Shipley Tory Philip Davies told the Prime Minister in the Commons today that he loathed the nanny state, and questioned whether his political beliefs still aligned with his party.
Speaking at PMQs he said: “To paraphrase the late, great much-missed Eric Forth, I believe in individual freedoms and individual responsibility.
“I believe that individuals make better decisions for themselves, their families and their communities than the state makes for them. I loathe the nanny state, and I believe in cutting taxes. Prime Minister, am I still a Conservative?”
Mr Johnson replied simply with “yes” but is facing growing unease from his backbenches ahead of a Commons vote on his roadmap out of lockdown tomorrow.
The PM addressed the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee last night with hopes of defending the Government’s approach, which has been seen as cautious in a bid to be irreversible.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said yesterday: “As you would expect, the Prime Minister is using every opportunity when he meets his Conservative MPs to make the case.”
But Tory former chief whip Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptics, said the regulations “raise a number of key questions” and again suggested that ministers were attempting to move the goalposts before ending the curbs on freedom.
Some measures which are no longer required have been removed or suspended from the Act, but Mr Harper said the road map regulations expire on June 30, rather than June 21 and “however minor this seems, it may add to concerns that goalposts are being moved”.
The planned six-month extension to the Coronavirus Act was in “fundamental contradiction” to the road map because it would go far beyond the June date.
“The Coronavirus Act contains some of the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history, and if ministers want to renew its provisions, they must demonstrate they are proportionate, reasonable and grounded in evidence,” he said.
“For any and every temporary measure that the Government wishes to retain, the burden is on them to set out, in Parliament, a very clear justification.”
The measures are likely to comfortably pass, with Labour not expected to oppose them.
But Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said his party would vote against.
In the Commons today he said the Prime Minister was asking for a “blank cheque” to extend curbs on freedoms.
Sir Ed said: “The Prime Minister talks about restoring freedoms as we emerge from the lockdown, but he’s pushing a Bill that will restrict one of our most fundamental freedoms, the right to peaceful protest and peaceful assembly.
“And tomorrow, he is asking for another blank cheque to restrict everyone's freedoms until September, even though we now know the vast bulk of the Coronavirus Act is not needed to tackle the pandemic.
“So will the Prime Minister for once match his actions to his words, drop these draconian laws and instead publish a roadmap to revive civil liberties and freedoms in our country?”
Mr Johnson said he could “sympathise with” Sir Ed’s “desire to see freedoms restored”, and added that he wanted to do that as quickly as possible.
“That's why we've set out the cautious, but we hope irreversible, roadmap that we have,” he said.
“But what we also want to do is to make sure that we're able to deal with the very considerable backlog that we’ve faced because of the pandemic, so making sure that we have policies still to accelerate court procedures with Zoom courts, to make sure that we allow volunteers to continue to help in the NHS, retired staff to come back, powers that are necessary in education.
“It is important to be able to continue with those special measures for the months ahead and that's why we've set out the Bill as we have.”