Tory grandees de­mand Covid exit strat­egy from John­son

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Ed­ward Mal­nick

CON­SER­VA­TIVE grandees are de­mand­ing that Boris John­son ur­gently sets out an exit strat­egy from “a con­stant cy­cle of lock­downs”, as an in­flu­en­tial ex­pert on pub­lic opin­ion warned the Prime Min­is­ter risked ap­pear­ing “blasé” about the lives of or­di­nary peo­ple.

Se­nior Tories ex­pressed grow­ing anger at the Gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the pan­demic, amid con­cern swathes of the coun­try were head­ing for fur­ther re­stric­tions this week.

Yes­ter­day, Ju­lian Jes­sop, an in­de­pen­dent econ­o­mist, said an­other lock­down could re­sult in a fresh hit to GDP of at least 5 per cent.

Lord La­mont of Ler­wick, the for­mer chan­cel­lor, warned that re­peat­edly im­pos­ing dra­co­nian re­stric­tions and then lift­ing them was “deeply dam­ag­ing to busi­ness and is not re­ally a strat­egy”.

Sir Gra­ham Brady, the chair­man of the 1922 Com­mit­tee of Tory back­benchers, said con­stant lock­downs or “cir­cuit break­ers” to sup­press the virus would be “point­less”. “If fur­ther re­stric­tions on peo­ple’s lives are pro­posed, the Gov­ern­ment has to set a clear end date and a strat­egy for re­turn­ing life to nor­mal,” Sir Gra­ham said.

‘The Gov­ern­ment has to set a clear end date and a strat­egy for re­turn­ing life to nor­mal’

The in­ter­ven­tions came amid grow­ing spec­u­la­tion that min­is­ters would sign off on a new set of “su­per” Tier 3 mea­sures this week in ar­eas where Covid-19 trans­mis­sion is high­est.

Yes­ter­day, there were a fur­ther 150 deaths from coro­n­avirus, with a fur­ther 16,171 lab-con­firmed cases. The num­ber of deaths in the UK now stands at 43,579.

Writ­ing in The Sun­day Tele­graph, James Frayne, who has car­ried out fo­cus group re­search for the Gov­ern­ment, warns of a loom­ing shift in pub­lic opin­ion, against fur­ther lock­downs. He also ac­cuses the Gov­ern­ment of “play­ing down the ob­vi­ous eco­nomic risks as­so­ci­ated with harsher mea­sures”.

His warn­ing came as a poll by ORB In­ter­na­tional found that just 10 per cent of peo­ple be­lieved the pan­demic was un­der con­trol in Bri­tain – a record low.

Mr Frayne, a found­ing part­ner of the Pub­lic First pol­icy re­search agency, writes: “When Gov­ern­ment re­duces per­sonal and busi­ness sup­port – as they must – peo­ple will see the di­rect trade­offs be­ing made: es­sen­tially, health ver­sus liv­ing stan­dards.

“In this new world, the key polling ques­tion will be: ‘are you happy to pay a

‘The key polling ques­tion will be: are you happy to pay a lot more in tax and risk your job for a na­tional lock­down?’

lot more in tax and risk your job for a na­tional lock­down?’ For most, the an­swer will be a re­sound­ing no.”

Mr Frayne sug­gests Andy Burn­ham, the Mayor of Greater Manch­ester, has iden­ti­fied a shift in pub­lic mood, which is lead­ing him to re­sist No10’s at­tempts to move the city into Tier 3. “If the Labour party fol­lows Burn­ham’s lead – not im­mi­nently likely, granted – the Gov­ern­ment would be in a very vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion po­lit­i­cally,” he writes.

Lord La­mont said: “I think a pol­icy of sup­press-re­lax, sup­press-re­lax is deeply dam­ag­ing to busi­ness and is not re­ally a strat­egy. The Gov­ern­ment ought to set out how it in­tends to exit. Wait­ing for a vac­cine is not a strat­egy.”

Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Con­ser­va­tive back­bencher, called for “trans­for­ma­tional lead­er­ship” of Test and Trace and said the Gov­ern­ment should com­pose a “Liv­ing with Coro­n­avirus” pol­icy.

Five Es­sex MPs, led by Sir Bernard, have writ­ten to the Prime Min­is­ter urg­ing him to re­view the fi­nan­cial sup­port for busi­nesses un­der Tier 2 re­stric­tions.

Gor­don Brown, the for­mer prime min­is­ter, said: “I be­lieve the Chan­cel­lor will have to come back to the House of Com­mons soon to up­date, re­vise and change his plans, be­cause it is not ad­e­quate for the cir­cum­stances of today.”

A gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “We keep all mea­sures un­der re­view and we don’t want re­stric­tions to be in place any longer than is nec­es­sary, but where the virus is spread­ing we must take tar­geted ac­tion in or­der to save lives, pro­tect the NHS, keep chil­dren at school and shel­ter the econ­omy.”

Last night, 20 Tory MPs wrote to Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, and Mr Burn­ham, ask­ing them to “en­gage with the Gov­ern­ment’s re­gional ap­proach to tack­ling the virus”.

The let­ter sparked a pub­lic row with Greater Manch­ester Tory MPs say­ing their col­leagues “don’t un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion”.

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