A Conservative MP has vowed to “walk around London with a pint of milk” as part of an unlikely protest against Covid restrictions.
During a Commons debate ahead of a vote on extending emergency coronavirus legislation to October, Sir Charles Walker explained he would rail against the price of milk because “the act of protest is a freedom”.
He indicated he had no particular axe to grind about milk, and his choice of the dairy product would be symbolic. If others chose to join his rallying cry, he said, the pint could mean something else, such as fears over their mental health and losing a job.
The government is facing a large rebellion from libertarian Tory MPs as the laws will extend months after the reopening roadmap is due to end on June 21. In the event, MPs voted 484 to 76, majority 408, to extend the coronavirus laws.
Walker, MP for Broxbourne, said: “As sure as eggs are eggs, we will be back here in six months at the end of September being asked to renew this legislation again. It is inevitable and anyone who thinks it’s not inevitable is deluding themselves.
“But this afternoon, I’m not here to talk about eggs. I want to talk about milk.”
In the last days of the current lockdown, Sir Charles told colleagues in the chamber he would allow himself “an act of defiance – my own protest that others may join me in”.
“I am going to protest about the price of milk,” he said. “Now I’m not sure whether I think the price is too high or the price is too low. I shall come to that decision later. But for the next few days I am going to walk around London with a pint of milk on my person because that pint will represent my protest.
“And there may be others who will choose too to walk around London with a pint of milk on their person as well. Perhaps as we walk past each other in the street our eyes might meet. We might even stop for a chat. But I [will be] thinking to myself, and I will continue to think to myself: what will their pint of milk represent? What will their protest be?
“Perhaps they will be protesting the roaring back of a mental health demon brought on by lockdown. Perhaps they’ll be protesting a renewed battle with anorexia, with depression, with anxiety, with addiction. Perhaps with their pint of milk they will be protesting the lack of agency in their life, not being able to make a meaningful decision.
“Maybe a loss of career, or job, or business. Maybe they will be protesting this country’s slide into authoritarianism or perhaps they’ll be protesting the fact that we allow unelected officials to have lecterns at No.10 to lecture us how to live our lives.”
Walker said the milk was of “symbolic importance” to him.
He told the Commons: “There might even be people with their pint of milk quietly protesting that the route out of lockdown is too slow, or perhaps even too fast. You see, the point is these people can project what they like, what concern they have, onto their pint of milk.
“Now my protest as I said will be about none of those things. It will simply be about the price of milk and, as I said, for the next few days I will have that pint on me. It will be of symbolic importance to me and at the end of the day it will be warm, it will have suppurated, and I can choose whether to drink it or pour it away because it’ll be robbed of its refreshing elegance by the time it’s been in my pocket for 12 hours.
“And if I pour it away, that might cause people some concern, but it doesn’t matter because it’s my pint of milk and it’s my protest, and I’m not seeking people’s acclaim, endorsement or support in my protest.”