Boris Johnson may be forced to call time on his 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants amid reports that dozens of rebel Tories are planning to vote against the measure.
The insurgents “have been emboldened” by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s public comments questioning the move, and by Labour’s refusal to commit to supporting the curfew until it has seen the scientific evidence behind the decision, according to The Telegraph.
An unnamed Conservative MP told the newspaper that “if it transpires that Labour is going to oppose it then I would think there would be enough of us who would be inclined to vote against it”.
Speculation is reportedly growing in Westminister that government whips may pull the curfew vote in order to allow more time to work on “bringing the rebels to heel”.
Coronavirus lockdown measures must be approved by MPs within weeks of coming into force. In keeping with this rule, two key votes on lockdown restrictions in England are set to take place in the next two days.
The Commons will vote this evening on the “rule of six”, which was applied nationally on 14 September. And on Wednesday, the chamber is due to vote on the 10pm curfew, which came into force on 24 September.
The “rule of six” is expected to pass easily, but the passage of the curfew is looking far less certain. A total of 43 Tory MPs would need vote with Labour against the measure in order to overturn the government’s 85 working majority.
Senior Tory MP Desmond Swayne has described the curfew as “a huge mistake”, adding: “The virus can’t tell the time. It is just absurd to impose this across the country.”
Fellow Tory MP Graham Brady, who is also expected to rebel, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour yesterday that patience with local lockdowns was starting to “wear thin”.
His comments echo those of Sunak, who told The Sun last week that “everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this”.
The rebel Tory MPs are meeting today to discuss the curfew vote as Johnson delivers his closing speech at the virtual Conservative Party conference.
Backbench Conservatives have previously accused the prime minister of presiding over an “utter shitshow” in the UK’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, warning that Downing Street needs to “get a grip” of its restriction policies and messaging.