‘Two Tory MPs submit letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson’ amid disquiet over pace of vaccine roll-out and lockdown as ministers are split over school closures
Boris Johnson’s Cabinet was bitterly divided over the decision to close schools, it was revealed today as MPs voiced their frustration at the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
The Prime Minister initially sided with hawks led by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson who wanted classes to remain open.
But he switched to agree with doves including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Michel Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, after being presented with new data showing the scale of the problem facing the nation, the Financial Times reported.
It came amid more rumbles of discontent from Tory backbenchers over the handling of everything from the lockdown announcement to the pace of the roll-out of vaccines.
Britain was the first nation to approve the new drugs but has since vaccinated far fewer people than Israel, the current world leader.
Senior Tory MPs had joined the Opposition in calling for the introduction of another national lockdown. But the idea of hardening the restrictions sparked fury from other Conservatives, who insist the country’s experience of the pandemic shows that lockdowns do not work and are crippling the economy.
There are claims that at least two MPs from the 2019 intake have now sent letters of no confidence in the PM to Conservative backbench chief Sir Graham Brady – although the numbers are nowhere near the threshold to put his position in doubt.
The Prime Minister initially sides with hawks led by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (right) who wanted classes to remain open. But he switched to agree with doves including Health Secretary Matt Hancock (left) and Michel Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, after being presented with new data showing the scale of the problem facing the nation, the Financial Times reported.
Evidence of disquiet over the vaccination drive has been growing, with claims ministers have failed to prepare.
‘We need that scaling up of vaccination like Israel has managed to achieve,’ one backbencher told MailOnline. ‘Why aren’t we there already? Why hasn’t the time been used over the summer and autumn to get the army of vaccinators in place?
‘The only limitation should be the speed by which the manufacturers are able to supply it to you.
‘The whole future of the economy, the future of saving more lives, the future of a sense of normality is in the hands of the vaccinator. That is where we now are.’
Other senior Tory MPs were just as gloomy. ‘We are over-promising and under-delivering,’ one said. ‘It is a big risk. They are not prepared and they are not ready to do it.
‘The problem is people don’t understand the logistics of administering this vaccine and checking people are OK and doing the paperwork. It is not just a case of putting a jab in someone’s arm.’
Mr Johnson tonight revealed that one in 50 of the population of England – around a million people – are infected with coronavirus as he defended his U-turn to plunge the country into lockdown.
The PM told a Downing Street briefing that the scorching spread of the mutant version of the disease meant there was ‘no choice’ about imposing lockdown.
But he insisted the measures can get the situation under control while vaccines are rolled out – revealing that 1.3million people have now had jabs as he dismissed criticism that he is ‘over-promising’ about the most vulnerable categories being covered by mid-February.
Mr Johnson vowed to give the country ‘jab by jab’ information about the crucial process.
He was flanked at the press conference by medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance – whose warnings about the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed sparked the extraordinary U-turn to plunge England into new restrictions.
The podiums once again were adorned with the slogan from the March lockdown – ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’.
Asked if he thought the target of vaccinating more than 13million people over the next seven weeks was possible, Prof Whitty said it was ‘realistic but not easy’.
But the medic also delivered a grim message that ‘some’ restrictions could still be needed next winter, as the virus was likely to be in regular circulation like flu.
The scale of the problem was underlined tonight as the UK reported a record 60,916 cases – up nearly 15 per cent on last Tuesday. The tally of deaths was 830, double the number from last week.
Mr Johnson said the total of 1.3million vaccinated so far included 1.1million people in England, and 650,000 people over the age of 80 – 23 per cent of all that age group in England.