the Prime Minister's spokesman said the data would be kept under constant review.
"Obviously it will be our hope to allow areas to move down into a lower tier. For that to happen, we would need to see the transmission rate of the virus continue to decline," the spokesman said.
Latest infection raise huge questions about the tier areas have been placed in
Mr Johnson would have to rely on Labour votes to get the plan through the Commons if he is deserted by his backbenchers.
While Labour will only decide its position formally next week, it is expected to either vote for the tiers or abstain on them – guaranteeing success for the Prime Minister.
It comes as government advisors confirmed Britain’s coronavirus outbreak is officially shrinking.
The Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) unveiled its latest weekly R range for the UK of between 0.9 and 1.
It is the first time the reproductive range has been below 1 since mid August. It is down from between 1 and 1.1 last week.
However Sage papers released on Friday warn coronavirus could “easily double” over Christmas and more deaths are “highly likely”.