A Tory Said What: February 2021

January turned into February and although we are now several days into March 2021, I am back with the February 2021 edition of A Tory Said What. So, what is the point of these posts?

Do you ever feel like the Government are not being honest with you? Do you think they are lying? Or attempting to gaslight you? Or, have they said something that sounds so bizarre that you may think they did not actually say it at all? Well, that’s what I try to bring attention to with these posts.

In these posts, I attempt to debunk some of the mistruths and outright lies that Conservative MPs have uttered. Why? Because truth matters! Other comments, they may not have said something untruthful, but something I thought shocking. Hopefully, the language in discussing their comments is clear enough for them to be identifiable. After all, at the same time, I attempt to debunk the untruths and try to be objective, these posts are still my opportunity to rant against comments that have been made by Conservative MPs.

So, what happened in February 2021? After almost a month of discussions and trying to implement it, the government eventually started a mandatory hotel quarantine system for new arrivals. It was limited to only 33 ‘red list’ countries and even then, the delays of about a week proved costly with 6 cases of the Brazilian ‘variant of concern being identified at the end of the month.

We had a Government Minister blame asylum seekers housed in barracks for ‘mingling’; a claim from the Foreign Secretary that we would have to wait 10 years before we could judge Brexit; the first signs that it was not just ‘teething problems’ being experienced in Northern Ireland and another Minister claim any suggestions ideology played a part in the visa situation faced by musicians wishing to tour Europe are ‘barking up the wrong tree’ despite the previous week her insistence their rejection of the EU proposals were ‘not consistent with the manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.’ Both comments are included.

That isn’t even scratching the surface as the Government was also found to have acted unlawfully in the delayed publication of procurement contracts. The Health Secretary has yet to apologise for such and even went as far as saying we should all be thankful for his team.. I’ll let you decide for yourself on that but they spend £200,000 of Taxpayers money on a case that even by their own defence lines (a couple of weeks late) they did not have a leg to stand on.

This post does not claim to be an exhaustive chronicle of every lie or mistruth or shocking comments made by Conservative MPs made in the month of February. However, there are a total of 96 comments from a total of 35 different MPs including the Prime Minister [featured in the above feature image; image from Manchester Evening News]. That gives us a rate of 3.43 comments PER DAY! Although, that is slightly down on the mammoth post that covered January. On a word document, if you want to know, it covers 36 pages this month.

*All photos alongside each quote are from the individual MPs official portrait as obtained from the Parliament.uk website with the exception of Boris Johnson, who does not seem to have one.

I have just formally notified #CCTPP nations of our intent to join. Membership will position UK at the heart of some of the worlds fastest growing economies, trade high value #jobs across the UK, help build back a better global trading system

Liz Truss (MP for South West Norfolk and Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade), 1st February

The story had broken over the weekend at the end of January that the UK intended to join the CCTPP for a few days before Trade Secretary Liz Truss gave confirmation the UK was indeed applying to join The CCTPP (The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) has 11 members: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Given some of these countries are over 8,000 miles away, it is difficult to see how on earth the UK can be at the heart of that. Geographically, it is almost impossible.

‘There is a shared desire in Parliament to ensure that absolutely everyone in our society lives somewhere decent, safe and secure. We are united in that commitment, and our thoughts naturally turn to the still unimaginable tragedy of Grenfell Tower. It should not have taken such a deadly fire, with such a terrible loss of life and suffering, for us to face up to the failures of building safety that have built up over decades...

Christopher Pincher (Minister of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government), 1st February

The Housing Minister states that they have a shared desire with other parties to resolve the issue of cladding on high rise buildings. However, this is where the Government policy of not voting for opposition day motions through abstaining or outright rejecting just makes no sense to me. There is a shared desire to resolve the issue but they do not support any suggestions that come forward from opposition; it just puts them at odds with the rhetoric.

The Labour motion read:

That this House calls on the Government to urgently establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk; provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately; protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis; and update Parliament once a month in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement by the Secretary of State.’

Predictably, despite the rhetoric Conservative MPs including the Housing Minister did not vote in favour and abstained.

In the short term, there are a number of issues which I would not describe as teething problems. They are significant issues which bear on the lives of people in Northern Ireland which do need to be resolved. We do need to make sure that grace periods are extended, we do need to make sure that supermarkets and other traders can continue, as they are at the moment, to be able to supply consumers with the goods that they need’.

