UK coronavirus live: former chief whip joins Tory revolt ahead of Commons vote on English lockdown


Good morning. MPs will vote on the regulations (pdf) enforcing the coronavirus lockdown for England (starting tomorrow) this afternoon and, although there is no chance of the government losing because it has Labour support, Boris Johnson will face a backbench Conservative rebellion. It is not expected to be very big – on Monday Sir Charles Walker, a vice chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee said just 15 Tories would rebel – but it won’t be insignificant either, for two reasons.

First, the lockdown-sceptics have strong support in the Tory press. For example, today’s Sun editorial describes the lockdown as “a giant, sightless leap back into the abyss”. Often it’s best to ignore Sun editorials, but in Conservative party politics these views still count. The rebel vote today will legitimise these arguments.

And, second, this is all a precursor to the vote that will have to take place when the Commons decides how to replace the lockdown after 2 December. Johnson may win comfortably today, but the Tory libertarian wing are also seeking to close down the prospect of anything resembling a lockdown extension in the weeks before Christmas.

This morning some Conservatives who have until now been undecided have committed themselves to voting against the government.

Mark Harper, the former chief whip, has said in an article for ConservativeHome that he will oppose the lockdown. He says:


I have a fundamental objection to the use of reasonable force to enforce these regulations by agents of the state who are not properly trained to safely use that force. As a former Home Office minister, I have seen that when reasonable force is used incorrectly, it can lead to unnecessary deaths.

Despite reassurances from ministers at the despatch box that this matter was going to be resolved, regrettably it has not been. These regulations give the power to use reasonable force to PCSOs and, most worryingly, any “person designated by the secretary of state for the purposes of this regulation”. My view is that the use of reasonable force should be limited to police officers, who undergo a significant amount of training in both when and how to safely use this power.

In light of the above, I do not believe that the government has made the case for a change away from the tiered system and in favour of an England-wide national lockdown.

Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, has used an article in the Telegraph to explain why he is voting against the lockdown. He says:


I am sorry that I do not feel able to impose the undoubted costs of lockdown on the basis of the necessary balancing judgment calls. It is with a heavy heart that I plan to vote against this measure, but I will condemn no one for supporting lockdown if they think it will minimise harm.

Harper and Baker both devote much of their respective arguments to criticising the graphs used to justify the lockdown at the press conference on Saturday night, and particularly the now-discredited projection that deaths could reach 4,000 a day. In retrospect, that chart seems to have been counter-productive.

Peter Bone, who on Monday said he was still undecided, has confirmed he will vote against. He is also unhappy about the modelling.

Peter Bone MP
(@PeterBoneUK)

Today I will vote against a second national lockdown. The government’s case is based on dubious modelling. It seems to me there are lies, damn lies and Covid statistics!!


November 4, 2020

And so has Stephen McPartland.

Stephen McPartland
(@SMcPartland)

I am voting against another lockdown. Mental health issues are being forgotten along with the supermarket workers, delivery drivers, emergency services, NHS, carers, teachers, postmen and millions of low paid people who are still required to go to work.


November 4, 2020

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, gives evidence to the Scottish parliament’s Covid-19 committee.

9.30am: Prof Peter Horby, a member of Sage, and other academics give evidence to the ‘Coronavirus – lessons learnt’ inquiry being conducted by the Commons health and science committees; at 11am Kate Bingham, chair of the vaccine taskforce, gives evidence.

11am: Sir Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, holds a press conference.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

12.15pm: Sturgeon is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.

12.15pm: The Welsh government is due to hold a coronavirus briefing.

Around 12.45pm: Johnson opens the debate on the regulations enforcing the lockdown in England. MPs will vote at around 3.45pm.

Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.





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