Johnson Calls for ‘Unity and Resolve’ Ahead of Vote on Tiers System

November 30, 2020 Updated: November 30, 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday appealed for “unity and resolve” in a letter he wrote to a group of 70 Conservative MPs who object to the continuation of CCP virus lockdown restrictions.

Parliament is due to vote on Tuesday on Johnson’s COVID-19 Winter Plan (pdf), which replaces the current national lockdown with a strict tiered system from Wednesday.

The COVID Recovery Group (CRG) had written to the PM on Nov. 21 saying its members could not support any further lockdown unless the government can prove its effectiveness.

Johnson said that he believes the strategy he set out is “a balanced approach … and the best way forward,” in his letter to the CRG.

“Disagreement on approach is natural, and I hope you recognise that the government is seeking as far as possible to listen to criticism and respond positively to constructive proposals,” the letter reads.

Johnson said that “now more than ever is the time to demonstrate unity and resolve” as he mentioned the prospect of having vaccines and more tests.

According to The Telegraph, pubs and restaurants affected by the new curbs will be given extra cash support, and the PM has agreed to publish “an analysis of the economic, social and, health consequences of the tiers,” a key demand of the CRG and some other MPs.

Mark Harper
Conservative MP Mark Harper speaks during the launch of his Conservative Party leadership campaign, in London on June 11, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

MP Mark Harper, chairman of the CRG, welcomed the reported support for pubs and restaurants, but said he needs to see the other implications the lockdowns have had.

“I welcome the fact that the government has recognised our concerns about the enormous impact that its proposals will have on the hospitality industry and has suggested further support,” The Telegraph quoted Harper as saying.

“We look forward to seeing the detail of the support proposed being set out before the vote on the restrictions tomorrow evening, along with the cost-benefit analysis we’ve been asking for,” he added.

“I am particularly concerned about some of the non-Covid health implications these restrictions have been having.”

Harper added that the analysis needed “to be published as soon as practically possible, so that MPs have a chance to digest it ahead of tomorrow’s vote.”

Adam Afriyie, Conservative MP for Windsor and a member of the CRG steering committee, said on Monday that he wouldn’t be able to vote for the plan unless he sees the analysis.

“In the absence of a cost-benefit analysis, and also a kind of health and harms analysis, then my default position is I cannot look my constituents in the eye, shut down their businesses, drive unemployment up by another million or two without a proper understanding … of the data,” Afriyie told BBC Radio 4.

Afriyie added that No. 10 Downing Street had been very open with the group, actively interacting with it and had promised to make sure the MPs would get the analysis.

Tobia Ellwood MP
Tobias Ellwood MP speaking during the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London on Mar. 14, 2019. (Gareth Fuller – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In a previous letter to MPs, Johnson said that the tiered system will have a “sunset” expiration date of Feb. 3, 2021, instead of the end of March, when the plan is set to last until.

MP Tobias Ellwood, also a member of the CRG, said Parliament needs to review the measures much sooner than that.

“If it is demonstrated that these measures are necessary, proportionate, and likely to do more good than harm, I will support the [sic] them as long as they only last a month,” Ellwood wrote in an op-ed for The Telegraph.

“To sanction such draconian and often seemingly illogical restrictions I would need a chance to vote on this again soon after Christmas. MPs must not be faced with a ‘take it or leave it’ set of rules that will last for a whole 2 months.”

Labour said its was yet to decide on how it would vote, but the opposition party has so far supported all of the Tory government’s previous lockdown measures, and provided enough votes for them to pass Parliament despite growing rebellion among Conservative MPs.