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Government U-turns causing 'uncertainty and eroding morale', warns senior Tory backbencher

Boris Johnson on a visit to Appledore shipyard last week (Credit: PA)

2 min read

A series of U-turns by Boris Johnson's cabinet on crunch decisions are causing uncertainty and making it "difficult for backbenchers to promote and defend government policy", a senior Tory MP has warned.

Charles Walker, vice-chair of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbechers, said decisions taken by the PM during the coronavirus crisis had caused consternation among some supporters. 

“Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing," he told the Observer.

"This is not a sustainable way to approach the business of governing and government."

It comes after the scrapping of a controversial algorithm used to determine A-level results, which saw thousands of students have their grades revised down before the Government decided to revert to teachers' predictions on results; and a last-minute turnaround on the wearing of facemasks in schools.

Ministers previously changed their mind on other key coronavirus policies, including the use of the NHS Test and Trace app, a ban on evictions and the extension of free school meals provision during the summer holidays.

Sources close to the committee told the paper Mr Walker and Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee were expecting to have their “ears bent” by colleagues when MPs return to Parliament on Tuesday and are planning to relay their concerns to Downing Street.

“We need to take the temperature on Tuesday and Wednesday and then decide what the plan of action is,” the source said. 

Meanwhile Mr Walker, a well-known supporter of Mr Johnson and of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, added: “It is becoming increasingly difficult for backbenchers now to promote and defend government policy as so often that policy is changed or abandoned without notice. Whether this approach is by design or by accident, the climate of uncertainty it creates is unsustainable and erodes morale.”

And last week the senior backbench figure told talkRADIO he believed the PM had lost his confidence. 

"He's not sure of his political footing anymore. I think he's got to trust himself more than he trusts the people around him," he added.

A poll by Opinium, released on Saturday night, showed Labour neck-and-neck with the Tories on 40% approval ratings for the first time since last summer. 

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