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Mandatory face masks in shops: Conservatives shred membership cards and plan protests

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British prime minister Boris Johnson wears a mask while visiting the HQ of the London Ambulance Service.
British prime minister Boris Johnson wears a mask while visiting the HQ of the London Ambulance Service.   -   Copyright  Ben Stansall/AP
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The backlash against the UK government's requirement to wear face masks in shops in England began in earnest on Tuesday, with supporters of the ruling Conservative Party shredding their membership cards and activists planning anti-mask protests.

Grassroots Conservative members took to social media to post pictures of their membership cards cut into pieces, sending the hashtag #NoMasks and term "Muzzles" trending on Twitter.

Face masks and coverings will be compulsory when visiting shops and supermarkets in England from July 24. Those who fail to comply with the new rules face fines of £100 (€110).

London-based barrister and now former Tory Party supporter, Francis Hoar, voiced his anger towards the Conservative government's decision, tweeting: "It may only be one straw but there comes a point when 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."

Dominey Jenner, also from London, tweeted: "Just cancelled Conservative Party membership. @BorisJohnson you muppet. We've been so patient with you and now you've gone too far."

Another party member, Alistair Haimes, tweeted a picture of his membership card in pieces and the word: "Enough."

One-time Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell posted: "Oh well. No more going to the shops for me." In a subsequent post, he posited: "Presumably those that insist we must all wear face masks in shops also favour wearing them in pubs, too? Which I guess means they drink through a straw? Or don't pubs count?"

Long-time Conservative supporter and journalist Toby Young also tweeted his disapproval, referring to face masks as "mandatory face nappies".

The revolt began in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party with English MP Sir Desmond Swayne openly criticising the policy in the House of Commons on Tuesday, calling it a "monstrous imposition".

In a question to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, he said: "Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping than the thought of having to mask up.

"Was this consultation with the police force, in particular the chief constable of Hampshire, for it is she that will have to enforce this monstrous imposition against myself and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents?"

Elsewhere, protests were planned in London and other cities across England this weekend, with activist group StandUpX organising a demonstration in the capital against mandating masks in London's Hyde Park on Saturday, August 1.

A snap poll by YouGov in the wake of the government's announcement found a two-thirds majority of the general population were in favour of making face masks compulsory in shops, including 57 per cent of Conservative voters.

Just 34 per cent of people thought that it should be a personal choice.

A separate poll released by YouGov on July 10 found that only 38 per cent of British people currently wear masks in public, a figure way behind much of the rest of the world.

The poll found that 90 per cent of people in Singapore wore face coverings to combat the potential spread of coronavirus, the highest number of those surveyed.

Countries that have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks also registered a high adherence to wearing face masks, including Spain on 88 per cent, China on 86 per cent and Italy on 83 per cent.

Even in the US, which has seen a backlash in certain quarters against face masks, 73 per cent of respondents said they were wearing them when in public spaces.