Boris Johnson faced fresh pressure last night over his Covid clampdown after Tory donors warned that ‘draconian’ measures were strangling the economy and deterring workers from going back to their offices.
The ‘rule of six’, which bans groups of seven people or more meeting socially from tomorrow, has been introduced despite most city centres – and Whitehall offices – being deserted.
Soviet-born British businessman Alexander Temerko, who has given more than £1.2 million to the Tories over seven years, told The Mail on Sunday that protecting the economy should be the priority.
Boris Johnson faced fresh pressure last night over his Covid clampdown after Tory donors warned that ‘draconian’ measures were strangling the economy and deterring workers from going back to their offices
‘Without a strong economy, the NHS will be in grave danger. We must get people back to work immediately. The Civil Service must do the same,’ he said.
‘The Civil Service must be the example of the Government’s policy of a full return to work. This is vital for our economy. Workers in offices increase productivity in jobs and boost local economies that rely on them. Safeguarding the health of our economy is the key to saving our public health and society, too. We need mass testing, robust track-and-trace, and safe offices to get our economy working again.’
And today in this newspaper, hotelier Sir Rocco Forte, who gave the Tories £100,000 last year, said: ‘The whole country shouldn’t be forced to lock down and follow restrictions because of a group of people who are at risk. We should be allowed to get on with our lives in the normal way.’
Sir Rocco, who took three weeks to recover from coronavirus in March, said he has no plans to donate to the Tories again, adding: ‘At the moment I can’t afford to.’
It is understood that members of the exclusive ‘Leader’s Group’ of wealthy donors, who enjoy dinners with Boris Johnson and the Cabinet after paying £50,000 or more a year, have raised concerns over the latest clampdown.
A Leader’s Group insider said: ‘They don’t like being told what to do, they don’t like being told to go into groups of six or lockdown or anything like that.
‘In the main, they say we’ve got to keep the economy going. They say this is undemocratic. They’re not happy about the way the Government has handled Covid, they’re unhappy about Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and the whole going back to school thing. They feel that was handled badly.’
One donor who had given the party a total of £1 million over ten years resigned last month, although it is understood the lobbying row that engulfed Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick was also ‘a major contributory factor’.
The anger of party donors comes amid a continuing split in the Government between the ‘hawks’, led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who are worried about the lasting damage being done to the economy by restrictions, and the ‘doves’, led by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who want to give priority to measures to stamp out the virus.
The ‘rule of six’, which bans groups of seven people or more meeting socially from tomorrow, has been introduced despite most city centres – and Whitehall offices – being deserted. Bolton centre is pictured above on September 8th
Mr Sunak’s allies believe that Mr Hancock has been ‘captured’ by Government scientists such as Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, believing they have too much influence over No 10. One said: ‘If Whitty had his way we would still be in full lockdown.’
Mr Hancock will tomorrow announce a memorial to frontline health staff who died during the pandemic.
The 13ft bronze sculpture will be at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where Mr Johnson was treated for the virus. Every NHS worker who died will have their name on the stone plinth.
A Leader’s Group source said last night that membership of the club always ‘ebbs and flows’.
On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics will publish its latest figures on unemployment and universal credit claims.
Meanwhile, the Chancellor will attend a ministerial committee to discuss the broad economic picture, including how to make businesses ‘winter-proof’.