Tory MPs Said Boris Johnson Had Been “Abducted By Dr Strangelove And Reprogrammed By Sage” While Attacking The Covid-19 “Graph Of Doom”
One MP suggested Boris Johnson had been 'abducted by Dr Strangelove' in reference to the Stanley Kubrick film (PA)
Tory MPs have accused the country’s chief scientists of attempting "to terrify the British people” as they attacked the government’s coronavirus restrictions.
The former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said he was “left wondering if the Prime Minister hasn't been abducted by Dr Strangelove and reprogrammed by the Sage over to the dark side” as a host of backbenchers called for more Parliamentary scrutiny of lockdown measures.
Chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance’s press conference last month, where they warned the UK could hit 50,000 Covid-19 cases a day at the end of October, had “undermined public trust”.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Desmond suggested the pair should have lost their jobs: “The purpose of politicians is to impose a measure of proportion, a sense of proportion on science, and not to be enthralled to it.
"Now I will make myself very unpopular, but I believe that the appearance of the chiefs last week should have been a sacking offence.”
He added: ”It was the purpose of the Fat Boy in Pickwick Papers, 'I wants to make yer flesh creep'.
“It was project fear, it was an attempt to terrify the British people, as if they haven't been terrified enough."
His Tory colleague Lucy Allan, the MP for Telford, argued against further blanket lockdowns, saying: “There is no need to impose indiscriminate, sometimes arbitrary or capricious restrictive measures on everyone."
She said of Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick’s briefing: "That chart last Monday undermined public trust, quite clearly pushing a worst-case scenario without telling us the probability of such a scenario occurring.
“Was it designed to instil fear in order to control the public? Is that how we want to govern?"
Ms Allan praised the work of ministers during the pandemic, but added: “I do ask that they challenge the science with pragmatism, do not be blinded by it, science is often as much about opinion as is politics and we should never be disregarding the people we are sent here to serve.”
The former chief whip Mark Harper criticised the “graph of doom” from the chief scientists and said he was unwilling to let ministers bypass Parliament and bring in restrictions “by decree”.
Another Tory former minister, Sir Christopher Chope, said the government was “guilty of covert mission creep” and wanted to keep the powers to affect people’s lives beyond when they are needed.
The debate comes two days before a crunch vote on the emergency coronavirus powers, with a group of rebel Conservatives threatening to wreck the government’s flagship legislation.
One of those behind the amendment to the motion on renewing the powers, Steve Baker, said he had met with health secretary Matt Hancock, government chief whip Mark Spencer and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to discuss a compromise giving MPs a vote on any future measures before they come into place.
He said it was a "cordial and constructive meeting”, and Mr Hancock said from the despatch box he would meet with the group, headed by the chair of the 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady, before Wednesday’s debate.
Earlier Mr Baker likened some of the restrictions to George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, and compared Boris Johnson to Lord of the Rings character King Theoden who is “under the spell” of his advisers.
He told TimesRadio: “And he has to be woken up from that spell and when he wakes from that spell joy comes to pass in the kingdom.
“And I am afraid at the moment somebody needs to wake Theoden from his slumber. When Theoden awakes, and I mean Boris, everything will come right.”