Boris Johnson has been warned by lockdown-sceptic Tory backbenchers that he will face a leadership challenge if he does not “set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored”.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker said to a group of Tory backbenchers that “it’s inevitable the Prime Minister’s leadership will be on the table” if the country faces an indefinite lockdown.
A YouGov poll released last week showed that 80 per cent of the UK supported Boris Johnson’s new lockdown measures.
The Sun reports that Baker wrote the note to other lockdown-sceptics in the Tories’ Covid Recovery Group of backbench MPs.
However, Baker quickly took to Twitter this afternoon to backtrack on his comments and pledge loyalty to the Prime Minister.
Baker’s earlier note read: “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.
“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.”
The threat comes after sustained pressure from Tory MPs such as Baker, Esther McVey and Sir Desmond Swayne to apply a enact a lighter touch regime on Covid restrictions.
Baker and 24 other Tory MPs abstained on the parliamentary vote on the latest lockdown on 6 January, while 12 Tory MPs voted against it.
A leadership challenge can be launched against the Prime Minister if 15 per cent (55 MPs) of Conservative MPs write letters requesting one to the party’s 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady.
Brady voted against implementing the latest lockdown.