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Boris Johnson hit by big Tory rebellion on coronavirus restrictions

Boris Johnson suffered a crushing blow to his authority on Tuesday when virtually 100 Tory MPs voted towards a key measure to curb the rising unfold of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The rebellion, the most important suffered by Johnson since he grew to become UK prime minister, is a warning signal that Tory MPs will strongly resist any transfer to introduce additional anti-Covid restrictions, even when the epidemic worsens.

Johnson gained a sequence of votes on his “Plan B” to sort out Covid — mask-wearing, do business from home steerage and a requirement for a destructive check or vaccine certificates to enter mass occasions — however solely due to Labour help.

On essentially the most contentious problem, Covid certification, some 99 Tories defied the prime minister, simply surpassing the 55 rebels who rejected new Covid restrictions in England in December final yr.

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Johnson gained the vote by 369 to 126, however the scale of the rebellion, greeted with audible gasps within the Commons chamber, was ominous. “This is by far at the worst end of expectations,” admitted one authorities official.

It follows a sequence of self-inflicted errors by the prime minister, from parliamentary sleaze to Christmas events in Downing Street final yr. Only an hour earlier Johnson had pleaded in individual with Tory MPs to again him.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a veteran Tory MP and a Covid insurgent, stated Johnson was “in some danger” and a few MPs have been contemplating submitting no-confidence letters.

Louie French, who gained the Bexley by-election for the Tories earlier this month, voted towards Johnson. One senior social gathering official stated Conservative whips had “missed” about 20 potential rebels, suggesting that they have been dropping management of social gathering self-discipline. “We are in very choppy waters,” the official stated.

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Johnson now faces a dangerous parliamentary by-election in North Shropshire on Thursday, with the prospect of additional discuss of a management problem if his social gathering loses to the Liberal Democrats.

The Covid rebellion got here after a concerted effort by social gathering whips and Sajid Javid, well being secretary, to influence rebels of the severity of the scenario. Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, gave what one Tory MP known as an “apocalyptic” briefing to parliamentarians wherein he stated numbers of infections can be “scary” within the run-up to Christmas.

Javid advised MPs that 200,000 Omicron infections a day have been now occurring, whereas ministers debated the possible influence on non-public and public sector employers within the coming weeks because the virus rips by means of the workforce.

Tory MPs worry that Johnson, having secured approval for his Plan B measures, will quickly introduce additional restrictions, presumably after MPs have left Westminster on Thursday for his or her Christmas break.

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Tory MPs are demanding that Johnson recall parliament if he decides to impose new Covid guidelines whereas MPs are on their Christmas recess from December 16 to January 5, however have acquired no such enterprise.

But Downing Street has promised that MPs will in the end have a vote on any new measures, establishing one other potential conflict between scientific recommendation to Johnson to impose new restrictions and lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs.

Johnson’s warning of a “huge spike” in instances has left some Tory MPs satisfied that he might quickly begin imposing contemporary restrictions on social gatherings or within the hospitality sector.

Dominic Raab, deputy prime minister, stated on Tuesday that he didn’t consider that new restrictions can be wanted for now. “We have got Plan B — that’s what we think is required over the Christmas period,” he stated.

But Raab additionally insisted final week that Plan B was pointless, simply 24 hours earlier than Boris Johnson activated it. Downing Street declined to take a position on whether or not pub closures and different restrictions can be wanted.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, has warned colleagues concerning the rising prices of the Covid disaster, significantly if booster jab campaigns are wanted in future years to take care of new variants.

According to allies, Sunak has warned that if boosters have been required yearly, maybe on shorter time intervals, the invoice might simply high £10bn over the following decade. New therapeutics might additionally add to the NHS invoice.

But Sunak’s aides insist that any more money must be discovered by means of cuts to public spending throughout Whitehall and wouldn’t be funded by larger taxes or extra borrowing.

“The chancellor is clear he will not be raising taxes any more on working people,” stated one colleague. Sunak is determined to shed his fame because the chancellor overseeing the very best UK tax burden since 1950.

Sunak can also be to date refusing to supply further help to hospitality and journey firms battling misplaced enterprise throughout the Omicron wave, however has not excluded extra assist in the “hypothetical” scenario the place new restrictions have been launched.

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