COMMONS Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has sensationally broken ranks to warn the hated lockdown cannot drag on just “to prevent people seeing a doctor”.
Heaping pressure on Boris Johnson, the top Tory warned the Government cannot keep taking “charge of people’s lives” while Covid deaths remain low.
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Ten Covid deaths in the previous 24 hours were recorded yesterday.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s astonishing swipe comes as the PM is braced to be rocked by one of the biggest Tory rebellions since he became leader.
Dozens of backbenchers are set to revolt over the month-long delay to Freedom Day — with the PM potentially having to rely on Labour votes to carry him over the line.
Opening up a Cabinet rift, Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Johnson must not allow a fear of more Covid deaths to paralyse the country.
He said: “You can’t run society just to stop the hospitals being full.
“Otherwise you’d never let us get in our cars and drive anywhere or do any of the other things that people want to do. There has to be some proportionality.
“The Government doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives purely to prevent them seeing the doctor.
“Otherwise we’d never be allowed in our kitchens, would we, where a disproportionate number of accidents in the home take place, or in our bathrooms?
“So we’d become very hungry and very smelly on that basis.”
The Cabinet minister was speaking on his ConservativeHome podcast on Monday — shortly before the lockdown extension was announced and when the PM said “now is the time to ease off the accelerator”.
Mr Rees-Mogg urged the PM to tear up restrictions as long as deaths are low. And he said calls for everyone over 18 to be double-jabbed before lockdown is ditched were “very odd”.
He added: “We put in restrictions at the point at which we were facing 1,000 deaths a day. That has been steadily reduced.
You can’t run society just to stop the hospitals being full.
“If it is eight deaths a day, you are not going to be worrying about double vaccines so much.”
He added: “Infections do not matter anymore. The two things that matter are can the NHS cope, and the number of deaths.”
His shock intervention comes as dozens of Tory MPs are expected to revolt and vote against extending lockdown today.
Some backbenchers are so angry at the Freedom Day delay they are refusing to campaign in Chesham and Amersham ahead of the by-election tomorrow.
The Tories fear they are on the brink of losing the Buckinghamshire seat to the Lib Dems — despite their 16,000 vote majority.
Freedom Day – Key Dates
June 14: Boris Johnson will address the nation and reveal his plan to push Freedom Day back to July 19
June 21: The original end of lockdown under the PM's roadmap, which has now been delayed
July 5: The PM will run the rule over the data for a two-week 'break-clause' review. If hospitalisations haven't increased significantly, restrictions could be relaxed early.
July 19: The proposed new 'Freedom Day' date where all remaining rules should be lifted.
One MP is said to have told party bosses they should send lockdown-loving Chris Whitty “out to push leaflets through voters’ doors”.
But despite the rage on the back benches, Labour has confirmed it will vote for the extension — meaning rebel MPs have no chance of defeating it.
Chief lockdown Tory rebel Steve Baker told The Sun: “Today, the mood is one of resignation — knowing Boris’s power is unassailable.
“But when you look forward, sooner or later the brown stuff will hit the fan. When the money runs out, the consequences of this decision bites and firms go bust.”
The Government doesn’t have the right to take charge of people’s lives purely to prevent them seeing the doctor.
Tory MP Charles Walker said he has lost all faith in the PM’s promise to lift lockdown by July 19.
He said: “I think we’re now going to see the reversing of the irreversible roadmap. And that’s when this is all going to hit the fan.”
Michael Gove yesterday tried to reassure anxious Tory MPs that this really will be the last time freedom is delayed.
He said he is “as confident as confident can be” that restrictions will be lifted on July 19.
But in a sign of the depth of rage simmering among Tories, one backbencher said: “If you believe Michael Gove when he says the Government are confident they can continue with the roadmap, you’ll believe the moon is made of cheese.”
Red Wall Tory MP Miriam Cates also lashed out, saying: “We need to restore a sense of perspective and see Covid for what it is — an infectious disease that is no longer a significant threat to the British public as a whole and is here to stay. We do not live just to avoid death.”
Meanwhile, in a humiliating blow for the PM, the Freedom Day- busting Covid strain has been dubbed the “Johnson Variant”.
Sticking the boot in, Labour blamed the lockdown delay on Mr Johnson’s woeful failure to close the border to India quickly enough.
And Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Let’s call it what it is.
“Let’s put the blame where it should lie. In this country, it’s the Johnson Variant.”
Labour has also called for ministers to scrap the amber list of countries for travellers and force the majority of people arriving in Britain into quarantine hotels.
Mr Thomas-Symonds said Britain should have followed Australia and New Zealand’s example, saying: “We are an island country. Our border protections should have been one of our natural strengths.
The Sun says
THE decision to postpone our freedom is getting harder and harder for Boris Johnson to sell.
He faces a big Tory rebellion over it today and no wonder. The Government’s fears look misplaced already.
Yesterday just ten Covid deaths were reported. New infections have been roughly flat since their jump a week ago. Hospitalisations are slowly climbing — but Covid patients still only occupy just over one per cent of beds.
As Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg says, you cannot lock a nation down to avoid hospitals being busy.
Other societies less vaccinated than ours are already freer. New York, where 70 per cent have had at least one shot, ditched all curbs yesterday. Britain has jabbed almost 80 per cent at least once.
Yes, we have the Indian variant which has yet to make serious inroads in the US and Europe. But the figures are there in black and white.
Boris promised to review the evidence two weeks into this four-week delay.
It’s far too slow. Rethink next week, PM.
“Instead, it has been one of our greatest weaknesses.”
And like many ministers, he also suggested overseas holidays would be unlikely this summer.
He added: “I, like everybody else, want to see international travel back as soon as possible, but if you’re asking me the question as of today, do I think that summer holidays are likely, then I think the answer to that has to be no.”
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