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MP says call for rethink on Kent Covid restrictions 'flogging a dead horse"

Two Kent MPs have distanced themselves from calls for the government to look again at a blanket restriction imposed on the county.

Seven Kent MPs have called on the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to consider restrictions on a district by district basis, taking into account for the variations in the prevalence of the coronavirus.

MP Gordon Henderson: 'To be frank, I think they are flogging a dead horse'.
MP Gordon Henderson: 'To be frank, I think they are flogging a dead horse'.

A meeting is due to be held on Monday between the seven MPs and the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister is trying to head off a defeat in the Commons on Tuesday.

The government came under fire after it placed Kent in tier three, where the risk of the infection spreading is greatest. The seven complained that it was unfair and risked undermining the public's confidence in the measures if they did not feel they were justified.

But the Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale and the Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson have both ruled out the idea of a district by district regime, saying it risks even further confusion about restrictions.

The two MPs represent areas where the infection rate has risen sharply to a point where they are among the worst in country. Unlike their parliamentary colleagues, the pair say that it is vital to move ahead with the restrictions as they are.

In an interview on KMTV’s “Paul on Politics” show, Sir Roger said: “I was quite prepared to support my colleagues on a district by district basis rather than a county or regional basis because it seemed the right thing to do.”

“However the decision has been taken on the basis of all the evidence available and that includes not just infection rates, pressure on health services and whether caseloads are going up and down and a number of other factors.”

“It doesn't matter where we draw the line, someone is always going to be on the wrong side of it; I think the important message now is that we make it work because if we start taking a piecemeal approach and if people go off and start doing their own thing then the system is going to break down. We run the real risk of what we desperately don't want and that is another spike after Christmas.”

MP Roger Gale: 'Someone is always going to be on the wrong side of the line'.
MP Roger Gale: 'Someone is always going to be on the wrong side of the line'.

“I understand Tom’s [Tugendhat] view and I respect his view but you are always going to get anomalies; we all want our businesses to be open; but if we have to crack the pandemic, if we go into Christmas on the verge of a spike we will come back in an even worse position.”

“If we send out mixed messages, people will really not know where we stand. It is confusing enough already.”

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson said he would probably have done the same thing as his colleagues in constituencies where the infection rate is lowest.

However he said: “To be frank I think they are flogging a dead horse. Having a borough-byborough system would be impossible to police. I have a lot of sympathy for them [but] it is simply not feasible.”

He said that if the government did review the placement, it would then face similar calls from other parts of the country.

“People in Devon would want it; people in Berkshire would want it; all the country would want it. It is simply not practical."

But the Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, who is leading the call for a rethink, said: “We are asking people to make really big sacrifices here and I think we should only ask for those sacrifices If they are appropriate to their community and their county. There are wards in West Kent where there are no cases at all yet they are in tier three.”

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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