Michael Gove (MP for Surrey Heath and Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), 2nd February

Was this a penny drop moment for Michael Gove? Instead of just ‘teething issues’ as the government insisted it had been last month, this was the moment Michael Gove, the Duchy of Lancaster stressed that there are ‘significant issues’ facing people in Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit. It came in response to an urgent question on the Northern Ireland Protocol in Parliament.

Has the penny dropped?

The hon. Gentleman raises the issue of isolation payments. We have the £500 isolation payment in place, so nobody should, as he put it, go hungry because they have to isolate

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 2nd February

An update on the Covid-19 pandemic was next in the House of Commons and that meant Matt Hancock taking to the despatch box. The above comment comes as he addresses the counterpoints made by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

The Health Secretary refers to the isolation payment scheme. The idea that it is there to help the most vulnerable is right but it is not available to everyone as his statement may seem to imply. He was told by Andrew Marr a few weeks prior that 7 in 10 do not qualify or are not receiving the payment. That is because to be eligible, you need to be both working and claiming Universal Credit. That means, if you work full time and don’t claim Universal Credit, you are not eligible for this support if you are asked to self-isolate.

No, on the contrary, we removed the travel corridors to ensure there is a self-isolation requirement that is mandatory for all those who are coming to this country. Protecting this country from new variants coming from abroad is important, hence we have taken the action swiftly, and we did that on the basis of the scientific evidence.

Matt Hancock, (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 2nd February

Later in the session, he faced a question from Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle referring to the story that had surfaced in The Times that the Government ignored SAGE advice surrounding quarantine arrangements at the border and accused them of doing too little too late. Instead, the Health Secretary insisted they acted quickly by removing travel corridors but at this time there were no hotel mandatory hotel quarantine arrangements in place nor could they know how many were actually quarantining.

However, the comments failed to address the question he was asked which focused more on the reported SAGE advice for wide-ranging Covid quarantine arrangements. While the Health Secretary stressed ‘Protecting this country from new variants’ he did not address the notion that the government decided on ‘a partial quarantine arrangement that SAGE has already warned will be ineffective…’.

'All countries that have attempted a zero-covid strategy have found that this virus transmits and gets round the boundaries that have been put in place. There were parts of this country that tried a strategy of zero, and in fact, we were urged to do so in this House, but what matters is making sure that we get the tools that are going to be used permanently for us to get through this…The hon. Member said the vaccine offers hope, and I think that is where we should all focus—on getting this vaccine rolled out as quickly as we possibly can.'

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 2nd February

The next comments from this session to pick up on are the health Secretary’s assertion above that zero covid policies do not work. It came after a question from Zarah Sultana if he regretted not pursuing such a strategy after outlining examples of New Zealand, Vietnam, Australia and Taiwan which have averaged no Covid deaths in the past seven days compared to the UK which had averaged over 1000.

Admittedly, no strategy is foolproof and every so often countries like New Zealand have a case imported but having pursued a zero covid strategy, it is far more manageable for them. They have more freedoms as a result and the pictures of New Years Eve festivities are enviable.

It was also awkwardly timed for the Health Secretary given what was happening in the Isle of Man. They have been able to pursue a ‘zero covid’ approach and had got to a point where just the day before, restrictions could be totally lifted.

The Health Secretary then turned towards the Vaccines which is undoubtedly going well but in his emphasis of the vaccines being our way out of Covid, I cannot help think that this is where he is putting all his eggs. That vaccines are our silver bullet, a strategy the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned against doing. The clear risk is if there is vaccine-resistant strain emerges, we are back to square one.

‘Our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland and our union is unshakeable. Recent EU moves have undermined the Protocol& understandably provoked concern. Let me underline that, now & in the future, Northern Ireland’s place in the UK will be protected and strengthened. What is needed is urgent action from the EU to resolve outstanding problems with Protocol implementation, so as to preserve the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement & ensure that Northern Ireland benefits from Brexit just like every other part of our UK'

Boris Johnson, Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP and Prime Minister), 2nd February

The Prime Minister took to Twitter to reiterate his commitment to Northern Ireland and the union that is the United Kingdom and also comes off the back of the Article 16 debacle from the EU at the end of January. Johnson’s commitment though would fly in the face of what some in Northern Ireland felt of him after what has happened with the deal. He has basically erected a border down the Irish Sea separating Northern Ireland in trade terms from the rest of the Union, something he once promised would never happen.

