Johnson Faces Tory Rebellion Ahead of New Tiered Lockdown Announcement

November 23, 2020 Updated: November 23, 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a new three-tiered restriction system on Monday to control the spread of the CCP virus, as a group of 70 Tory backbenchers are poised to oppose the plan.

England is currently under a four-week national lockdown that will end on Dec. 2. People have to stay at home unless they can’t work from home, and all businesses deemed non-essential are closed.

Johnson will announce his “COVID winter plan,” consisting of a new “strengthened” three-tiered system, at 3:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

“We’ll be going back into a tiered system, which is a far better way to tackle this on a localised approach,” Finance Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday, confirming the reported plan to Sophy Ridge from Sky News.

But he declined to preemptively reveal how the system is “strengthened” compared with the one in place before the national lockdown.

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

The 10-day-old Covid Recovery Group (CRG) on Saturday sent a letter to Johnson, saying the group of 70 MPs can’t support any further lockdown unless the government can prove its effectiveness.

The Conservative MPs said they “cannot support this approach further unless the Government demonstrates the restrictions proposed for after 2 December will have an impact on slowing the transmission of Covid, and will save more lives than they cost.”

The MPs called for the government to “publish a full cost-benefit analysis of the proposed restrictions on a regional basis so that MPs can assess responsibly the non-Covid health impact of restrictions, as well as the undoubted impact on livelihoods.”

Steve Baker, deputy chair of the CRG, said the government needs to justify each measure it adopts.

Conservative Brexit speaks members media
Steve Baker, deputy chair of the CRG, speaks to members of the media in central London, on Sept. 12, 2018. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

“Each measure needs to be shown to actually reduce the transmission of COVID, and some of the measures can’t be shown to do that, not in a material way, things like closing non-essential retail that’s COVID safe,” he told Sky News on Monday.

“And we also want to see a cost-benefit analysis for each measure, so that we can see that the measures will save more lives than they harm,” he said.

Baker said the government’s own analysis on the first lockdown showed that it did more harm than good.

“When the government did its own analysis on the first lockdown, it showed that in quality adjusted life years, adjusted for comorbidities, that the first lockdown did more harm than good,” Baker said.

“We think this is very serious. … [I]t is our duty to say to the government, you need to demonstrate the proportionality and necessity of everything that you’re doing. ”

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is seen at Downing Street amid the CCP virus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, on Sept. 24, 2020. (John Sibley/Reuters)

When asked whether the government would publish a cost-benefit analysis, Sunak told Ridge that it’s “very hard to be precise in estimating the particular impact of a one-week restriction”.

“You will see next week when we have the Spending Review, alongside that will be a set of forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent forecasting and fiscal watchdog we have in this country,” Sunak said.

Sunak said the coming review and forecast will show the “enormous strain and stress” that the UK economy is experiencing, the job losses, and the forecast for what will happen.

The minister said three-quarters of a million people had already lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, and many businesses are on the brink.

A spokeswoman from No. 10 Downing Street said restrictions are essential to control the virus.

“The Prime Minister and his scientific advisers are clear the virus is still present—and without regional restrictions it could quickly run out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect,” she told media.

“That would put in jeopardy the progress the country has made, and once again risk intolerable pressure on the NHS [National Health Service].”