Boris Johnson Faces Major Tory Rebellion Over Covid Plan B Measures

A number of Conservative MPs have indicated they will vote against the government when the restrictions are brought before parliament on Tuesday.
Reports suggest up to 60 Tory MPs could vote against the government on Tuesday.
Reports suggest up to 60 Tory MPs could vote against the government on Tuesday.
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Boris Johnson is braced for a major Tory rebellion when he puts his Plan B covid measures before parliament next week.

A number of Conservatives have lined up to express scepticism over the plans or have confirmed they will vote against them outright.

So-called Plan B measures involve mandatory mask wearing in most indoor public places — bar hospitality venues — and on public transport, and were introduced on Friday 10 December.

Working from home guidance will be reinstated from Monday while vaccine passports — where people are required to take a lateral flow test or be double-jabbed to enter some premises — will be brought in from Wednesday.

Influential backbencher Steve Baker has confirmed he will vote against the measures when they are put to a parliamentary vote on Tuesday.

He described the Plan B measures as “wrong” and “disproportionate”.

“I will vote against vaccine passports, of course I will,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“I’ll vote against extending mask mandates, and I’ll vote against mandatory vaccination as a condition of NHS employment.

“I think all these things are wrong, they’re disproportionate and there’s inadequate evidence that they’re required. And I really think this is the crucial point here now, what’s on the table is what kind of society we’re creating as we go forward.”

Fellow Tory Matt Vickers also confirmed he would vote against the government on Tuesday, arguing that the country needed to learn to live with the virus.

Vickers, who represents the “red wall” seat of Stockton South, told Times Radio: “I do not believe we should be going down the Plan B route.

“We talked about learning to live with it, we promised people they will get these boosters in their arms and the world will come back to normal, kids will be able to go to school properly without masks on, we promised them the economy would be free, we’d be free to get things going, and that’s exactly what we need to do.

“Otherwise we’ll be in a never-ending cycle of restrictions and I think it is the wrong way to go.”

Pressed on how many he thought could be joining him in the No lobby, he replied: “I wouldn’t like to guess the number. In real terms, it is not a vote we’re probably likely to overturn the government on anyway, so I think the numbers might be irrelevant – it is about people doing what they think is right.”

Patience with Boris Johnson is wearing thin on the Tory backbenches following a torrid week of headlines about the Christmas parties that are alleged to have taken place in Downing Street during last year’s lockdown.

The scandal that erupted following the emergence of the leaked footage showing aides joking about one party, on December 18, has snowballed further after the Mirror reported that Johnson himself had taken part in a Christmas quiz on December 15.

Reports suggest up to 60 Tory MPs could vote against the government on Tuesday, with many expressing doubt over the use of vaccines passports.

The BBC reported on Sunday that the government could split the measures into three separate votes amid opposition to vaccine passports in particular.

Labour leader Keir Starmer confirmed that the opposition would vote with the government on the Plan B measures on Tuesday.

But Dehenna Davison, the Tory MP for Bishop Auckland and one the 2019 intake, confirmed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that she would vote against vaccine passports.

“I’ve already been quite public and have said I won’t be voting for vaccine passports.

“I’ve expressed my concerns about them for months, you know, both to the government and to whips, but also kind of more publicly.

“And I think my inbox — talking about the party story — my inbox has been flooded not with people talking about the potential Downing Street parties but actually about people really concerned about vaccine passports in particular.”

Education secretary and former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi denied the government was introducing vaccine passports.

He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “People talk about vaccine passports. This is not a vaccine passport. These are high-risk events where we ask people either to take a free lateral flow test or to be vaccinated to attend.”

He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips that the Plan B measures were “proportionate” and “precautionary”.

“The most significant thing, scientists tell us, is the work from home, that has the greatest impact on slowing down Omicron, hence why we’ve had to take these measures.”

However, scientists have warned that the Plan B restrictions may not go far enough in tackling the omicron variant.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency, told the BBC that the current restrictions were “sensible”, but she added: “I think that we may need to go beyond them.

“We’ll need to watch carefully what happens with hospitalisations.”

Hopkins confirmed there are now patients in hospital with omicron.

“We are getting reports of individuals coming into hospital over the last few days with omicron and we are investigating those carefully with the hospitals concerned,” she said.

“We’re also seeing hospitals diagnose more and more people coming through their emergency departments, and we expect to see increases in that number. I have not had a report of death yet.

“But it’s really important to remember it is just over two weeks since we first detected the cases in the United Kingdom, and that hospitalisations start to be seen in about two weeks and deaths usually at three to four weeks.

“I think it’s too early to make any assumptions at this point in time.”


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