Boris Johnson is facing a growing revolt against lockdown restrictions, as more than 30 MPs who voted for the current measures joined a parliamentary group opposed to any extension of restrictions.
The Covid Recovery Group, which launched on Wednesday to fight the imposition of a third national lockdown at the beginning of next month, has grown substantially and now numbers around 70 MPs.
The Telegraph can disclose that recruits include more than 30 lawmakers who supported the current lockdown, among them Damian Green, the former deputy prime minister, Tom Tugendhat, the senior backbencher, and many members of the Conservative Party’s 2019 intake of MPs.
The group will oppose any return to a national shutdown of the economy when lockdown is lifted on December 2.
It follows the growing divide between the so-called ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ within the cabinet regarding the Government’s approach to coronavirus. The split has been evident throughout the pandemic as more hawkish ministers have pushed for the economy to be prioritised as opposed to the dovish commitment of protecting the NHS.
Mr Green, Theresa May’s former deputy and the MP for Ashford in Kent, told The Telegraph that he would “take a lot of convincing to vote for another full lockdown”.
He said: “I don’t see why churches can’t hold services even now, and I thought the tiered system should have been given longer to prove it’s worth.”
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Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, pointed to the current lockdown having been imposed as a way “to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed”.
“If it has achieved that by early December, it has done its job and should be lifted so that the country can get back to work and enjoy Christmas,” he said.
“If it hasn’t, we clearly need a new strategy. So I can’t see what a renewed national lockdown would achieve. We’ve also got to think longer term.”
Mr Tugendhat added that “cycles of lockdowns and restrictions are causing chaos with people’s livelihoods and damaging mental and physical health”.
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“If I’m going to support more restrictions of any type, we need a thorough exercise across government, assessing the true costs of the action we’re being asked to support, so that we can be sure any of the restrictions are saving more lives than they are costing,” he said.
It comes as a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned that the next two weeks would be "absolutely crucial" in ensuring that England’s coronavirus lockdown ended as planned.
Prof Susan Michie urged the public to resist breaking current rules in order to "be in a position" to spend the festive period with loved ones.
She also suggested that the announcement of a potential Covid-19 vaccine could lead to complacency with the measures (with Prime Minister Boris Johnson making similar points last week, below), adding that the jab will make "no difference" to the current wave.
Prof Michie said the next two weeks would be "very challenging” which would be “partly because of the weather, partly because, I think, the promise of a vaccine may be making people feel complacent”.
"But the vaccine is very unlikely to come in until the end of the year or beginning of next year and that’s going to make no difference to the current second wave,” she told the Today programme.
"So I think for the next two weeks, everybody has to really get all their resolve together."