The Tweet also put him at a bit of a loggerheads with Michael Gove. Johnson indicates they are just ‘outstanding problems’ as if they can be easily resolved. That is not the impression to Duchy of Lancaster implied when he suggested in the Commons that it was more than ‘teething problems’.

‘In the film, it shows that the moment of highest stress around the vaccine programme is not before it’s rolled out – when the scientists and manufacturers work together at pace – it’s afterwards when there is a huge row about the order of priority. I insisted that we ordered enough for every adult to have their two doses…But also we asked for that clinical advice on the prioritisation very early, and set it out in public … so that there was no big row over the order of priority. I wouldn’t say that that film was my primary source of advice on this'

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 3rd February

The Health Secretary was making a media appearance on LBC with Nick Ferrari when he was asked if he had seen Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion. Perhaps, alarmingly, he admitted that watching the film influenced his approach to vaccine procurement.

You know what, vaccinations is one part the UK has done a competent job during the pandemic as opposed to late track and trace apps, botched PPE contracts and a protective ring around care homes. I am critical but vaccines have been the best part of the Government response despite doubts over the extended gap between doses.

Should it be concerning though that even though he downplayed the significance of it, that our Government have been shaping policy based on fictional Hollywood movies?

…he should be aware that 75% of our medicines come into this country from the European continent, as does 45% of our food, and 250,000 businesses in this country rely on imports. It is not practical to completely…

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP and Prime Minister), 3rd February

Wednesday and it is the first PMQs of the month as Boris Johnson took questions from MPs as well as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. While this exchange received more coverage of Starmer stating he had never advocated the UK join the EU Medicines Agency in Parliament when as part of several Brexit debates he had.

However, as Starmer had been pressing on the reports that SAGE advised that nothing short of quarantining all arrivals into the country would be effective. The Prime Minister argued it was not possible and turned the subject to trade as a reason it was not possible. Starmer had said nothing about trade but just seeing these comments, I could not help but think that he was also making the case for remaining in the EU. They’re significant numbers the Prime Minister is saying so it really does beg that question why he pursued Brexit and agreeing to the erection of trade barriers that came with it.

We are determined that no leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they did not cause and are no fault of their own

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP and Prime Minister), 3rd February

This was later in the PMQ exchange with Starmer and I want to pick up on this because of what came the following week. Just seven days after saying no leaseholder would have to pay unaffordable costs for fixing defects they aren’t responsible for, the Governments new policy attempting to address the cladding issue declared that anyone in buildings under 12m would have to pay £50 per month, the equivalent of £600 per year to help fix the issues. Seriously Prime Minister?

‘One, I’m surprised that anyone is surprised it is mutating, its an RN virus, they mutate’.

David Davis (MP for Haltemprice and Howden), 3rd February

The MP was appearing on ITV’s Peston when he made these comments which I wanted to pick up on because of how it contrasts with those Dido Harding to the select committee. The boss of Test and Trace had claimed, ‘We’ve seen the virus mutate, we’ve seen the new variant emerge, which was something that none of us had, were able to predict’.

That was something Channel 4 FactCheck looked at and concluded ‘It might be true that no-one predicted the precise mutations of the variant we’re currently fighting in the UK. But there has been evidence since spring 2020 that mutations were happening and experts warned even then that one or more variants could emerge that would significantly alter the course of the pandemic.’

Just what Dido Harding was on about is beyond me and it begs the question why is she in such an integral position? She positions herself as a layman doing her best but come on, viruses evolve. It is basic science as the above Tweet demonstrates kids as young as 7 are taught that viruses evolve.

People say: ‘Why don’t we just close down and then we’ll be safe?’. But, of course, we wouldn’t be safe, because we are an island nation, unlike Australia or something which is an entire continent. That means that we need to get medicines in, we need to get food in, we need to get our raw materials in, sometimes we have to move people around, scientists and others. If we weren’t doing these things then we simply wouldn’t be combating this crisis. In fact, specifically we wouldn’t have had things like the medicines that we’ve needed or indeed the vaccinations, some of which are manufactured in Europe, only 20 miles away at its closest point'

Grant Shapps (MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Secretary of State for Transport), 4th February

Grant Shapps argued to a Commons Transport Select Committee that the UK could not close down its borders unlike Australia. Looking at his comments though, does someone want to tell the Trasnport Secretary that Australia is considered a continent that just makes the comparison of deaths (Australia have not recorded a single death since October, the UK recording thousands in that time) all the more embarrassing?

