Backbench Tory rebellion builds as Boris Johnson dodges scrutiny committee

Prime minister Boris Johnson and chief political advisor Dominic Cummings (R) have been criticised b

Prime minister Boris Johnson and chief political advisor Dominic Cummings (R) have been criticised by Conservative MPs for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak; PA, Bancroft Media via Gerry Images - Credit: Archant

A growing number of backbench Tory MPs have criticised Boris Johnson over his handling of the coronavirus epidemic with many calling his approach 'back to front'.

Conservative MPs told The Telegraph that Johnson has failed keep backbenchers in the loop on government plans to ease lockdown measures while many say he was too slow to impose certain coronavirus restrictions.

Ministers and MP were fuming when they discovered the prime minister had already pre-recorded his 'road map out of exit' speech ahead of a cabinet meeting on the topic, effectively cutting senior ministers out exit planning.

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One expressed concern about the imposition of a 14-day quarantine period at airports too late in the pandemic. 'That should have happened at the beginning of the crisis, not at the end,' the source said.

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Another labelled Johnson's decision to brief the public on a lockdown exit plan ahead of parliament and cabinet as 'back to front thinking'.

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Backbenchers have also criticised the prime minister of ignoring difficult questions during a meeting of the 1922 committee last week.

MPs claimed that because question had to be submitted ahead of the meeting, the prime minister was able to pick and choose which ones he wished to answer.

Johnson is not the only person to draw the ire of Tory MPs. Chief government advisor Dominic Cummings has been criticised for centralising power to within the prime minister's office.

'The current lack of accountability only serves to play into Cummings' hands. He thinks MPs are stupid, ministers should all do as they're told and everything should be run by his desk,' one source said.

'But if you disregard parliament, eventually it will destroy you.'

MPs are also concerned by Johnson's no-show at the powerful Liaison Committee, which the prime minister is summoned to once a year to answer questions on government policy.

'These are errors you wouldn't think a Conservative government would be making,' one insider said.

On top of this, backbenchers are scathing about a government boycott of certain media outlets. Many say the move to ban MPs from shows like Good Morning Britain is harmful.

'Like or loathe Piers Morgan, it's got a big audience of C1s and D2s, who are our swing voters. It's Red Wall telly.'

Even more are disappointed that they need to seek permission ahead of a press-run. 'We aren't allowed to go on the TV without prior approval, which is frustrating when the comms has been all over the place at times.'

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