Sunday 3 March 2024
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Council leader and MP speaks out on No.10 Christmas party and will vote against Covid Plan B

Mansfield Conservative MP Ben Bradley says he will vote against the Government’s new Covid restrictions and believes reintroducing further measures is a “slippery slope”.

Mr Bradley, who is also the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, is one of a number of backbench Conservative MPs speaking out after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced ‘Plan B’ on Wednesday ( 8 December ) to tackle a rise in Covid cases and the threat of the Omicron variant.

The new measures will reintroduce the requirement to work from home ‘if you can’, from Monday (December 13).

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They also mean a return of masks in most indoor public spaces including theatres and cinemas from Friday, and from Wednesday use of the NHS Covid Pass – proving vaccination status or a negative lateral flow test – for entry to venues such as nightclubs.

There will also be daily tests for contacts of people with the Omicron variant, rather than isolation.

Mr Johnson also suggested there should be a “national conversation” about the introduction of compulsory vaccinations.

Mr Bradley said he cannot support the measures.

He believes there is no evidence to suggest the need for tighter restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, describing measures like vaccine passports and mandatory jabs as restricting “peoples’ freedoms”.

This is despite Professor Chris Whitty, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, confirming there have been 568 cases of the Omicron variant and suggesting there will be a lag before it begins to impact hospitalisations.

He said Omicron is doubling “every two to three days”, which is much faster than the previous Delta variant, with evidence in South Africa showing a big increase in hospital admissions once the new strain takes hold.

But Mr Bradley said: “I don’t see how you can justify restrictions ‘just in case’, and if that’s going to be your argument, how long does that go on for, and how many times do we go along this loop?

“I worry it’s a bit of a slippery slope. Precautions are one thing but when you start to restrict peoples’ freedoms, like with vaccine passports, you need pretty good data and evidence to support it.

“There are clearly risks and there always will be risks for as long as there is Covid, but we can’t keep turning the taps on and off.”

However, Labour’s Alex Norris MP, who represents Nottingham North, said the Government has not acted quick enough in response to the new strain.

He said: “Plan B measures, such a mask-wearing and working from home, have been Labour’s plan all autumn. Once again the Government has been too slow to act.”

The new measures come alongside the backdrop of Christmas parties allegedly being held in Downing Street last year when the country was under strict Covid rules.

The Prime Minister has faced questions on a party allegedly held in 10 Downing Street on 18 December last year, at the same time Nottinghamshire and London were under strict Tier 3 rules and when indoor gatherings were banned.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson confirmed an investigation will be run by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.

This will look into whether the Number 10 party – and other, suggested parties around the same time – took place, with the Prime Minister “repeatedly assured” all guidance was followed despite a leaked video of a Number 10 press conference rehearsal suggesting otherwise.

Commenting on the alleged parties, Mr Bradley said: “The rules apply equally to staff in Downing Street as they do for the public.

“You can get into the debate of was it a work meeting, did it have wine or was it a party? It’s almost irrelevant.

“What really bugs me is people in that position in Number 10, in that office and with that level of trust, should know better.

“I don’t think there will be a choice but to follow whatever the recommendations end up being in the Cabinet Secretary’s report, because anything else would be outrageous.”

On whether he thinks it will deter the public from following the new measures, he added: “This last week has been awful.

“This debate of the parties and the rules being broken makes us, as MPs, just as angry as members of the public.

“It reflects on us whether we were there or not, so I’m just as frustrated by it as everyone else and it certainly doesn’t help when it comes to telling people to change their daily routines.”

However, Mr Bradley said he does not believe this week’s controversy threatens Boris Johnson’s position as Prime Minister.

But Nottingham North MP Alex Norris (Lab) has urged the Government to “come clean” on what happened at the parties – saying Downing Street is taking Nottinghamshire residents for “fools”.

He said: “Whilst people in Nottinghamshire were making massive sacrifices to fight the virus, the Government was partying.

“They think we’re fools. They need to stop lying and come clean about what parties took place, who allowed them, and who was present.”

MPs are expected to vote on the new restrictions on Tuesday (December 14).

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