oris Johnson’s leadership was plunged into crisis on Thursday as he faced a “record” revolt by Tory MPs over new Covid restrictions amid fury over the No10 “Christmas party” last year. Dozens of MPs from both wings of the Conservative Party were preparing to defy the Prime Minister and vote next week against the new restrictions.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, warned of the growing adoption of more and more stringent restrictions, with vaccine passports and now a debate about mandatory Covid jabs.
He told The Standard: “This is completely unacceptable in a Government that believes in freedom. People are urging the Prime Minister to get a grip.”
As anger among MPs over the “Christmas party” and other recent blunders reached boiling point:
* The Plan B restrictions were described as a “body blow” to London’s arts scene, amid a warning they will put people off from going to theatres and West End shows.
Former Cabinet minister John Redwood predicted a “record” rebellion, with the largest so far being 53 last December over the tier system.
The new restrictions are expected to get through the Commons with the backing of Labour. However, Mr Redwood told the Standard: “It’s a very bad model to form a coalition government with Labour and the SNP against your own party. That’s not a good way to proceed.”
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith argued that the “biggest problem” now was the idea that the “only problem we face is Covid” rather than cancer, heart and other diseases, stressing: “We are creating huge imbalances in social terms.”
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said vaccine passports would give a “completely false sense of security” given vaccinated people could still transmit the disease. He also said that after the storm over the No10 “Christmas Party”, the new restrictions would be hard to enforce, adding: “Who are you going to prosecute?”
Former de facto Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, on the Left of the Tory party, is minded to vote against the restrictions. Mr Javid said that the Government was being “led by the evidence”, with the threat of cases of the Omicron variant spiralling exponentially. Defending the new restrictions, he told Times Radio: “It is trying to strike the right balance to deal with the threat of the pandemic, especially when new threats emerge.”
Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the Commons health and social care committee, gave the new restrictions his “full and unqualified support”. He said in the Commons yesterday that the move was “early action” to avoid a future lockdown.
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “We are going early now so as to try and slow this down at an early stage of events.”
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance explained last night that despite the storm over the Downing Street party it was vital people followed the new Covid rules.
Sir Patrick said: “We are now facing a viral variant that is rapidly progressing. It’s got a doubling time of between two and three days and measures need to be taken to try and slow the spread of that.”
However, East Devon MP Simon Jupp said he did not support Plan B, arguing that it would “cost jobs in many sectors, including hospitality”.
Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, added: “Plan B makes little sense — asks people to work from home, but still go to pubs, restaurants, theatres and football with friends.” Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison stressed: “I have long opposed vaccine passports, and so will vote against their introduction next week.” Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh described plans to bring in vaccine passports as “really draconian” and an “utter disgrace”.
Wycombe MP Steve Baker MP tweeted: “It is vital that the maximum number of Conservative MPs vote against Plan B.”