Furious Tory MP accuses Boris Johnson of running a ‘Ministry of Fear’ with new COVID restrictions

A Conservative MP launched a furious rant at Boris Johnson's government on Tuesday, accusing it of running a "Ministry of Fear" during the pandemic.

Sir Desmond Swayne, the MP for New Forest West, repeatedly said that implementing the government's new COVID-19 measures was not based on science and was instead down to a “matter of opinion” and individuals should be allowed to make their own judgements based on their “risk appetite”.

Read more: Omicron: Post-Christmas lockdown 'can't be ruled out', says No 10

He accused health officials, scientific advisers and other experts of trying to panic people so that they elicit the reaction they want from the public, namely “more enforcement and fiercer measures” to protect them from what he sarcastically described as this “great danger”.

"That's the situation that we have delivered: the government, having administered this Ministry of Fear, is absolutely complicit with its officials and its organisations that have designed it and delivered it," he told MPs.

"They have abandoned, in doing that, any principle of social democracy - of liberal democracy - absolutely beyond anything that we’ve endured in recent living memory in the history of this pandemic."

Watch: Minister confirms rapid increase of Omicron infections in UK

On Tuesday, Professor Chris Whitty told the Cabinet to prepare for a "significant number of hospital admissions" amid concerns the number of new Omicron cases could be as high as 200,000 every day.

And health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs during the debate on new measures that Omicron posed a "grave threat" to the UK.

“Unfortunately, there is now a very real risk that the exponential rise of Omicron cases translates into a spike of hospitalisations that threatens to overwhelm the NHS," he told MPs.

Read more: First Omicron death in UK confirmed by Boris Johnson

However, Sir Desmond is not alone in his unhappiness over the new measures - with the government facing a significant rebellion in a vote on the new measures from their own MPs.

Steve Brine, Conservative MP for Winchester, also said he was opposing “vaccine passports” because it “crosses a Rubicon”.

desmond swayne
Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne criticised the government experts at the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). (PA Images)

“I think the concept of learn to live with COVID is as dead as anything I know," he said.

Adding: “On the vaccine passport, I will not support that. I think it crosses a Rubicon.

"I think Italy began in exactly this way saying it was all about providing lateral flow tests, and I think it will move and move quite quickly”.

And Mark Harper, Conservative MP and former chief whip, urged MPs to vote against the measures to send a "clear signal" to the government to "rethink its approach".

Read more: Omicron symptoms: South African doctor on three most common signs of new variant

"They are very limited at the moment about what is proposed, but that was true everywhere they were introduced around the world," said the MP for the Forest of Dean.

"Everywhere they have been introduced, they have extended it, in terms of the venues they apply to.

“Anyone who thinks that they are going to stick to what is currently on the order paper, I am afraid are kidding themselves.”

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Their comments come ahead of a vote in parliament on Tuesday evening on the introduction of new coronavirus measures - including requiring evidence of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test to enter large events or nightclubs.

They are among a growing number of Tory MPs planning to rebel against government on the new proposals which the government say are critical to halt the growth of Omicron.

The rebellion could end up being so severe that Boris Johnson has to rely on Labour to pass the restrictions which would provide a significant blow to his leadership.

Watch: COVID: Boris Johnson says booster jabs to be offered to all adults by end of the year to tackle 'tidal wave' of Omicron cases