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 Twitter 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.
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A snap poll by YouGov conducted on Monday before the announcement found that 60 per cent of people back making masts 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 are commonplace, 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-supported barrister, posted a photograph of his card, 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.”
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Another member Alistair Haimes said merely: “Enough” next to a photo of his card as the news broke on Tuesday morning.
Outgoing member Lyndsay Hopkins 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 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.”
Overall 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.