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Watch: Boris Johnson shuts down Tory lockdown sceptic who accuses him of 'pettifogging malice'
This is the moment Boris Johnson shuts down a Conservative MP who accuses him of “pettifogging malice” for imposing a third coronavirus lockdown on England.
In an angry attack on the government in which he bemoaned the closure of golf clubs, backbench lockdown sceptic Sir Desmond Swayne said:
“Pubs can’t compete with supermarkets for off sales, even within a household you can’t play tennis or golf. Notwithstanding the assault on liberty and livelihoods, why are these regulations pervaded by a pettifogging malice?”
The lockdown was imposed on Monday amid COVID-19 infections spiralling out of control and dire warnings that hospitals would be “overwhelmed within 21 days”.
The House of Commons was recalled ahead of schedule on Wednesday in order to debate the lockdown, and in his response to Swayne, Johnson said:
“Pettifogging yes, malicious no. The intention is to stop the virus, protect the NHS and to save lives. To do that, we have to engage in restricting transmission between human beings, and I know that my colleagues [Tory lockdown sceptics] will find all sorts of reasons to oppose all sorts of restrictions, but in the end we have to look at the overall budget of risk caused by transmission between members of the human race and that is what we are trying to restrict.”
Swayne’s remarks were a continuation of open opposition some Tory MPs have shown to the government’s coronavirus restrictions during the pandemic.
Given the seriousness of the current COVID situation – Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “perhaps the darkest moment of the pandemic” so far – Johnson was facing less outright protest from his MPs during Wednesday’s debate.
However, Tory MP Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of lockdown sceptics, had earlier called for a “substantial relaxation” of restrictions as soon as the four top priority groups have been vaccinated.
Harper wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Achieving this crucial goal must now become the central, overriding focus of the Government. We need to start seeing daily vaccination reports updating MPs and the public to ensure we are making the progress we need.”
He added: “Once these groups have been vaccinated, and have become immune to the disease, this should be a clear threshold for when a substantial relaxation in restrictions can begin.”
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown