Deputy Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, Steve Baker. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Steve Baker: Boris’s leadership “on the table” without lockdown exit plan

Distance between Downing Street and Tory lockdown sceptics widening as Baker writes to CRG MPs

Artillery Row

The message sent today from Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, to the Conservative MPs who are supporters of the group, reveals a stark portrait of how distant to Downing Street and taken for granted by its lockdown plans many backbench Tories now feel.

Writing to the CRG’s members through their WhatsApp group, Baker stresses that the government has still provided no plan for restoring basic civil liberties at a time when senior scientists advising government – among them professor Neil Ferguson – are suggesting the current lockdown could continue until the late spring.

Baker urges MPs to make their unhappiness clear to the chief whip, Mark Spencer, in order to warn that unease about the party’s failure to balance the costs to business, livelihoods and civil liberties in its response to Covid is now biting hard with party members to the extent that Boris Johnson’s continuing leadership could “be on the table.” This follows the revelation that two Conservative backbenchers of the 2019 intake have already submitted letters of no confidence in the prime minister because of his lockdown policy.

This is the full text of Baker’s letter:

Dear Colleague,

We must take stock today and act now to avoid severe problems a little later.

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.

We have asked you all to please be in touch with Chief Whip to support our letter to him. 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. For the good of the country please contact the Chief Whip.

Yours ever,

Steve

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