Will the supermarkets buy the shellfish the EU will not take and work with our fishing industry to sell it to UK buyers

John Redwood (MP for Wokingham) 4th February

I couldn’t help but think that this might be a penny dropping moment for Brexiter John Redwood. The MP has been more vocal for supermarkets to help buy more British fish ever since the transition period ended and here was another such Tweet. It comes amid the announcement that shellfish would be barred from the EU indefinitely.

This should not have come as a surprise. Importing shellfish from a third country (a country outside the EU) was banned in 2011. The UK was a member at that time was involved in that rule and would have been aware of it when seeking to leave. This should not have come as a surprise. And guess who was on European Parliament Fisheries Committee attending only one of 42 meetings? Nigel Farage.

So, what was the Brexiteer plan? Was it this, get all supermarkets to buy more British? The next question becomes why would British Supermarkets buy this shellfish that the EU cannot take? Will it be at a reduced cost which will hurt the pockets of these fishing businesses more than they were used to. Looking at the UK fishery businesses and a question that arises is why were they exporting to the EU? If it is due to demand and there is no demand for shellfish in the UK market then why would UK Supermarkets do this?

The entire case for Independence is based on unsubstantiated claims and absurd assumptions

Andrew Bowie (MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine), 4th February

It is a debut for the Scottish MP Andrew Bowie  as he shared a Tweet reporting on the findings of an LSE study into Scottish Independence. I appreciate this is a case of whataboutery but even when writing this quote down I initially put Brexit instead of Independence due to the striking similarities.

I am not a particular fan of Scottish Independence but I can understand there is real pressure for it. However, I turn it to Brexit which was also littered with unsubstantiated claims and the absurd assumption that we hold all the cards. The electorate was sold a utopia that we hold all the cards; that Turkey was lining up waiting to join the EU. Has that happened yet? Where’s that £350m per week that could go to the NHS instead?

We need time to prepare, we need time to make sure that this works. That’s why we’ve given the hotel industry notice to give them time to prepare, to train staff and to get rooms ready for a very different type of

James Cleverly (MP for Braintree and Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa), 5th February

Foreign Minister James Cleverly had the media round and he had a few questionable comments during his interviews. I will start with this one from his interview with Sky News in which they were discussing plans to make travellers arriving from 33 ‘red list’ countries to quarantine in hotels.

In normal circumstances, needing time to prepare to ensure it works as he says in order to train staff and get ready is understandable. However, at this stage, we were just over a year after the first confirmed case of Covid in the UK and the government was still just putting together a quarantine package for arrivals. It was also 330 days after a country sich as Taiwan introduced such a policy and they have endured just 8 days compared to the UK which has seen over 100,000. Even the interviewer wasn’t buying it asking ‘surely it doesn’t take a month’ referring to the fact this policy had been muted for weeks and they were still seemingly putting it together.

Later in the interview, Cleverly insisted that hindsight is a wonderful thing and that it is not relevant to compare the UK with other countries from the start. Ok, so may I ask when is it relevant? Why not now? The government seem keen to make comparisons when it comes to how many people they’re giving vaccine doses to? Will it be when we have a public inquiry into our handling of the pandemic?

Well, look, I have no way of knowing

James Cleverly (MP for Braintree and Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa), 5th February

On BBC Breakfast, Mr Cleverly found himself in a sticky moment with interviewer Charlie Stayt when he asked the Cabinet Minister if he knows where the next potential mutant strain of Cprnavirus might be coming from? Mr Cleverly was left giving the only answer he could, he doesn’t know. Nobody knows.

It was the natural answer and Mr Stayt was probably speaking for the majority of his viewers and the wider nation by following that up by stating that if you don’t know the obvious conclusion would be to close borders to all countries instead of just 33 on the so-called ‘red list’. At this point, Mr Cleverly accused Mr Stayt of cutting him off before discussing genomics as a means to adapt quickly as opposed to a blanket quarantine at the borders leading Stayt to conclude that we in the UK are only good at identifying new virus strains after they’ve got here.

Exactly, how does that protect the British people?

We've been working to make sure we know what we need to ask of the hotels. The idea that this has come as a surprise to the hotel industry in concept is an unfair accusation.

