Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023


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60 Tory MPs set to revolt over Plan B restrictions

4 min read

Boris Johnson labelled 'unfit for office' by Keir Starmer

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If a revolt does happen, it would be the biggest ­suffered by Mr Johnson in his premiership. However, the PM’s crackdown will almost ­certainly be agreed by the House of Commons after Sir Keir Starmer confirmed Labour will vote in favour of ­ the new rules. Sir Keir believes the measures are necessary to counter the “great threat” posed by the Omicron variant.

Mr Johnson triggered Plan B last week in a bid to buy some time in the fight against the super-mutation.

Many Conservative backbenchers reacted with fury to the measures, with several pledging to vote against the restrictions.

Their biggest concern is over making vaccine passports compulsory for large venues.

Covid passes will need to be shown to gain access to indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 and any venue with more than 10,000 from Wednesday.

Plan B rules also include compulsory mask-wearing in most indoor settings, as well as guidance to work from home where people can.

One of the rebels, Andrew Bridgen, said the ­measures do not pass any of the parliamentary tests of being effective, evidence based, logical and having broad public support. He said it was “essential” to make them deliverable.

He added: “Plan B benefits from virtually none of these. If I look around social media, my constituency inbox or just general conversation, these ­measures are being treated with considerable suspicion of an alternative agenda or just plain mockery.”

Others voicing concern at the scaling-up of restrictions are former Cabinet ­ministers David Davis, Esther McVey, Dr Liam Fox, Greg Clark and Steve Baker.

Mr Baker, the former Brexit minister, yesterday called on Mr Johnson to “save the soul of the Conservative Party”.

He insisted the country cannot go on reacting to every variant with the reintroduction of stricter rules and confirmed at least 60 Tory MPs would vote against their Government. Mr Baker added: “I’ve been down this road once before and have ­no intention this time of trying to remove a Prime Minister. I want to see Boris turn this situation around, I want him to rescue this.

“But he’s not going to do it by paying lip service to rules and being incautious about how his staff behave. Now we’re vaccinated, what kind of society do we want to live in? I want one which is free, which is prosperous, which is joyful, in which young people can have a hope of a better future.”

Matt Vickers also confirmed he will be rebelling. The Stockton South MP, one of the 2019 intake representing a so-called former Labour “red wall” constituency, said: “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 and the world will come back to ­normal, kids will be able to go to school 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.”

In a sign of two Tory tribes at war over Covid measures, William Wragg addressed an incident with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, which reportedly happened in the Westminster tearoom.

Mr Wragg wrote on Twitter: “Ah, the haranguing you gave me in the tearoom the other day, it all makes sense now, you were rehearsing your lines for Cabinet Nadine Dorries. Well done.”

The Tory MP told Times Radio: “The Secretary of State for Culture wanted to know what I might do in a situation where there were no ICU beds available, because they were filled with unvaccinated people. I explained my opposition to vaccine passports, but the unwanted conversation persisted.”

But Communities Secretary Michael Gove believes MPs will consider proposals “seriously, soberly and thoughtfully”.

Meanwhile, in another potentially bruising week for Mr Johnson, he could see his party lose the North Shropshire by-election on Thursday. The Tories and Lib-Dems are said to be neck-and-neck in Owen Paterson’s old seat after his ­resignation last month.


Comment by Andrew Bridgen

When Parliament passes laws, it is essential that they are effective, evidence based, logical and have broad public support to make them deliverable.

Plan B has virtually none of these attributes. Indeed, if I look around social media or my constituency inbox, or just listen to general conversation, these measures are being treated with considerable suspicion of an alternative agenda or just plain mockery.

The selective use of masks, whose real world effectiveness is still very much open to question, is neither one thing nor the other. The use of Covid passports is completely ineffectual as the evidence is you can still catch and transmit the virus when you are vaccinated.

Last Christmas you could go to your workplace but not have a party; this year you can have a party but you shouldn’t go to your workplace.

Then we turn to the necessity of the restrictions; as I write this, there have been far fewer deaths in South Africa due to Omicron than the more pathogenic Delta variant it is displacing as the dominant strain.

We are again relying on scientists whose models have been repeatedly discredited over the past year.

The most dangerous pandemic currently sweeping our country is one of fear, which is seriously damaging the mental health of individuals – particularly the young – and this must end.

For the reasons above, I will vote against these measures when they are brought before the House tomorrow.

• Andrew Bridgen is Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire

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