'Some residual loyalty' – Tory MP says change of government amidst the pandemic is 'folly'

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow since 2010 and Chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, said the Prime Minister has his support. Despite feeling “dismayed and let down” by reports of lockdown rule-breaking, Mr Halfon said the Government needs to urgently address the widespread concerns of hard-working families. He said: “The last few months have seen the Conservatives acting in a Notting Hill sequel, with prioritisation focused on COP26, windmills and solar power, rather than issues affecting citizens much closer to home.

“People across the country are worrying about feeding and clothing their families. We are seeing the price of petrol at an all-time high, energy bills are rising by £200 per month and the cost of living has increased by 5.4 per cent. Is it any wonder the public are losing faith in us?

“The Prime Minister can get back on track with the people’s priorities, and stand up for white van working men and women up and down the country, beginning by cutting the cost of living. Perhaps then we will feel less let down.” In a message to Downing Street today, Mr Halfon said: “Without a doubt, all of us feel disappointed, dismayed and let down by all these Downing Street parties during the lockdown. Whatever the inquiry says, nothing will change that.

“But, despite this, I am not agitating for his removal. First, to change a government in the midst of a pandemic would be folly. The public would not respect us for this bloodletting. Second, I feel I owe Boris some residual loyalty. He won the 2019 election, got Brexit done and rolled out a worldbeating vaccine and booster programme. Even after Covid, our economy is growing strongly and the jobs miracle has returned.

“What will make a difference is what the Prime Minister chooses to do next. I call it the three Rs: Response, Responsibility and Reset. How he responds to the anguish of the public, how he takes responsibility for what has gone on. But, above all, how he will reset the Government to focus on the things that really matter to working people.

“As a first step, Boris should reduce or get rid of the green levies which amount to 25 per cent of our energy costs, as well as getting rid of VAT on fuel. Next, the Government should face down the selfish nimbies and build, build, build. We need a housing revolution. Over one million people live in overcrowded accommodation and young people are paying sky-high rents and can’t afford to buy a home.

“The Conservative Party has always been at its best when it promotes affordable housing and home ownership. On Operation Social Justice, the emphasis must be on education and skills.

“Why is it white working-class boys and girls on free school meals under-perform at all stages of the education system, compared to almost every other ethnic group? Or that disadvantaged pupils are 18 months behind their better-off peers by the time they reach 16?

“Boris should set out a long-term plan for education with a secure funding settlement. Moreover, why not transform our offering to young people, by offering an apprenticeship to every person who wants one?”

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