The last thing the Conservative party needs is yet more rebellion with its own ranks.
But plans to build extra houses are causing uproar among some of its most prominent MPs, including former Prime Minister Theresa May.
An algorithm which gives new housing targets to councils in England has incensed many Conservative MPs, who believe it could mean more buildings being constructed in leafy shires – which some say flies in the face of the Government’s levelling up agenda.
Nusrat Ghani, a Tory MP and former minister, said she abstained after watching the “rule of six” debate and not being satisfied with the reason given that the restriction was brought in.
She said the social care minister Helen Whately justified it as being based on “the simplicity of the message not actual science”.
“It didn’t convince me to vote for it,” Ms Ghani tweeted.
“We need a proportionate response and justifications for limiting families’ freedoms.”
Another MP, Mark Harper, let loose frustration at Ms Whately for claiming opposition to some restrictions would “let rip” the virus.
“We all want the government to be successful,” he said.
“But if every time somebody asks a question or posits a different strategy, we are accused of wanting to let it rip and kill tens of thousands of people, this debate will not remain good-tempered and I would just say to her please accept we are all trying to get this right.”
And Steve Baker, a third Tory MP, added: “It’s not clear now that the benefit outweighs the costs of lockdown. We have to ask whether this set of circumstances is really what we want.”
Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s chief whip, said his party voted against the measure which only affects England “for consistency”.
He tweeted: “Government should exclude under 13s as in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. A more joined up approach needed.”
A bigger row is brewing over the 10pm curfew, with rebels unfazed by the small number of Tories who voted against the government this time.
TODAY’S CONSERVATIVES are always smashing things up or threatening to smash things up. Having taken on the BBC, the civil service, Parliament and the Supreme Court, the government has now graduated to international law. Boris Johnson is so determined to reverse elements of the withdrawal agreement with the European Union—an agreement that he negotiated, signed and campaigned on in the general election—that he is willing to break the terms of it. If this means leaving the EU without a deal that would be a “good outcome for the UK”, according to Mr Johnson.
Where does this attitude come from? There is a dash of Donald Trump-style bullying. Threats against the BBC have frightened it into reining in its more outspoken journalists. The savaging of the civil service has produced a more compliant cohort of permanent secretaries. There is also a dash of Silicon Valley. Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s adviser, likes talking about “creative destruction”, with an emphasis on the destruction, and “moving fast and breaking things”, with an emphasis on the breaking. But the willingness to attack also has deep roots in the Conservative tradition.
The conventional view of British conservatism is that it is uniquely flexible. The Tories are the world’s oldest conservative party, the argument goes, because they have avoided the mistake, common on the continent, of looking for ditches to die in. Yet there is also a more bloody-minded Conservative tradition, one well expressed by Lord Salisbury, three times prime minister, when he wrote that “hostility to radicalism, incessant, implacable hostility, is the essential definition of Conservatism. The fear that the Radicals may triumph is the only final cause that the Conservative Party can plead for its own existence.”
Conservatism was forged in reaction to the French revolution, and has repeatedly renewed itself in reaction to slower, milder revolutions, such as the rise of the mixed economy and the evolution of the European Union. There is a limit to the party’s willingness to compromise with such change. Even Robert Peel, the hero of liberal conservatism and champion of free trade, insisted that, at some point, you have to be willing to say to the “restless spirit of revolutionary change, ‘Here are thy bounds, and here shall thy vibrations cease’.” Conservatives eventually ran out of patience with the mixed economy when strikes became a way of life. They are now running out of patience with parts of the liberal revolution. People who made peace with the gay-rights revolution are drawing the line at treating sex as a “social construct”.
This tough-minded conservatism starts with the belief that the best way to prevent (or reverse) revolutions is to learn from them. Conservatives are often the harshest critics of the old regime because they realise the only way to save it is to revitalise it. They can also be secret admirers of revolutionaries. Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, the foundation text of modern conservatism, is full of laments about the decadence of the old regime (“sluggish, inert and timid”) and pleas to learn from the Jacobins. “To destroy that enemy”, he says, “the force opposed to it should be made to bear some analogy and resemblance to the force and spirit which that system exerts.”
