‘Why do you think you know better?!’ BBC’s Robinson slams Harper on Covid Tory rebellion

Robinson clashes with Harper over leading Tory Covid rebellion

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A total of 99 Conservative Party rebels voted against Covid certification in the House of Commons on Tuesday which dealt a hammer blow to Boris Johnson’s leadership. Mark Harper, who heads the lockdown sceptic CRG, was one of the ringleaders of the vote with the measure passing 369-126. But BBC Radio 4’s Nick Robinson invited Mr Harper on the Today Programme to explain why he chose to go against medical expert advice with the Tory MP slamming Boris Johnson and explaining how the Prime Minister’s Sunday Covid broadcast should have been handled.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Robinson grilled Mr Harper over his decision to defy the Prime Minister’s vote.

The journalist said: “I understand your general point you are making and you feel strongly about it and it’s clear many of your colleagues do…

“But let me put to you the quote I that I read out from Daniel Finkelstein’s column in the Times, Conservative peer and former adviser.

“Anyone who thinks the Prime Minister is incapable of judging the need for public health measures in a pandemic is someone who thinks there should be a different prime minister.

“If that’s what they think, they should say so, will you know say so?”

Mr Harper skirted around the question and said Mr Johnson should “act differently” in the way he introduces certain measures.

Mr Robinson accused him of “ignoring” his point and demanded to know why Mr Harper felt he “knew better” than those who run the health service and advise the Government.

The Tory MP replied: “First of all, the advice that ministers have to take and indeed members of parliament isn’t just based on scientific and medical advice.

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“We have to judge that against the impact on the economy, on people’s lives and livelihoods, social impacts and indeed the things the NHS is doing not related to Covid.”

Mr Harper said it was not simply about the advice from the Chief Medical Officer before explaining his take on how Covid rules should be presented to the country.

He continued: “Let me give you an example, instead of the Prime Minister giving a late-night address on Sunday and scaring many people witless, a better thing to do would have been to come to the House of Commons on Monday to set out in detail the advice he has received…

“What I am aiming for is to change how he operates so that Parliament is properly involved, have a proper debate in this country about how we’re going to deal with this virus.”

Mr Johnson has come under fire from Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the past for making important Covid announcements via press conferences without informing the House of Commons first.

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Sir Lindsay attacked Health Secretary Sajid Javid during a Commons announcement after the Government announced it would be purchasing antivirals and updated its advice to wear masks – although it was not mandated at the time.

Sir Lindsay also clashed with the then Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi after details of the NHS pay review was published without being presented to the Commons.

The 99 Tory MPs who rebelled made it the biggest rebellion under Mr Johnson since he took office with the previous record being in December 2020 when tier restrictions were being introduced.

The vote on Tuesday saw two other votes alongside it which introduced the new mask-wearing rules and mandatory NHS vaccines – the latter saw some push back from Tory backbenchers.

Conservative rebels laid out their stance in the lead up to the vote with former Brexit Secretary David Davis saying he was concerned the Covid certification would make people complacent.

He feared those using them may flout other rules like social distancing and said regular testing would find superspreaders and new variants easier.

Chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, broadly agreed with these points too.

Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh appeared on BBC 5 Live and drew comparisons to Covid certification and “Nazi Germany” before stating he did not want the UK to turn into a “papers please” society.

Under the new rules, Covid certification which prove vaccination or a negative lateral flow test are required to enter crowded indoor venues which could include nightclubs, stadiums, theatres and other buildings if the capacity is large enough.

Gyms and hospitality venues are excluded from the rules.

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