Boris Johnson’s litany of U-turns can not go on – and have created a “climate of uncertainty” around the government, a senior Tory MP has warned.
Sir Charles Walker, deputy of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for MPs to defend the government – as policies can be quickly dropped by ministers.
Johnson’s response to coronavirus has been littered with U-turns – most recently on the wearing of face masks in schools, and the catastrophic A-level fiasco.
Sir Charles – normally a staunch Johnson loyalist – laid into the prime minister as a new poll suggested that Labour has drawn level with the Tories for the first time since July 2019. A snapshot survey by Opinium put the Tories and Labour neck and neck on 40%.
In an interview with the Observer, he said: “Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. This is not a sustainable way to approach the business of governing and government.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for backbenchers now to promote and defend government policy as so often that policy is changed or abandoned without notice.
“Whether this approach is by design or by accident, the climate of uncertainty it creates is unsustainable and erodes morale.”
The government has been roundly criticised for its response to the pandemic. Just days before children are due back in classrooms in England, ministers announced that secondary pupils must wear face coverings in school corridors – within local lockdown areas.
The A-level U-turn was arguably the most damaging – with thousands of students being allowed to use teacher-predicted grades after a public outcry over the unfairness of the government’s algorithm.
Teachers criticised Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, on Saturday for sharing “last-minute” guidance explaining what to do during virus outbreaks and local lockdowns.