Boris Johnson warned to brace for ‘enormous’ backbench rebellion over lockdown ‘mistake’

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Steve Baker, a founding member of the Covid Recovery Group, said colleagues had told Tory whips that they would vote against a third lockdown in the Commons. He fired his warning shot after fellow backbencher Richard Drax predicted as many as 100 Conservative MPs were willing to rebel against extending the national lockdown after December 2.

I think the rebellion could be enormous if the Government doesn’t end lockdown in December

Steve Baker

Mr Drax and Mr Baker joined 53 Tories in defying the Prime Minister by failing to vote for the second nationwide lockdown.

Mr Baker said: “I think the rebellion could be enormous if the Government doesn’t end lockdown in December.

“Indeed, earlier I had a member of the Government say to me that they’d made clear to the whips that they wouldn’t be voting for a third lockdown.

“I think the politics of this are very clear. Our constituents are expressing to us all of the time the non coronavirus costs of lockdown – whether it’s livelihoods, not being able to see friends and family – to the business impacts are terrible.

“Basically, the suspension of normal life, the infringement of our liberties.

“I mean, people are genuinely worried about what is going on.”

The Wycombe MP said “scientists are highly incentivised to recommend lockdowns” and urged the Prime Minister to seek advice from a team of “multi-disciplinary experts complete with devil’s advocates”.

He said: “That would give the Prime Minister options on how we proceeded, because at the moment he is boxed in by this false idea that there’s a single version of the truth in science.

“And I’m afraid this is a major mistake.”

Downing Street said plans for the replacement for England’s lockdown measures and proposals to ease restrictions over Christmas would be set out next week.

A No10 spokesman said: “We obviously keep the case numbers under review and we will continue to do so going into next week when we will set out more details of the next phase, post-December 2.”

Scientists have suggested that every day of relaxed measures over Christmas would require five days of tougher measures to compensate for the risk of a coronavirus spike.

The recommendation for five days of tougher measures is understood to be preliminary findings from unpublished modelling for the Sage scientific advisory panel.

The No 10 spokesman pointed to Mr Johnson’s view that “whilst Christmas will be a little bit different from normal this year, we continue to hope to ensure that families can spend Christmas together”.

“We will set out our plans next week.”

But Government scientific adviser professor Andrew Hayward has warned mixing at Christmas poses “substantial risks”, particularly for older people, and there is “far too much emphasis” on having a normal festive period.

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Prof Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch COVID.

“My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas.

“We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.”

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