Beckenham MP Bob Stewart is among the Tory party members who have expressed scepticism over new measures ushered in by Boris Johnson to combat coronavirus, saying “I do not think another round of lockdown restrictions will work”.
In a 820-word missive published on his Facebook page on Tuesday, the former United Nations Commander also said he was “less than impressed” at Monday’s briefing by senior government advisers Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, challenging why no questions from journalists or fellow scientists were allowed.
It came as his fellow south-east London politician, first-term Orpington MP Gareth Bacon threw his support behind the Prime Minister, saying: “We can’t avoid this problem and unless we act, the virus will get out of control”.
However, Mr Stewart on Tuesday said he was “deeply concerned” with a lack of consultation with MPs over new lockdown measures, adding his view that the virus was something society would “have to learn to live with”.
Measures to tackle #covid must be proportionate to the risk. The virus is a serious threat to certain vulnerable groups. We must protect these groups with targeted measures. Shutting down society causes massive damage to health, lives, and livelihoods of the whole population.
— Lucy Allan MP (@lucyallan) September 22, 2020
In his post, Mr Stewart said “we have far more experience of and facts” on how to successfully treat the “curse” of Covid-19 compared to six months ago.
He said huge numbers of employees in his constituency “have existed on peanuts” as many industries ground to a halt during the pandemic.
“They cannot go through it all again – it’s just not possible for them. They are at their wit’s end already,” he said.
He added he and other MPs had “worryingly” not had an opportunity to vote on any of the restrictions ushered in since March.
“I am also deeply concerned about the absence of a role for MPs in these matters…Surely the government is not afraid to put these measures before Parliament for scrutiny?” he wrote.
“I am afraid periodic statements in Parliament from Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, are no substitute for rigorous Parliamentary debate – where the culmination of a vote forces the government to take account of opposing viewpoints…Government by decree is not the way we do things in this country.”
He added that, due to uncertainty over when – if ever – a vaccine would emerge for the virus, meant that society had to learn to live with it.
“The inherent danger in all this is that the government will go too far in its reaction, further damaging viable sections of the economy, increasing delays on treatments for serious illnesses such as cancer and exacerbating mental health problems,” he said, advocating social and financial support for vulnerable community members,
“But the vast majority of, particularly the young, need to get on with their lives, their jobs and enjoying themselves too. As many of my age know youth is soon over and it should be enjoyed,” he said.
“For my part I think it is time for us all to have some freedoms again – with different parts of society looking after themselves and taking responsibility for their own destinies – even with the inherent risks this may pose.”
Mr Stewart wasn’t the only Tory backbencher questioning the latest measures ushered in by Boris Johnson.
While thanking the Prime Minister for “working tirelessly on behalf of us all”, Telford MP Lucy Allan wrote that “measures to tackle Covid (sic) must be proportionate to the risk”.
I do not think another round of lockdown restrictions will work. I watched Messrs Whitty and Vallance’s press…
“The virus is a serious threat to certain vulnerable groups. We must protect these groups with targeted measures. Shutting down society causes massive damage to health, lives, and livelihoods of the whole population,” she said on Twitter.
The new restrictions, which includes urging people to work from home where possible, had a steadfast supporter in first-term Orpington MP Gareth Bacon.
“Across Bromley, and the entire country, the number of coronavirus cases is rising,” he wrote.
“This is not because testing has increased – the proportion of tests coming back positive is rising.
“That’s why the Prime Minister has unveiled new measures today, many of which will be with us for months, to keep the virus under control…This is not a second lockdown, and these measures are designed to balance the need to save lives and protect livelihoods.”