Tory MPs have warned Boris Johnson he will face a ‘massive revolt’ if he tries to extend the second national coronavirus lockdown beyond December 2.
Mr Johnson has insisted it is the ‘plan’ for the England-wide curbs to come to an end at the start of next month.
But his failure to give a cast iron guarantee has spooked many Conservative MPs who believe the ‘public will not accept’ an extension of the draconian measures.
It came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied the Government had used the ‘scariest’ data possible to try to justify the national shutdown.
A slide used at Mr Johnson’s lockdown press conference last Saturday suggested there could be up to 4,000 daily deaths by next month without further action but that number and other projections were subsequently revised down.
Mr Raab insisted this morning the Government is trying to be ‘as transparent as possible’ and that when ‘mistakes’ are made or facts change then ministers respond accordingly.
Boris Johnson is facing a growing Tory revolt over the Government’s national coronavirus lockdown
Tory MPs have warned Mr Johnson will face a ‘massive revolt’ if he tries to extend the lockdown beyond December 2. Sir Graham Brady said ‘far more would make a stand if a third lockdown were to be contemplated’ after 34 rebelled last week
The Prime Minister’s latest lockdown, which came into effect from Thursday, sailed through the House of Commons last week by 516 votes to 38 as some 34 Tories rebelled.
Conservative backbenchers now believe that more than 80 Tories are likely to revolt if Mr Johnson does try to keep the restrictions in place.
The regulations which underpin the new lockdown will expire on December 2 and MPs will be given a vote on what happens next.
There are fears that if infection rates are still high then the PM could be forced into trying to extend the lockdown.
The Government is facing a growing Tory backlash over its handling of the coronavirus response with MPs particularly angry at the data used by Downing Street to justify the shutdown.
One key slide projected daily deaths could hit 1,500 by December but that was subsequently revised down to a peak of 1,000 daily deaths.
Mr Raab was asked this morning by Sophy Ridge on Sky News whether the Government was showing the nation the ‘scariest’ data possible so that people would accept there is a need for the restrictions.
He replied: ‘No, look, we show models which show what could happen if certain scenarios play out.
‘We have corrected the slide you referred to and the wealth of scientific information that comes forward, we are trying to be as transparent as possible.’
Mr Raab said that sometimes ‘mistakes are made or facts have to be changed, but that is the point of transparency’.
He added: ‘I think the case for the measures we have taken is very clear. We want to get through to December 2.
‘At that point we will transition back to a localised approach, it has always been our preference, but we need to get the R-rate, the prevalence of the virus, down and use the next few weeks to do that.’
Some senior Tory figures have claimed the Government appears to be using statistics which support its preferred policy rather than the policy being driven by the statistics.
Mr Raab dismissed the suggestion and said: ‘The transparency is we are putting a lot of data out there and when there is a mistake with it we change it so we respond to the scrutiny that transparency brings.
‘I think that is the right thing. We are trying to be as transparent as possible.’
The Government’s failure to unequivocally guarantee that lockdown will end has caused considerable Tory disquiet.
One former Cabinet minister told The Observer there will be a ‘massive revolt’ if Mr Johnson does not change tack.
Sir Graham Brady the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs echoed a similar sentiment as he said: ‘Some of us voted against lockdown but my sense is that far more would make a stand if a third lockdown were to be contemplated.’
He added: ‘It is of serious concern that the data produced to justify this lockdown has begun to unravel so quickly.’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today denied the Government had used the ‘scariest’ data possible to justify the national lockdown
Meanwhile, Sir Charles Walker, vice-chair of the 1922 Committee, said people have now ‘rationalised Covid and are increasingly accepting of living alongside the virus’.
He said this was illustrated by the fact so many people were ‘laying siege’ to pubs and restaurants on the night before lockdown started.
He added: ‘There will not be a third lockdown beyond 2 December as the public will not accept it and the Government will not have the moral or constitutional authority to impose it.’
Mr Johnson said at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday that the national lockdown is ‘time limited’.
But he failed to guarantee the shutdown will end on December 2 as he said: ‘The advice I have received suggests that four weeks is enough for these measures to make a real impact.
‘So these rules will expire and on December 2 we plan to move back to a tiered approach.’