POLITICS
14/01/2021 17:12 GMT | Updated 14/01/2021 18:23 GMT

Senior Tory Threatens Boris Johnson’s Leadership Over Covid Lockdown

But Tories tell HuffPost UK there is “no chance” of a challenge to the PM despite ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker’s explosive letter.

Tories have hit back at a senior MP who threatened Boris Johnson’s leadership unless he provides a clear exit strategy from the coronavirus lockdown.

Steve Baker suggested to colleagues in an explosive letter leaked to the Sun that “inevitably the prime minister’s leadership will be on the table” if lockdown continues until “late spring”.

He urged Tory MPs on the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group to warn chief whip Mark Spencer, who maintains party discipline, that “the debate will become about the PM’s leadership if the government does not set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored”.

But several Tory sources dismissed the letter from Baker, a serial rebel over Covid and Brexit, telling HuffPost UK it was “self indulgent” and amounted to ”impotent, inexplicable rage”.

One MP, who shares Baker’s scepticism about lockdowns, described the letter as “tosh” and said there was “no risk of a leadership threat”.

Another source agreed there was “no chance” of a challenge from MPs who owe their seats to Johnson.

“Just some folk in safe seats who don’t tend to worry about the ballot box venting their impotent, inexplicable rage,” they said.

A separate source told HuffPost UK the letter from Baker was “self indulgent” when an end to Covid restrictions is in sight with a vaccine being rolled out.

One party figure said: “They should enjoy Brexit and spend less time writing letters.”

But the letter comes after reports that at least two MPs have submitted letters of no confidence in Johnson to the powerful 1922 committee of backbench Tories.

Resentment of Johnson’s serial U-turns, mistakes and policy decisions have also festered on Tory backbenches throughout the pandemic.

And some MPs are known to be angry at his failure to sack perceived underperformers, such as education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Baker, who was absent from a Commons vote on the lockdown last week, expressed concerns that the PM could follow the advice of “certain government scientists” who have said lockdown could last until “late spring”.

“This could be a disaster,” he said. 

“Nothing seems more certain to break the public than giving hope before taking it away, and doing it repeatedly.

“Government has adopted a strategy devoid of any commitment to liberty without any clarification about when our most basic freedoms will be restored and with no guarantee that they will never be taken away again.

“People are telling me they are losing faith in our Conservative Party leadership because they are not standing up for our values as a party.”