‘Liberty more important’ Tory rebel Swayne in furious rant as PM prepares for Covid revolt

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Speaking to TalkRADIO on the impact of coronavirus laws on the right to legally protest, Sir Desmond Swayne said he was “appalled and shocked” as he warned against the further use of draconian measures to limit the population. He said: “I’m appalled. This is the worst aspect of the whole thing. What has shocked me so profoundly is being told constantly by opinion pollsters that actually people want even more restrictive measures on their liberties to get over the virus.

“We’ve simply shrugged off our fundamental rights and freedoms have been set aside.

“I think this is the most dangerous lesson that governments in the western world have learned: ‘Hey, actually people don’t really protest that much when their rights are taken away’.”

He added: “I’ve been invited to go and address these protests because of the stance that I’ve taken and I’ve taken the view that actually I do have a voice and what’s more I’m in a position as a parliamentarian where it would be irresponsible to break the law.

“But I do have huge sympathy for those people who feel that they want to exercise what has always been their right to peaceful protest.

“And I am appalled and shocked at the violence that has sent out to them as a consequence.”

He concluded: “I take the view that even if you could show me that we are saving lives as a consequence of the policy that we take, liberty is more important.”

Boris Johnson will be forced to rely on Labour to get coronavirus restrictions through Parliament with up to 100 Conservatives unhappy about the tiers system, a Cabinet minister admitted.

George Eustice acknowledged there was “great frustration” on the Tory benches about the measures, which will see 99% of England facing major restrictions on hospitality and mixing with other households.

The Prime Minister will publish an impact assessment of the restrictions ahead of a crunch Commons vote on Tuesday in an attempt to win over would-be rebels.

Scores of Tory MPs have spoken out against the new system in England, which the Government wants to bring into force on Wednesday when the national lockdown ends.

But despite offering them another chance to vote on the restrictions early next year – meaning the measures could lapse on February 3 – several said they still have reservations.

Labour is not expected to oppose the measures, meaning Mr Johnson should get them through Parliament, but being forced to rely on decisions being made by Sir Keir Starmer will be uncomfortable for the Prime Minister.

Environment Secretary Mr Eustice told Sky News that Chief Whip Mark Spencer would be trying to win round Tory MPs ahead of the vote.

“I’ve seen suggestions that there could be up to 100 or so people that have got concerns,” Mr Eustice said.

That meant “it will depend on what the Labour Party choose to do” but during a “national emergency” it would not be right to “play political games”.

Conservative MP Peter Bone said he was “undecided” and would make his mind up after seeing the impact assessment, telling the PA news agency: “The dilemma I have is do we do more damage by the tiered system of lockdown, or do we do less.”

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Another senior Tory backbencher said that his vote was “still in the balance” as he urged Mr Johnson to provide analysis of how the tier restrictions will affect businesses, saying he did not have confidence that the Government was really considering their needs.

Labour leader Sir Keir is expected to hold talks with England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty on Monday, as he decides whether to support the Government’s tier system.

The Prime Minister’s argument for stringent restrictions will be boosted by new figures suggesting coronavirus infections fell by almost a third in England during the second national lockdown.

There was a 30 percent drop in cases across the country over almost a fortnight this month, the latest interim findings from Imperial College London’s React study showed.

Regionally, the research suggests infections fell by more than half in the North West and North East, and were also down in Yorkshire and the Humber. But prevalence remained high in the East Midlands and West Midlands.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said the findings suggested the tiers before the beginning of November, followed by the lockdown, had helped bring cases down.

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