'Truly appalling authoritarianism': Tory MPs in angry backlash at Boris Johnson's three-tier COVID system

Watch: Matt Hancock outlines England’s return to three-tier COVID system

  • Tory backbench backlash begins as most of England placed in Tiers 2 and 3

  • Senior MP Steve Baker accuses Boris Johnson of ‘truly appalling authoritarianism’

  • Fellow influential backbenchers say they will vote against three-tier system

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Conservative MPs have begun an angry backlash against Boris Johnson’s three-tier coronavirus system after the government announced the vast majority of England has been placed under the most severe restrictions.

Just three areas of the country will be in the least severe Tier 1 once the national lockdown ends, while the rest of the nation is in the tougher Tiers 2 and 3.

Steve Baker, a ringleader of the anti-lockdown movement among backbench Tories, said the move was “truly appalling authoritarianism”.

Senior Tory MPs Sir Graham Brady and Tobias Ellwood were also among those who said they would be rebelling against the government when the tier system comes to a House of Commons vote on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from senior Tory backbenchers Sir Graham Brady (top right) and Steve Baker (bottom left). Pictures: Getty Images/PA
Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from senior Tory backbenchers including Sir Graham Brady, top right, and Steve Baker, bottom right. (Getty Images/PA)

Thursday’s fresh backlash encapsulated the political issues Johnson has been facing during the second wave of the pandemic.

On the one hand, the government’s top scientists have been arguing for tougher restrictions to drive down infections.

On the other, Johnson has to balance concerns about the economy.

All the while, his own backbench MPs have been unafraid to voice their angry opposition to restrictive measures.

Baker, deputy chair of the anti-lockdown “COVID Recovery Group” of Tory MPs, tweeted:

Baker added: “I fear we are now so far down the rabbit hole that we have forgotten we even entered it.”

Brady, the chair of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One show that he will vote against the tier system.

“I have severe reservations on so many different levels,” he said.

“I do think that the policies have been far too authoritarian.

“I think they have interfered in people’s private and personal lives in a way which is unacceptable.”

Ellwood, chair of the Commons defence select committee, tweeted of his Bournemouth constituency being placed in Tier 2:

Health secretary Matt Hancock insisted the tier system is “necessary”.

“While all three tiers are less stringent than the national lockdown that we’re all living in now, to keep people safe and to keep the gains that are being made, more areas than before will be in the top two tiers.

“This is necessary to protect our NHS and keep the virus under control.”

If, as expected, the tier system is passed at Tuesday’s vote, it will be reviewed on 16 December. Experts have warned the tough restrictions must continue ahead of the five-day UK-wide easing of measures over Christmas.

Read more:

The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained

The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained

What tier are you in? Full list of lockdown areas

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work