Tory MP labels Boris Johnson’s government a ‘megadisaster’ as MPs return to parliament

Support us and go ad-free

Boris Johnson is facing fresh pressure from his backbenches for clarity on taxes, education, and coronavirus (Covid-19) policy as MPs return to Westminster after the summer recess.


The prime minister has come under fire for presiding over a series of U-turns, including on exam results and face coverings in schools, over the last few weeks. After months of what one Tory MP said had been a “megadisaster from one day to the next”, many are demanding reassurances from ministers as parliament resumes on Tuesday afternoon.

A senior Conservative MP told the PA news agency that backbenchers were “tired of the U-turns”.

They added:

There’s that element of calamity – and frankly there are people from the Red Wall seats who are getting jittery. But not only Red Wall seats, but other people who haven’t got marginal seats like that.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

We’d like to be in a Government that has the impression of being competent – rather than lurching from one issue to another and then after a short time doing a U-turn.

He said MPs were left with “egg on their face” each time they defended government policy to constituents, and then had to reverse their stance. The backbencher urged the government to say it would be “more careful in decision making” to avoid U-turns, and called for clarity on tax policy to “avoid the Tory party having a public row”.

Poor performance

The Conservatives won a majority of 80 seats at last year’s general election, turning traditional Labour constituencies – which formed the so-called Red Wall – blue. Some MPs are concerned that these newly won seats could be returned to Labour at the next election if the government performs poorly.

Finding a way to pay for the economic impact of coronavirus is already dividing Conservatives. One senior Tory told PA it was right to “consider a temporary change” to the triple lock on pensions for a year – as is reportedly being considered – to “take account of the fact that it is the younger generation who are bearing the brunt of the effects of Covid”.

Another suggested chancellor Rishi Sunak take a leaf out of predecessor Nigel Lawson’s book by reducing taxes in a bid to encourage growth. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said the panel’s executives expected to meet Johnson in the “near future” to relay the concerns of backbenchers.

Conservative Party Conference
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

He told PA:

I think there is a lot of sympathy (among Conservative backbenchers) for the fact it has been unprecedented, but then I think we mustn’t make other own goals.

There are other issues like planning which are now beginning to bubble to the surface… devolution of local authorities is another area that is going to surface in the autumn. We must be very careful with what issues we bring up not to create unnecessary controversy.

We may have a big majority but that still doesn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t be as competent as possible as a Government.

He said there had been problems – such as with exam results – which could have been “foreseen” and called for more “strategic thinking” from Number 10.

Foreign aid

One other mooted policy is to cut the foreign aid budget, which stands at 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income. Conservative former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

With the ink hardly dry on our manifesto, I don’t think the House of Commons would easily agree to balance the books on the backs of the poorest women and children in the world.

Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood said the proposal was “shortsighted in failing to appreciate how well-targeted aid can strengthen relationships and open up new markets – thus helping the Treasury”.


The government is also under pressure to ensure the reopening of schools in England this week goes without a hitch, and does not push up coronavirus cases. On 29 August, teaching unions criticised the government after it released guidance for local lockdown areas at the “last-minute”. The National Education Union argued they should have received this information “months ago”.

Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon told PA he wanted the government and exam regulators to provide “absolute clarity” on syllabuses so teachers know what to teach – as well as reassurance for parents and teachers that it is safe to return. He also said schools should run tests to assess pupils’ academic attainment, mental health, and wellbeing, and send the results to the Department for Education and Ofqual to help determine when exams should take place next year.

“I’m not talking about nationwide exams – I think that’s the last thing we need – but just some basic understanding of what catch-up is needed… and to work out what delay is needed if (exams) need to be delayed”, he told PA.

Challenging times

Other challenges facing the Government this autumn including trying to strike a Brexit deal before the end of the transition period, the merger of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development, and the expected rise in unemployment when the furlough scheme ends.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us