Learning from revolutionaries means being willing to engage in ideological struggle. Joseph Schumpeter argued that the problem with business people is that they can’t “say boo to a goose”. They need clear-sighted intellectuals to do the boo-saying for them. It also means being willing to sanction some extraordinary measures, if that is the only way to prevent the locomotive of history from heading over the cliff.
This tradition has been powerfully reinforced by American conservatism, which is tied to its British cousin by a network of think-tanks, fellowships and conferences. Barry Goldwater was regarded as nutty when he pronounced that “extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice…Moderation in the defence of justice is no virtue.” In the current Republican Party such sentiments are mainstream. Michael Anton presented revolutionary conservatism in its purest form by dubbing the 2016 election “the flight 93 election”, alluding to United Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania on September 11th 2001: “Charge the cockpit or you die.” He has now published an equally apocalyptic book on the forthcoming election, “The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return”.
Though nobody on the British right has been quite as apocalyptic, the long-term impact of revolutionary conservatism will be bigger on Britain than America. The odds are that Donald Trump will lose the next election, perhaps taking the Republican majority in the Senate with him. Brexit has made revolutionary conservatism the default option of the British right. The government’s willingness to break international law has troubled some Conservatives. But the striking thing is how few have spoken out.
Pessimism of the spirit, optimism of the will
The party is now dominated by revolutionary Conservatives. Moderates have been purged over Brexit and hard men hold all the highest positions. The likes of Mr Cummings and Michael Gove have studied Lenin and Gramsci, as well as bloody-minded British conservatives such as Maurice Cowling and Norman Stone. They are determined to do for the liberal establishment what they have already done for the European establishment.
These revolutionaries have troops on the ground. If left-wing revolutionaries deal in hope for a better future, however illusory, conservative ones deal in something even more powerful: feelings of loss. The Conservatives have a core of older voters who fear they are losing their country to woke activists. In the last election it added a new army of working-class Britons who fear they have lost their way of life to globalisation and their old party, Labour, to distant elites. These diverse constituencies are united by a common demand that these “vibrations” should cease—and a common willingness to do whatever it takes to make them stop. ■
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Revolutionary conservatism”
Boris Johnson has urged Conservative MPs to back his plan to override part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
In a Zoom call with about 250 of them, he said the party must not return to “miserable squabbling” over Europe.
The EU has warned the UK it could face legal action if it does not ditch controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill by the end of the month.
And a Tory MP has proposed an amendment to the bill, which would affect trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament has threatened to scupper any UK-EU trade deal if the bill becomes UK law.
The two sides have less than five weeks to agree a deal before Mr Johnson’s 15 October deadline – after which he says he is prepared to “walk away”.
Informal talks are due to resume on Monday, with the next official round of talks – the ninth since March – starting in Brussels on 28 September.
The Internal Market Bill, which will be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday, addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.
If it became law it would give UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland that will come into force from 1 January, if the UK and EU are unable to strike a trade deal.
But the government has rejected this demand, arguing the measures in the bill are needed to protect the integrity of the UK and the peace process in Northern Ireland.
In his Zoom call with MPs on Friday, the prime minister did not take questions and a poor signal meant the video and audio connections were lost for several minutes.
He called for “overwhelming support” for the bill, describing it as “absolutely vital” to “prevent a foreign or international body from having the power to break up our country”.
Mr Johnson added that he would not countenance “the threat of a border down the Irish Sea”.
But he said there was still a “very good chance” of the UK and EU striking a deal by mid-October similar to that previously agreed between the EU and Canada – which got rid of most, but not all, tariffs on goods.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast he believed the government had the support of Tory MPs – and those in other parties – to pass the controversial bill, but added “we are reaching a crunch moment”.
BBC chief political correspondent Vicki Young said Tory MPs had been “looking for a sign of compromise” from Mr Johnson, because they “simply can’t believe the government is prepared to break international law”, but the prime minister “dug his heels in”.