James Cleverly (MP for Braintree and Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa), 5th February

James Cleverly then appeared on LBC with Nick Ferrari where he found himself unable to say with 10 days to go before the introduction of the mandatory quarantine of arrivals from so-called ‘red list’ countries, just how many hotels were signed up. They had reportedly, not even secured a single room before 5 pm the day before! The calls instead had only gone out later that evening.

Number 10 would confirm to Pipa Crarer from the Mirror three days later that NO contracts had been signed. On a side note, given the breakdown of the £1750 fee provided by ITV’s Paul Brand just before the policy came into force, it is hardly surprising they might have struggled to get hotels onboard, especially in London.

‘That, I genuinely don’t know’

‘The point is, exit stamps from airports are a decision for those individual countries rather than the UK

James Cleverly (MP for Braintree and Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa), 5th February

Staying with LBC, the Cabinet Minister was also forced to admit that he does not know that now the UK has left the EU if passengers get their passports stamped at other European airports such as Pairs of Frankfurt and whether that could help people coming in from ‘red list’ countries to avoid quarantine. Despite being a Minister at the Foreign Office, Mr Cleverly did not know.

Even seeing the report on this exchange, it s clear Nick Ferrari is doing his best to try and help the Minister as well as the Border Force officials who will be wanting an answer to that question too. The response seems to be passing the responsibility on to the other airports. That is something the UK cannot control without any conversations but looking at that, it just seems passive.

What message does that give to Border Force officials, they’ve got to stop everyone and ask whether they have been in a ‘red list’ country? In what world does that make sense?

Today we signed a trade deal with Albania. The Agreement secures vital certainty for business and supports UK jobs. We’ve now agreed deals with 64 countries plus the EU, covering £897bn of trade. Trade=Opportunity=Jobs

Lis Truss (MP for South West Norfolk and Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade), 5th February

The International Trade Secretary was trumpeting a fresh trade deal that the Uk has reached, this time with Albania, now supposedly taking that number to 64.

However, what she does not mention is that this is another rollover deal from the one that the UK had as members of the EU. In other words, it is not an entirely new deal.

Well done Cadbury. Great to hear production of the Dairy Milk bar is coming home to the U.K.

John Redwood (MP for Wokingham), 5th February

Friday 5th February brought news that Cadbury’s would be increasing production of their Dairy Milk bar as well as Bourneville would be moved to their site in Birmingham. It would see 125m more of the bar made at the site from 2022. This Tweet from John Redwood is included because ‘coming home’ seems to suggest that Dairy Milk production had left the UK and was returning. That would not be accurate. While some production had taken place in the EU, the majority, around 2/3s, was still being made in the UK before this announcement. Even the Prime Minister was more accurate in his Tweet…

Dairy Milk has been a firm favourite for generations, so it’s fantastic to see this Great British brand making more chocolate bars in its historic Birmingham home.’

‘No were not and there e several reason why we’re not doing it. One, vaccines are not mandatory in this country as Boris Johnson quite rightly reminded Parliament, that’s not how we do things in the UK, we do them by consent. We yet don’t know what the impact of vaccines on transmission is and it would be discriminatory’

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-upon Avon and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Covid-19 Deployment), 7th February

The vaccines Minister had the Sunday round of media interviews. This comes from his response to Andrew Marr on The Marr Show. Marr had put it to Mr Zahawi comments from the Greek Prime Minister, welcoming tourists to his country this summer provided they have proof of vaccination. Is this something the UK is considering?

Mr Zahawi rejected the idea of so-called Vaccines passports despite it being confirmed by No 10 to Pippa Crarer at the Daily Mirror two days prior they were looking at it. The story was corroborated by The Times, The Telegraph and The Spectator. It may be he is expressing his personal preferences as Government policy contrary to what had been reported up to that stage or rejecting those reports outright.

That said, he does raise interesting points about not knowing the impact of vaccines on transmission yet. That appears sound. However, his assertion that it would be discriminatory. I agree with the Minister that persuasion instead of coercion would be the ideal way towards encouraging people to be vaccinated and unless there is small print for people who could not take the vaccine for whatever reason (not including outright refusal) then it potentially could be discriminatory.

