‘I'm never voting Tory again’: Conservative activists destroy membership cards over mandatory mask wearing

But public and scientists support measure to stop spread of coronavirus

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 14 July 2020 12:16
Comments
Johnson makes face coverings compulsory in England’s shops

Boris Johnson is facing a grassroots Tory backlash over plans to require people to wear face masks when visiting shops in England.

Conservative party members took to social media to post pictures of their cut-up membership cards and declare themselves "politically homeless" over the policy, which comes in on 24 July.

The move, which is backed by scientific evidence and resembles similar approaches brought in in around 120 countries over the world, is overwhelmingly popular with the wider public.

A snap poll by YouGov conducted on Monday before the announcement found that 60 per cent of people back making masks mandatory compared to 34 per cent who think they should be optional.

But prominent Conservatives, some taking their cues from the United States where conspiracy theories about coronavirus have gone mainstream, took to social media to vent their frustration.

Douglas Carswell, a former Tory MP, responded to the announcement by declaring he would no longer be shopping.

"Oh well," he tweeted. "No more going to the shops for me."

Longtime Conservative-supporting journalists Toby Young pledged ahead of the announcement that he was "never voting Tory again" if the ban came in. He described masks as "mandatory face nappies"

Activists and party members posted pictures of their membership cards cut into pieces or with angry messages scribbled onto them.

Francis Hoar, a Tory-supporting barrister, posted a photograph of his card online, stating: "It may only be one straw, but there comes a point where any association with this government must end.

"This is not only the most incompetent government of my lifetime, it is the most authoritarian. It is not remotely conservative."

Another member Alistair Haimes said merely: "Enough" next to a photo of his card as the news broke on Tuesday morning.

He later told the PA news agency: "All it is, it's very transparently that they think that people will be more confident to go back to shops and offices if they wear them than if they don't.

"I think people should be free to wear them. I just object to being told what to do."

Dominey Jenner, a stay-at-home mother and former teacher from Wimbledon, south-west London, told the same agency that she had been "quite sceptical about the lockdown" but that the new policy on face masks was the "final straw".

"If you look at the statistics regarding the cases and the death rate, which is plummeting ... why now you would bring in mandatory face masks?" she said.

"The other strand for me is the libertarian strand. I think people should be trusted, I think we should be given a choice.

"I'm really angry at how the Government has invoked fear in its population to control people – I think that is the wrong way to manage a population and to govern."

Outgoing member Lyndsay Hopkins, who posted a picture of her card, said: "I was disappointed in Theresa May but Boris Johnson is on another scale. I will never vote Conservative again. Am now politically homeless."

One anonymous Twitter account going by "Lord Bob" posted a picture of Tory membership card with "Shove ur mask up ur a***, c***s" written on it in black felt tip pen. He later posted another picture of it cut into pieces.

Another social media user posting a picture of their card said: "I only went back to the Tories, because of Johnson. I’ll never vote for them again, because of Johnson."

Tory voters are slightly more sceptical of the policy than the general public, polling shows – though they still support it overall.

57 per cent of Tory voters want mask-wearing to be made compulsory compared to 40 per cent who think it should be optional. Labour voters support compulsion by 65 per cent to 27 per cent, according to a breakdown provided by YouGov.

Leave voters in particular are somewhat sceptical, but again still clearly positive, with 55 per cent in favour of making wearing masks mandatory and 42 per cent against.

One doctor at a London hospital told the PA news agency: "I wore an FFP3 [respiratory mask], some goggles, a hat, a full-length gown with the consistency of a bin bag and two pairs of gloves solidly for about two months. A bunch of Tories can wear a napkin over their face to go Waitrose."

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