No more U-turns! Angry Tories give PM a roasting in 45-minute meeting

No more U-turns! Angry Tories give Boris Johnson a roasting over his failure to scrap the two-metre rule and a series of embarrassing climbdowns

  • The PM has been accused of not listening to MPs, which has resulted in U-turns
  • Mr Johnson is also under pressure to scrap the two-metre social distancing rule
  • He received  criticism from senior Tory MPs in Wednesday’s 45-minute meeting

Tory MPs gave Boris Johnson a roasting yesterday over his failure to scrap the two-metre rule and a series of embarrassing U-turns.

The Prime Minister told backbenchers he wants to ditch the social distancing restriction but cannot unless extra safety procedures are introduced to keep his scientific advisers happy.

But he came under ‘a lot of pressure’ during a virtual 45-minute meeting with senior members of the backbench 1922 Committee. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under ‘a lot of pressure’ during a virtual 45-minute meeting with senior Tory members after several u-turns and a failure to scrap the two-metre rule

The PM was urged to improve communications with Tory MPs in order to avoid U-turns, such as those over free school meals and the migrant surcharge on foreign NHS staff.

They told him to listen to feedback from experienced MPs rather than relying on a small circle of advisers such as Dominic Cummings.

And they said they felt angry that in some cases they had been out defending the original position, only for it to be changed within hours.

‘There was a very clear message that people want no more U-turns,’ an MP said. 

‘It feels like we’re lurching from one mini-crisis to the next. 

The big issue is the lack of communication between No 10 and the backbenches.

The PM has been accused of creating a lack of communication between Downing Street and the backbenches, and have advised him to listen to feedback from MPs rather than his ‘inner circle’ of advisers

‘We are seeing these problems like free school meals starting to build up momentum in our inboxes and No 10 appears to be blissfully unaware of them until it’s too late. 

‘In the meantime, we’re being asked to go out and defend things we can see they are going to cave in on.’

Critics see the current distance requirement as a barrier to getting schools and businesses – especially pubs and restaurants – up and running. 

But the current scientific advice is that reducing the distance could risk a second spike of coronavirus infection.

Yesterday Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said no change would be made to the social distancing rules unless it could be shown to be safe. 

He suggested that a move to 1 metre could help cinemas to reopen because their business model allowed them to operate half-full, unlike theatres.

During the daily Downing Street briefing, Mr Dowden said: ‘I think that would be of more benefit to cinemas because I think they are better able to operate at lower capacities.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) announced there will be no change to the two-metre social distancing rule until it is safe to do so

The issue of social distancing dominated the virtual meeting of the 1922 executive, according to one of those present.

Mr Johnson told the MPs that while he would like to get the distance down to 1 metre or 1.5 metres, this could only be done if he could find a way to ‘work around’ scientists’ advice. 

The source said: ‘The two-metre rule was the big, big issue. He was clear that he wants to get rid of it but his concern is the medical advice saying it should stay.

‘He doesn’t want to act against the medical advice, so it’s a question of finding a way to work around it. The feeling in the room was he needs to get on with it, and I think he accepts that.’

Earlier this week Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, suggested that staff in offices could work closer together than 2 metres as long as they sat side by side rather than face to face, and as long as there was good ventilation.

In the meeting, Mr Johnson reiterated that he wanted to get more children back to school as he criticised Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and union leaders for refusing to say it was safe to do so. 

Meanwhile GPs expressed concern that lockdown measures were being eased ‘too quickly’. 

A survey of family doctors, conducted by Pulse magazine, found that 71 per cent believe the Government has eased measures too quickly, with 25 per cent saying far too quickly.

And 81 per cent of GPs said the Cummings affair – in which the No10 aide was caught apparently flouting lockdown rules – made people less likely to follow government advice.

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