In Great Britain, the Conservatives are divided over the Corona strategy. Prime Minister Johnson opposes the lockdown-skeptic right wing.
Long postponed speech: Boris Johnson on Oct. 31 Photo: Alberto Pezzali/ap
It took a serious word to get British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to finally start on Saturday. For two hours, the BBC waited for his live address to begin and postponed its programs. When the broadcaster said it couldn’t sacrifice the hit TV show "Strictly Come Dancing" as well, the speech finally began. With a serious face, Johnson said nothing could be done about nature. Therefore, a new Coronalockdown would apply throughout England from Thursday, November 5, until December 3.
Already on September 21, the scientific crisis team SAGE had recommended a short lockdown to the government. The government initially tried to avoid this by restricting meetings of all kinds to a maximum of six people. This was followed a few weeks later by a three-tier system with restrictions of varying severity depending on the level of infection.
Nevertheless, according to SAGE, the infection rate in a few weeks will be higher than estimated in the most pessimistic forecasts.
The hardest hit areas are the northwest and northeast of England – precisely the impoverished and depleted former industrial regions that Johnson’s Conservatives took from Labour in the 2019 election with promises to rebuild them. But the fact that the toughest -LCorona restrictions recently applied there, while things were more relaxed in the rich south, was met with incomprehension even within the Tory faction in Parliament.
The newly formed faction-internal "Northern Research Group," to which some 50 northern MPs belong, spearheaded this criticism. The nationwide lockdown now deprives them of the argument that the London government is being tougher on the north.
In the spring, the particularly severe spread of coronavirus in the U.K. was linked to Johnson’s reluctance to introduce a lockdown. Once again, the prime minister does not want to make that mistake. Even now, the prime minister has hesitated far too long, claims opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer. But within the Conservatives, criticism of tough measures that cut off the economy is much louder today than it was in the spring.
Rishi Sunak and Nigel Farage oppose them.
"Diabolical" is what Graham Brady, head of backbenchers in the Conservative caucus, calls the new measures. And even Johnson’s cabinet seems divided. The indication is that the new measures were announced on Saturday instead of Monday, as planned: A leak reached the Times on Friday night, and as a result the government could wait no longer. Health Minister Matt Hancock is suspected of wanting to ensure that Johnson did not back down.
The most prominent opponent of lockdowns is Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, the most popular politician in the British government. On top of that, Brexit spokesman Nigel Farage has recently been trumpeting against the coronal lockdown. The disease is "only very dangerous for a tiny minority," while the measures are causing serious damage, Farage wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
There has also been criticism in the business community. Carolyn Fairbairn, chairwoman of the business federation CBI, called Monday for the government to keep the economy as open as possible.