As government ministers hint at tougher restrictions to come, one of the themes of lockdown measures so far has been resistance from the Conservative parliamentary party. However, while there remains some unease on the Tory benches over both the Christmas measures and the lack of parliamentary scrutiny of them, there has also been an increase in the number of Tory MPs willing to call for the opposite: tougher measures sooner.
Jeremy Hunt has made a public intervention today. The former health secretary has called on the government to move to a national lockdown without delay. He say this ought to include the closure of schools and borders — as well as a ban on all household mixing. The justification for such measures? He says that what we are seeing is not a normal winter crisis and that early action will save lives. Hunt adds that the arrival of a vaccine means that the lockdown will be time limited.
Another Tory MP to come out publicly is Neil O'Brien — the co-chair of a new policy group for Downing Street. O'Brien has suggested there is a strong argument for tougher measures. He has also taken a confrontational approach of late to those putting forward lockdown sceptic viewpoints.
Behind the scenes, the emergence of the new strain — which is understood to spread more easily — has changed the perspective for more Tory MPs. While any decision to close more schools will receive a major backlash from within the parliamentary party, one senior Tory estimates that roughly a third are in favour of closures.
The combination of the new strain and the arrival of approved vaccines means that the idea of short term suppression while the vaccine is rolled out is more palatable than doing so indefinitely. Today's intervention adds pressure on the government to announce new measures sooner rather than later.