Boris Johnson faces “certain” defeat if opposition parties join a Tory backbench revolt over coronavirus curbs, a leading Conservative rebel has warned.
Self-styled “ Brexit hardman” Steve Baker said he was “certain” there were enough Tories ready to force through an amendment this week which would mean the Prime Minister would have to give MPs a greater say on approving Covid-19 restrictions.
The rebellion comes amid mounting Tory anger at No10’s handling of the crisis – and fears about civil liberties.
The move is being pioneered by party grandee Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Conservative Backbench Committee.
The Commons is braced for a showdown on Wednesday unless Downing Street gives ground.
Mr Baker said: “You hear people think that liberty dies – it dies like this with government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no one can understand.
“It’s extremely serious, I don’t think I look like an hysterical person to me, I am saying this is a very serious moment.”
Asked if there were enough numbers if Labour and other parties were to back the plan, he told Sky News: “I’m certain at the moment but, as I say, really we’d prefer to avoid this coming to a division.”
He added: “MPs should be sharing in the dreadful burden of decision in these circumstances and not just retrospectively being asked to approve what the Government’s done.
“There are plenty of MPs who would vote for this amendment if it is selected, and we think it will be selected.
“I have to say, we don’t really want a rebellion, we’re trying to support the Government in getting this done by saying let us vote on these measures and support the Government, let’s have policy which enjoys our consent.”
Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens told Sky News the likelihood” is that Labour would back the rebel amendment.
She said: “We have our own amendment which we have tabled, it will depend which ones the Speaker selects for a debate and a vote.
“We have some sympathy with the amendment that Graham Brady has tabled, but we want to see something, which our amendment sets out, which is about more transparency, about publishing the data behind decisions and a clear plan.”
She added: “If it’s selected I think that the likelihood is that we would back it, but we would like to see our amendment debated and voted on, so let’s see which one the Speaker goes for.”
Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said his party would “almost certainly back” the amendment but expressed concerns it did not go far enough.
However top Tory Oliver Dowden made it clear the Government would not be backing down.
In a round of interviews, the Culture Secretary said he had “huge respect” for the rebels but the concern about loss of liberty was “slightly overblown”.
“Of course there will be a chance for MPs to debate and vote on new measures – through what we call statutory instruments – there will be votes on that, for example on the rule of six,” Mr Dowden said.
He added: “I think it’s important in a crisis like this, when things are moving very rapidly, that the government has the power to move quickly and that is the power that was given through the initial legislation earlier this year.”