Boris Johnson is facing a furious rebellion from Tory backbenchers opposed to a second lockdown that will “cause more harm than Covid”.
Behind the scenes, Tory MPs are said to be considering a mass rejection of the measures in a vote on Wednesday – with Downing Street scrambling to calm the anger.
Many of the MPs, already sceptical of more lockdown measures, were left incandescent after the plans leaked on Saturday without them being warned of them coming.
Others feel that the PM has squandered his political capital – picking a fight with northern political leaders and the opposition over the level of support available, infuriating voters in seats the Tories won in 2019, only to backtrack weeks later.
Many are now seriously spooked after the announcement that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party would become Reform UK and stand in local elections in May under an anti-lockdown banner.
But in a bid to calm the rebel Mr Johnson will warn coronavirus deaths over the winter could be twice as high as during the first wave of the pandemic in a statement in the Commons this afternoon.
Mr Johnson will tell MPs the there is “no alternative” but to impose the four weeks of stringent restrictions across England.
The measures will see pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail closed for four weeks, but schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.
People will also be allowed to exercise and socialise in outdoor public spaces with their household or one other person.
MPs will debate and vote on the new measures on Wednesday, with several Conservatives likely to rebel against the Government.
Tory ex-minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a “huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action”.
Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would vote against them because the “‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid”.
And 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady said: “If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil.”
Mr Swayne said: “I’m worried about the disastrous consequences for unemployment, for wrecked businesses, for years of under-investment while we try and pay this off, when the reality is that the number of deaths for the time of year is normal and expected,” he told Sky News.
“It is very difficult to believe scientists who tell you that there is a deadly pandemic taking place when there are no excess deaths beyond the normal five-year average.”
He added: “I think we have chosen a course which is worse than deaths from the virus.”
Conservative former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the announcement of another lockdown was a “body blow” to the British people.
He tweeted: “Just as the economy was picking up, even giving cause for optimism, we’re now to impersonate the Grand Old Duke of York, giving in to the scientific advisers & marching England back into another lockdown.
“The way that the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has pressurised the Government into taking this decision has been unprecedented. Normally, advisers advise & ministers decide.
“Yet that system has broken down … with Sage believing its advice to be more like commandments written on stone and its members publicly lecturing the Government over the airways when it disagrees.
“This is despite the fact that many of its recommendations have been hotly disputed by other reputable scientists.”
Senior Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady said the “repetitive cycle” of lockdowns is “immensely damaging to people’s livelihoods, is deeply depressing and is causing a huge toll in terms of people’s mental health and family relationships”.
The chairman of the 1922 Committee told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour he is likely to vote against the new restrictions.
“If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil and here the removal of people’s fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.
“I think it is very important that we focus on those basic human rights and find ways, of course, to deal with the serious threat of Covid-19 but do it working with people rather than doing things to people.”
Tory former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she will vote against the new lockdown measures because the “‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid”.
In a post on Instagram, she said: “The world cannot be put on hold, and the Government must stop pressing the pause and stop button for the whole nation on a whim, with all the disastrous effects this brings to our lives, livelihoods, health and relationships.”
However Steve Baker, who has previously been sceptical of lockdown restrictions, appeared to have taken on board the dire warnings from scientists after a briefing with Downing Street.
“We’ve had an amazing opportunity to robustly scrutinise the arguments, the data, the forecasts of where we’re going, and what I would say to people is the Prime Minister has a got very, very difficult choices to make,” he told Sky News on Saturday.
“And I would encourage all members of the public, and all members of Parliament, to listen extremely carefully to what the Prime Minister says today and over the coming days.”