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Conservative Councillors Opine on Plan B Vote

Published on: 14 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 15 Dec, 2021

By Emily Coady Stemp

local democracy reporter

Conservative councillors in Surrey are calling for caution on both sides of the debate for increased restrictions ahead of the vote on coronavirus Plan B measures.

MPs will vote today (December 14) on introducing additional measures for a six-week period, with a review after three weeks.

The measures would include vaccine passports for nightclubs and sporting events and compulsory mask-wearing in most indoor settings.

But one local Tory councillor says he thinks Boris Johnson is being pushed into the decision by the opposition and by “bullying” SAGE scientists.

Tandridge district councillor Michael Cooper (Conservative, Harestone) said he thought that at some point we would have to learn to live with the virus.

He said he understood that in winter, with a rise in other traditional winter illnesses, there might be a need for added caution.

He said: “The question is how much more cautious should you be?

“[Johnson’s] sort of being pushed into a corner by the opposition who want us in handcuffs, as well as being locked down.

“Whereas Johnson, I think, wants the reverse but you have to take account of the fact that you’ve got the SAGE scientists, who basically bully him into doing what he’s doing, as far as I can see.”

As many as 70 Conservative MPs are thought to be planning to vote against the measures. Surrey has 11 Conservative MPs, it is not clear how they may vote today.

Cllr Cooper said it was important in leadership to make sure you took everyone along with you.

He said: “That’s difficult in this situation we currently have, because it doesn’t matter which side you’re on.

“There are people who think that we’re locking down too much and there are people who think that we’re not locking down enough. So it’s very difficult to actually keep everyone happy.”

Councillor Beverley Connolly (Conservative, Harestone) said she thought the current proposed legislation was “acceptable” but didn’t think it should go any further.

She said she wouldn’t want to see any more lockdowns or any more money spent on furlough, and she especially wouldn’t want to see schools closed again because of the impact on both children and teachers.

She said: “I think we have to be cautious. I don’t think we should be going too far. I don’t think we should be having any more lockdowns. But I do think we need to be careful.

“I don’t necessarily support covid passports, but I can see the need for them. But I just think we need to be careful. We need to carry on being careful and get through it, basically.”

She added: “I think I support the whole idea of people working from home where they can. And I support the idea that we’ve all got to be careful and wear masks, I definitely support wearing of masks, but I wouldn’t want it to go any further than that.”

She said a lot of the residents she speaks to are elderly and are also being cautious, but that people had been “scared half to death”.

She said: “I think the rhetoric is that the scientists like to be almost omnipotent on this. And we should listen to the scientists, but they have been found to have, not necessarily exaggerated, but over-egged the pudding before and their numbers haven’t panned out.

“Obviously we need to respect their findings, because after all, they are the professionals.”

Cllr Jan Harwood

Guildford borough councillor Jan Harwood (Con, Merrow) left the Lib Dems last month to join the Conservative party, a move which lost him the deputy leader of the council role.

He believes the vote was too important to be tainted by events including reports last week of lockdown parties and a quiz at number 10 which Boris Johnson has denied broke any rules.

Cllr Harwood said: “As a person who’s been advocating for a putting aside of party politics for some time, and I appreciate the slight irony in that, I think this is not the time to be worried about his other decisions colouring this current item on the docket.

“There’s a lot of noise. And I think a lot of other things going on with regards to this current administration. I would hope that the decision on this is taken in a sensible manner, untainted by everything else, because it’s too important.

“I never look at something as a matter of getting behind someone. Either he’s making the right call or he’s not.”

Cllr Gill Black (Conservative, Bletchingley & Nutfield) said this was a time to pull together as a country, regardless of political affiliation and start to move on.

She said she was in favour of rescue packages that had been put out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and that she accepted that if this was the way forward, then it needed to be done.

She said: “We’ve got to be tough about it. I know the economy’s going to suffer. But the end of the day, health comes first. And if this is the way we’ve got to go forward, this is the way we’ve got to go forward I’m afraid.”

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Responses to Conservative Councillors Opine on Plan B Vote

  1. John Perkins Reply

    December 14, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    The obvious question is how to maintain health in a damaged economy. The NHS backlog has reached epic proportions already because of the prioritisation of Coronavirus over all else.

    SAGE members have consistently and persistently exaggerated their projections. To date, even their lowest estimates have exceeded reality, often by quite some way.

  2. Mark Bray-Parry Reply

    December 14, 2021 at 9:59 pm

    Cllr Harwood: how to say nothing at all in 100 words.

    It was inevitable that the vote on “Plan B” measures would pass despite a large Tory rebellion. Shame on those who rebelled and the local Tories who opposed Plan B measures.

    The fact is that these measures are entirely proportionate. As we see Covid hospitalisations increase, it is essential that we slow the growth through winter before we face a bed crisis. Masks in indoor settings and working from home where possible will make a significant impact towards that.

    Mark Bray-Parry is a spokesperson for The Green Party

    • John Perkins Reply

      December 15, 2021 at 3:35 pm

      According to the government website (, daily hospitalisation numbers, whilst up and down a little, have not changed much since July and are only a quarter of what they were at the start of the year.

      Perhaps Mark Bray-Parry can point to some good quality data showing that working from home and the cheap masks people wear make any difference, let alone have a “significant impact”?

  3. Brian Creese Reply

    December 16, 2021 at 10:05 am

    What surprised me when I saw the voting figures was that most of the Lib Dems had voted against Plan B. I have neither seen nor heard any reason for these votes and hope local Lib Dem councillors can explain this unexpected move by the Lib Dems away from the scientific advice.

    Brian Creese is chair of the Guildford Labour Party

  4. John Perkins Reply

    December 16, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    I find it strange that so many politicians of all parties are happy to impose repressive measures giving as a reason that they are following scientific advice.

    What they are actually doing is following the advice of some scientists.

    Not all advice is good, nor are all scientists.

    • Mark Bray-Parry Reply

      December 16, 2021 at 11:10 pm

      John is absolutely correct. That’s why scientific consensus is king, and that’s exactly what the government is following.

      Mark Bray-Parry is a spokesperson for The Green Party.

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