He accused the EU of adopting an “extreme” interpretation of the Northern Ireland Protocol to impose “a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea” that could stop the transport of food from Britain to Northern Ireland.
“I have to say that we never seriously believed that the EU would be willing to use a treaty, negotiated in good faith, to blockade one part of the UK, to cut it off,” he said.
Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it would be “irrational” not to allow the transportation of food in such a way, which would happen if the UK was not granted third-country listing. Such a listing is needed for the export of food.
The PM said it had become clear that there might be a “serious misunderstanding” between the UK and EU over the Withdrawal Agreement.
He said the UK must be protected from what he called a “disaster” of the EU being able to “carve up our country” and “endanger peace and stability in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Gove said the attorney general had said the government was acting within the rule of law – and that it was important to have an “insurance policy”.
He insisted the government was being “proportionate and generous” in its approach to the EU talks.
‘A harmful act’
Conservative backbencher Sir Bob Neill, who chairs the Commons Justice Committee, said he was not reassured by the prime minister’s Zoom call.
He is tabling an amendment to the bill to try to force a separate parliamentary vote on any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
“I believe it is potentially a harmful act for this country, it would damage our reputation and I think it will make it harder to strike trade deals going forward,” he said.
At about the same time as the prime minister was speaking, the European Parliament announced it would “under no circumstances ratify” any trade deal reached between the UK and EU if the “UK authorities breach or threaten to breach” the Withdrawal Agreement.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has admitted parts of the bill, which would go against a treaty signed by the UK and EU, would “break international law in a very specific and limited way”.
There is unease over this within the Conservative Party, with former leaders Theresa May, Lord Howard and Sir John Major urging Mr Johnson to think again.
Megan Thee Stallion has claimed fellow rapper Tory Lanez shot her in both feet after a party in the Hollywood Hills.
The incident happened on 12 July, but the 25-year-old – whose real name is Megan Pete – has refused to name the person allegedly responsible until now.
Canadian artist Lanez – whose legal name is Daystar Peterson – was arrested on suspicion of possession of a concealed weapon on the morning of the shooting but has not been charged with any crime.
Speaking in an Instagram Live video on Thursday night, a visibly upset Meghan told fans: “Yes … Tory shot me. You shot me and you got your publicist and people to these blogs lying. Stop lying!”
Lanez, 28, is yet to comment publicly on the accusation.
Megan said she did not tell Los Angeles police the details of the shooting because she was afraid for her safety and feared legal repercussions.
She explained: “I didn’t tell the police nothing because I didn’t want us to get in no more trouble.”
Officers attended the incident at the time, and in a previous Instagram post she credited police with driving her to hospital where she underwent surgery to remove the bullets.
Police and prosecutors say the case remains under investigation.
Describing the evening, she said an argument broke out while she was sharing a ride in an SUV with Peterson and other people.
She said Peterson shot her when she tried to walk away and denied rumours she had hit him while in the vehicle.
She first revealed she had been shot on the week of the incident, and has revealed further details on social media since.
At the time, she said she was “extremely grateful to be alive” following the “traumatic night” but that she was “expected to make a full recovery”.
She said the reason she was posting about the incident was because “it was important to clarify the details”.
She called the resulting surgery “the worst experience of my life,” saying it was “super scary” and that she felt blessed that the gunfire hit her where it did.
In an earlier post she said was aimed to stop false rumours spreading, she said: “I got hit at the back of my feet because when I got shot I was walking away facing the back.
“Why would I lie abt getting shot? Why are y’all so upset that I don’t wanna be in the bed sad? Why y’all upset that I can walk? I got my stitches out my feet like 2 weeks ago and I was ready to go celebrate WAP going number1…”
On the same day Megan posted the Instagram video, she also tweeted, “Lie one more time and ima quit sparing you.”
The Sunday Telegraph leads on what it says is a “ministers’ blueprint” to avoid another lockdown – which would see elderly people and others at high risk from Covid-19 being asked to stay at home.
It says those being shielded could be allocated specific times to have exclusive access to some shops and services.
According to the paper, other options put forward by officials include a city-wide lockdown of London if there is a spike in infection rates, and tighter quarantine restrictions on those flying into the UK.