If other countries want to insist on ‘Covid passports’ that is entirely their choice and there’s nothing the UK can do about it. If they do not want to implement such a policy then that could mean UK residents finding it hard to get abroad for holidays when the situation is a lot better in the future. Dragons Den star Deborah Meadon was not impressed with the Ministers comments branding them ‘completely illogical’ insisting that we should see it was as ’enabling travel and not, ‘discriminatory. She is right. Requiring vaccinations to travel to some countries is not exactly something new. You have been required to get shots to go to some African

I make no excuse that we’ve also issued 45,000 fines for people breaking the different rules associated with this as well as of course giving support to people who need it most, the £500 hardship payment for those who need that money if they need to self-isolate…’.

Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-upon Avon and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Covid-19 Deployment), 7th February

This was slightly later into his interview with Andrew Marr. Marr had put it to the Minister that the quarantine measures were not tough enough to protect us if 29% are leaving their homes despite knowing they have to quarantine.

Amongst his response was a mention of the Covid Hardship Fund. It is a £500 payment to help support people who need to self-isolate. Marr pointed out to Matt Hancock just a few weeks prior that 7 in 10 do not qualify for that support. To qualify, the claimant needs to be both working and claiming Universal Credit. So, if you work full time and do not claim universal credit, you will not qualify for this hardship fund so self-isolating or quarantining will hit you harder as this support is not for you.

In the interview, Marr failed to pick him up on that point. Perhaps that is because the main focus of what they were discussing was the vaccination programmes and what is being done to protect us from different variants as well as the fact it was quite towards the end of the interview so may have been short for time. However, the fact most people are not eligible for that support despite the Minister’s assertion is why I included the comment

'The NHS is coping even with as many COVID patients it’s got, it’s coping very well. There is no justification any longer for having a lockdown based on the NHS being saved. The NHS’s job is to save us'

Sir Christopher Chope (MP for Christchurch), 7th February

Sir Christopher Chope was on LBC when he made several controversial claims. The Christchurch MP seems to think the NHS is coping despite having 32,908 people in hospitals with Covid, more than the 21,686 that was recorded in the April peak last year. Has the NHS been coping though? It has been extremely difficult for the NHS with stories of patients being sent from London and the South East to places as far afield as Bristol or even Newcastle because they ran out of capacity. Meanwhile, Professor Anthony Gordon, Professor critical care medicine at Imperial College London stated ICUs were still ‘full to the rafters’.

‘Come 8 March, 15m people [in the top four priority groups of over-70s, care home residents, clinically extremely vulnerable people and frontline NHS and social care staff] will have had their vaccinations for at least three weeks. They will have the immunity that comes with that and the restricted ability to transmit the disease. There’s can’t be any justification beyond 8 March for restricting people’s freedom. Everybody should be free.'

Sir Christopher Chope, (MP for Christchurch), 7th February

These comments on LBC were just over a week after it was revealed that another lockdown-sceptic MP, Sir Desmond Swayne had told groups such as Save Our Rights UK, who argued vaccines are ‘being rushed through safety testing’ covid stats had been ‘manipulated’ in November.

He was followed on LBC by Professor Stephen Reicher who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours that advises SAGE. The Professor felt the MP was peddling ‘dangerous misconceptions” with claims “based on a combination of unfounded claims and outright falsehoods“. Of the three comments, this one may be the most dangerous. Why? The vast majority of the 15m he is referring to as having been vaccinated by that point will only have had the first of two doses. They will not have the full required dose for maximum protection so they could still be at risk. Additionally, a large number of people in JCVI groups 5-9 including those who are vulnerable due to underlying conditions will not have had doses so is he suggesting these lives are expendable?

Additionally, with the vaccines, it is unknown how effective they are against variants such as the South Africa variant. Or how much of an impact they will have on transmission at the time he was making these comments. Combined with the comments regarding hospitals, just reopening everything up as he seems to be suggesting could be disastrous.

'People realise you’re going to have massive civil obedience if people in large numbers, the tens of millions, feel there is no reason any longer to be restricted in their economic and social activities.'

Sir Christopher Chope (MP for Christchurch), 7th February

This third and final claim from the Christchurch MP does not stand up against the available numbers. In the latest figures available at this date compiled by YouGov, 85% of the population supported the lockdown measures. Almost three quarters felt the measures had come too late. Now, this comes from a sample size of 4,340 people. It is a fairly large sample but will be hard to pinpoint as being totally representative of the population at large. However, if this sample is representative, then the MPs claim that ‘tens of millions’ feel there is no reason for these restrictions.

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