Tory revolt over lockdown: Influential backbencher Steve Baker orders Boris to ‘lift restrictions soon, or face leadership challenge’ as he demands a ‘guarantee’ there won’t be same restrictions ‘next winter’
- Steve Baker has written to Tories to urge them to register lockdown opposition
- He has told Boris Johnson to ditch the strategy of repeated Covid lockdowns
- Mr Baker said a failure to do so will ‘inevitably’ put PM’s leadership ‘on the table’
Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister, has written to his Conservative colleagues to ask them to formally register their opposition to the Government’s draconian curbs with the Chief Whip.
Mr Baker said Mr Johnson must set out an exit strategy for the current national shutdown and deliver a guarantee that such measures will not be rolled out again next winter.
The member of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs said a failure to take those steps would mean that ‘inevitably the Prime Minister’s leadership will be on the table’.
Mr Baker, who played a leading role in the successful Tory backbench effort to oust Theresa May, warned Mr Johnson that ‘if we do not act now, events will become inevitable’.
Tory former minister Steve Baker has warned Boris Johnson his leadership could be under threat if he does not ditch his lockdown strategy
Mr Baker has written to Tory MPs to tell them that ‘people are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership
Mr Johnson has faced repeated Tory backbench opposition to his lockdown plans each time new measures have been brought forward.
But there is growing disquiet over the latest lockdown amid fears it could last until late into the spring.
The Government has committed to a first review of the current measures on February 15 but there is no guarantee that restrictions will start to be lifted after that point.
Mr Baker said in a letter to colleagues that keeping the lockdown in place long into the future would be a ‘disaster’ as he warned ‘people are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership’.
‘We must take stock today and act now to avoid severe problems a little later,’ Mr Baker wrote in the letter, according to Sky News.
‘Certain Government scientists have said that the current lockdown could last until late spring.
‘There is no reason to think there will be any real resistance in Cabinet to the argument for greater and longer and more draconian restrictions on the public.
‘This could be a disaster. Nothing seems more certain to break the public than giving hope before taking it away, and doing it repeatedly.
‘Government has adopted a strategy devoid of any commitment to liberty without any clarification about when our most basic freedoms will be restored and with no guarantee that they will never be taken away again.
‘People are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership because they are not standing up for our values as a party.
‘If we continue forward with a strategy that hammers freedom, hammers the private sector, hammers small business owners and hammers the poor, inevitably the Prime Minister’s leadership will be on the table: we strongly do not want that after all we have been through as a country.’
Mr Baker urged his Tory counterparts to contact the Chief Whip to put on the record their concerns about the Government’s lockdown approach.
He said: ‘I am sorry to have to say this again and as bluntly as this: It is imperative you equip the Chief Whip today with your opinion that debate will become about the PM’s leadership if the Government does not set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored, with a guarantee that this strategy will not be used again next winter.
‘I am sorry to be blunt but if we do not act now, events will become inevitable.’
Mr Baker subsequently tweeted: ‘What this country needs is the complete success of Boris Johnson, with his excellent EU deal, a successful vaccination programme and a #Road2Recovery back to freedom.
‘I am clear Boris is the only person to lead us out of these difficulties and I support him in that endeavour.’