Fears of catching Covid-19 is putting millions of us off getting back to our normal lives, according to the Sunday Express.
Its own opinion poll found many people have decided not to go away this year. It adds that people who live in popular UK destinations are staying inside too – in case tourists bring the infection with them.
Mr Johnson’s handling of the crisis comes in for criticism in the Sunday Mirror, which has the headline “Stop this Chaos”.
The paper says millions of people in the north of England are baffled by the new restrictions.
In an interview with the paper, Unite’s leader, Len McClusky, says it will review its political donations after Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to pay damages to ex-party workers who spoke out about anti-Semitism. Mr McClusky called it an “abuse of members’ money”.
The Observer describes his intervention as “robust” and predicts it will intensify the infighting caused by the settlement, which was opposed by the former leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
It reports that Britain’s second biggest mortgage lender, Nationwide, will start asking for proof that at least three-quarters of the cash paid up front has come from the buyer’s own savings.
The paper’s editorial notes this will come as a blow to parents too – suggesting that helping their offspring get a deposit is not entirely philanthropic – “but sometimes the only way to get your child to leave home”.
A Conservative MP has prompted widespread condemnation after saying the “vast majority” of those breaking lockdown rules are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, while providing no evidence to support his claims.
Craig Whittaker suggested BAME people – particularly Muslims – were “not taking [the coronavirus pandemic] seriously enough”.
The comments were widely criticised, with Labour describing them as “disgraceful and overt racism” and calling for him to apologise.
Disgraceful and overt racism from this Tory MP blaming Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, the very people whose lives and livelihoods have been the worst hit by Covid-19.
“What I have seen in my constituency is that we have… sections of the community that are just not taking the pandemic seriously,” he said.
Asked to confirm that he was referring to the Muslim community, Mr Whittaker responded: “Of course.
“If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases, the vast majority – not by any stretch of the imagination all areas – it is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough.
“I’ve been challenging our local leaders for… three weeks, asking what we are doing to target these areas to let people know that this is still a very serious problem. Until people take it seriously, we’re not going to get rid of this pandemic.”
He added: “It’s not just the Asian community, of course.
“We have areas of high multiple occupancy – when you have multiple families living in one household. That just doesn’t specifically have to be in the Asian community, but that is the largest proportion.
“Look at all the areas. You’ve got Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. Bradford and Kirklees have two of the largest populations in West Yorkshire.”
Payne then sought to clarify the MP’s comments again, asking: “So we’re talking immigrant communities, are we?”
Mr Whittaker responded: “We are. Immigrant and Asian population.”
Critics suggested many of those areas of the UK with the highest rates of infection had predominantly white populations.
Others responded on social media by posting images of crowds of people, many apparently failing to adhere to social distancing guidelines, on beaches and outside pubs and bars.
Boris Johnson opted not to distance himself from the remarks when asked if he agreed with Mr Whittaker during a Downing Street briefing.
“I think it’s up to all of us in government to make sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everybody across the country, and to make sure that everybody is complying with the guidance,” he said.
Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, Marsha de Cordova, called on the prime minister to “take action” over the comments.
“Disgraceful and overt racism from this Tory MP blaming Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, the very people whose lives and livelihoods have been the worst hit by COVID-19,” she said.
“Boris Johnson must condemn this comment and take action.”
This is incredibly poorly-judged, divisive and hurtful from a Conservative MP. People from all communities have made extraordinary sacrifices in this crisis and the higher death rates in some communities have been heartbreaking. He should apologise without delay. https://t.co/3QdR7v9d6R
Earlier we were joined by Tim Montgomerie and Alastair Campbell
Earlier we were joined by Tim Montgomerie, a Conservative activist who has said he is “embarrassed to have ever backed Boris Johnson for high office” following the Prime Minister’s support for Dominic Cummings.
We were also joined by Alastair Campbell, who served as Director of Communications for Prime Minister Tony Blair.
We have contacted many people who have expressed support for Dominic Cummings in the last few days, but none of them wanted to come on the programme tonight.