Tory MP warns of uprising if Boris Johnson doesn’t cross the curbs of Covid

Boris Johnson has been urged by an influential Conservative MP to end all Covid-19 restrictions by the end of this month, or face a major uprising within his party and the prospect of challenging leadership. by the end of this year.

Mark Harper, president of the Tory Covid Recovery Group, who is skeptical of the lockdown, said Johnson should have announced by January 26 – when most current rules expire – that he would end them and never Now bring them back.

The former Tory executive told the Financial Times that Johnson could face a leadership challenge after Mrs May’s local election unless he changes the way it operates and proves he remains an electoral asset. nominate.

Harper said that with the expiration of the existing rules of the plan B – especially working according to the instructions from home, wearing a mask in public places and going through Covid -Johnson should swear they will never go back. back, even as new variations appear.

“The point is he wanted to agree with us, then he said he wanted to keep the restrictions in place or wouldn’t rule them out,” Harper said. “It is an unsustainable position.

“If I were running a hotel business, I would be very nervous about investing, growing the business, taking all the risks because I really don’t know what is going to happen.”

Harper acknowledges that Covid will become endemic in society, but wants Johnson to deal with it through a new effort to vaccinate the hesitant, establish hospital wards and special treatments. , instead of locking the door.

“At some point you have to say, whatever happens, whatever variation emerges, we’re not going to respond by shutting down parts of the country,” he said. “It’s not a sustainable position.”

Asked when Johnson should officially announce the end of Covid restrictions, Harper said: “If not now, when?”

He warned that if Johnson asked MPs to extend the plan B measures beyond January 26, he would face an even bigger uprising than the one seen in December, when Nearly 100 Tory MPs voted against the passage of Covid.

“I think there will be more people against it,” he said. “I think the intellectual argument is even weaker now.” He wants the remaining self-isolation laws, which expire in March, to be replaced with a voluntary approach.

Harper, who unsuccessfully fought against Johnson for Tory leadership in 2019, denied that the CRG, with an estimated 70-80 members, was becoming a group within a party.

He said Tory MPs and voters – including those who elected a Liberal Democrat MP in the North Shropshire by-election last month – would like to see a change in “the way the prime minister runs goverment”.

“What happens depends on whether he does things differently,” he said. “Whether we see proper discussions in the cabinet or not, government works in the right direction of Conservatives – where you don’t look to the state for solutions to everything – and tries to keep costs down. public spending under control.”

Asked if he thought Johnson would be in trouble if he didn’t change, and the Tories did badly in the local election in May, Harper said: “I know.” But he added: “It’s in his hands.”

He said: “Tory MPs will wonder: can I keep my seat? They will consider voting and see who can best help them keep their seats.

“Tory MPs have asked themselves that question in the past and decided they needed to do something about it. The prime minister is having a performance-related contract. “

Nadhim Zahawi, Education Secretary, on Sunday said Britain was making the Covid transition from “pandemic to endemic” but accepted that the “next two weeks would be very difficult”.

Zahawi said it would “certainly help” if the minimum isolation period was further cut from seven days to five days, but this would only happen on the advice of the UK Health Security Agency. .

The minister also told the BBC there was no immediate prospect of the government cutting down on free testing. “We are not calling for an end to free lateral flow testing,” he said.

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