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In the News

Another example of Tory backbench dissent

Mike McCartney

28th February 2021

This time it's lockdown sceptics and the PM's four step plan

I've written before about how backbenchers are far from the sheep that we considered them to be as recently as the 1990s.

Here in late January:

In December of last year:

Last week, in response to the government's announcement of how the UK would progress out of lockdown, the usual suspects were at it again.

As the i reported:

'Backbench lockdown sceptics argue that the four-stage timetable set out in his “roadmap” have been driven by “dodgy” assumptions about the success of the vaccine programme.'


It went on:

'The Prime Minister faces a fresh parliamentary rebellion over the schedule next month. He received a foretaste of problems ahead when 13 Tories when told him in the Commons on Monday that he was moving too slowly.

Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), argued that pessimistic forecasts over the numbers agreeing to be jabbed had led to a two-month delay in phasing out the lockdown curbs. He said scientific advisers had wrongly assumed 15 per cent of the population don’t take the vaccine.

“That it isn’t realistic, that’s not what’s happening,” he told LBC.

“Secondly, there is a real question about whether the rest of the country should be held back for two months because some people choose not to take the vaccine.”

He added: “We have got a delay of two months to all restrictions going, which is going to have some real consequences for real people’s jobs and livelihoods and I think it has been driven by some dodgy modelling.”

Steve Baker, the CRG’s deputy chairman, denounced the timetable as a “hammer blow to aviation, pubs, restaurants, hotels, gyms and pools, the arts and entertainment”.'

Included alongside the article is a short profile of one of the key rebels:

'Who is Mark Harper?

Mark Harper, who leads the 70-strong grouping of Tory lockdown sceptics, is the unlikeliest of rebels.

He was doggedly loyal to the party during his early years in Parliament as he climbed the ministerial ladder.

His progress ended abruptly in 2014 when he was forced to resign as immigration minister because his cleaner did not have permission to work in Britain.

However, David Cameron was a fan and made him Tory Chief Whip in 2015. But Theresa May was not and dispatched Mr Harper to the backbenches a year later.

The Forest of Dean MP made a doomed bid for the party leadership in 2019, coming ninth out of ten candidates. He is now pursuing a new path as lockdown rebel-in-chief, accusing Boris Johnson of getting balance wrong between protecting health and protect the economy.'

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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