Tory Brexiteer MP Desmond Swayne has led a rebellion against his party’s ‘monstrous imposition’ of wearing face masks in shops during the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the MP – who once claimed it is acceptable to ‘black face’ at parties – said: ‘Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping than the thought of having to mask up.
‘Was this consultation with the police force and particularly the chief constable of Hampshire, for it is she that will have to enforce this monstrous imposition against myself and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents?’
As Twitter users branded the Brexiteer ‘selfish’ and ‘irrelevant’, Hancock explained: ‘The balance in the need to restrict the spread of the virus, whilst also allowing the ancient liberties of a gentleman to go shopping, is a difficult balance to strike and we have made the judgment that the best way to strike it is to allow a gentleman to go shopping, but require him to wear a face mask.
‘And of course, enforcement is for the police, but the enforcement, I think, will largely be undertaken by the British people themselves who have been remarkable in their fortitude, sticking with these rules even whilst they may be a frustrating imposition.’
Swayne was not the only unhappy Tory to react with anger to the news from the government.
Grassroots members cut up their membership cards as #NoMasks and the word ‘muzzles’ trended on Twitter.
Supporters said the order – which will come into effect from July 24 and carries a maximum fine of £100 for non-compliance – is incompatible with their libertarian values.
Others claimed there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the measure has meaningful health benefits.
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Dominey Jenner, a stay-at-home mother and former teacher from Wimbledon, south-west London, said that she had been ‘quite sceptical about the lockdown’ but said the face mask rules are the ‘final straw’.
‘If you look at the statistics regarding the cases and the death rate, which is plummeting… why now you would bring in mandatory face masks?’ she told the PA News Agency.
‘The other strand for me is the libertarian strand. I think people should be trusted, I think we should be given a choice.
‘I’m really angry at how the government has invoked fear in its population to control people – I think that is the wrong way to manage a population and to govern.’
Jenner said she was now considering supporting Nigel Farage.
‘(Johnson) has made some big mistakes,’ Jenner said. ‘He’s not communicated a vision. It went from squashing the sombrero and saving the NHS, to the R number, which seems to have disappeared from everyone’s vocabulary.
‘I actually don’t know what he’s seeking to achieve.’
She added that the government’s move has left her politically homeless.
‘This is the dilemma, I really have no idea now,’ she said. ‘I really hope that some people create a new party. I’ve got my eyes on Nigel Farage and his Reform Party, possibly, but I haven’t done much research on what they stand for.
‘I probably brought down the average mean age of the Conservative Party massively and I’m also female, so I think I was a bit of an asset to them in some ways and they’ve totally lost me.’