Watch: Theresa May attacks Boris Johnson over online Remembrance services during lockdown
May attacks successor Johnson over banning of indoor church services on Remembrance Sunday during second lockdown
She points to pre-recorded online services as she asks: ‘Surely those men and women who gave their lives for our freedom deserve better than this?’
Johnson had walked out of chamber as May started speaking during COVID-19 debate ahead of Thursday’s lockdown
Johnson’s one-month lockdown for England, which will come into force on Thursday, will see indoor religious services banned.
As a result, this weekend’s church services marking Remembrance Sunday have been cancelled.
In a furious attack on the government, May said the people who have lost their lives during conflicts “deserve better than this”.
She was speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday during a debate about the lockdown rules before they were set to be passed by MPs at a vote.
May said: “My concern is that the government today, making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused for a government in the future with the worst of intentions.”
May then grimaced as she said: “It has unintended consequences. The COVID-secure Remembrance service in Worcester Cathedral is now going to be turned into a pre-recorded online service.
“Surely those men and women who gave their lives for our freedom deserve better than this?”
Remembrance events will still be permitted outdoors on Sunday, as long as social distancing is observed.
Under the new lockdown rules, places of worship will only be open for funerals, individual prayer, formal childcare or other essential voluntary and public services such as support groups.
May’s attack came after faith leaders called on the government to reconsider its decision in a joint letter.
They said: “We have had reaffirmed, through the bitter experience of the last six months, the critical role that faith plays in moments of tremendous crisis, and we believe public worship is essential.”
Johnson’s official spokesman said on Wednesday: “The government doesn’t take imposing further restrictions lightly but this action is vital in tackling the spread of the virus.”
During the debate, May was one of numerous Conservative MPs to voice scepticism about the lockdown – though Johnson didn’t hear her thoughts because he walked out of the chamber at the moment she started speaking. The Daily Mail reported he had a “scheduled meeting”.
I'm told Boris Johnson has sent a note of apology to his predecessor for walking out as she began talking. An ally says he had to attend a scheduled meeting, adding: 'It was not a deliberate snub in any way. He has great respect for her' https://t.co/aNqeneNGBp
— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) November 4, 2020
May also criticised the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance for having shared a scenario in which COVID deaths could reach 4,000 a day.
This was presented when Johnson announced the lockdown on Saturday.
May said the trajectory of that scenario would have seen 1,000 deaths a day – when the seven-day average at the end of October was in fact 259.
She said: “For many people, it looks as if the figures are chosen to support the policy rather than the policy being based on the figures.”
Sir Patrick said on Tuesday he had “positioned that as a scenario from a couple of weeks ago”.
He began his role as chief scientific adviser in early 2018, when May was PM.
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