Published: 19:42, 02 November 2020
| Updated: 19:44, 02 November 2020
There wasn’t much that Boris Johnson could do to sugar the pill of lockdown mark two, which probably explains why he delivered his statement in a rather downbeat tone.
And if further proof were needed that opposition to the measures is increasingly coming from disillusioned backbenchers from his own party, there was a pointed question from Conservative Liam Fox, who asked for reassurance that the cure being proposed was not worse than the disease.
That intervention came directly after the PM made an appeal for politicians to “stand together” - saying that the public wanted to see their MPs act “more coherently” in the face of the threat posed by the virus.
But unity was in short supply when the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took aim at what he called a “catastrophic failure of leadership” on the part of the Prime Minister - about as open a political goal as you can get.
If the PM had any allies on his own side, they were either mute or chose not to say anything, leaving the way for his critics to complain bitterly that the government’s measures amounted to an affront to civil liberties.
One backbencher furiously denounced ministers of allowing the country to drift towards becoming an “authoritarian, coercive state” - while another demanded that the crisis had demonstrated the need for a written constitution.
The PM did his best to hammer home the consequences of not implementing a four-week lockdown, warning that not to do so would risk overwhelming the NHS and there was no alternative.
The PM has a job on his hands
That, of course, is the same lockdown that he refused to countenance just a week or so ago - no wonder that he delivered the u-turn in a manner of a child reluctantly swallowing a particularly unpleasant pill.
He was tackled by the Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark who asked if the government's intention was to keep to a minimum level of restrictions on businesses and people to “avoid overwhelming the NHS.”
It wasn’t exactly a political humdinger but the question from a normally loyal backbencher underlined that the PM has a job on his hands to win round sceptics in his own ranks.
The Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat raised a question over what the government was doing about encouraging volunteering to help during the lockdown.
It was about the friendliest question among many that were distinctly unfriendly. The PM will find out on Wednesday just who his friends are - and his enemies - when a vote on the second lockdown takes place.