Boris Johnson Is Braced For Another Backbench Rebellion Over Covid Tiers
Boris Johnson is today facing another humiliating rebellion from his own backbenches on the coronavirus tier system as former party leader Iain Duncan Smith weighed in to blast the winter restrictions as “ridiculous”.
Up to 40 Tory MPs are expected to vote against the government today, with many more abstaining on the three tier system that at its most strict level means the continued closure of pubs and restaurants.
The powerful Covid Recovery Group – which saw 70 MPs demanding to see a cost-benefit analysis behind the tier structure – is understood not to be whipping MPs today to vote a certain way.
However many of their members will vote against and are furious over the government’s conclusion in its cost-analysis of the restrictions that it is not possible to forecast the precise economic impact of restriction changes.
Though Johnson’s plans are likely to pass in the Commons tonight, the size of the rebellion is yet another significant sign of unhappiness within the party. A staggering 111 MPs, from a variety of parties, are down to speak in today's debate.
Duncan Smith said Tories were being given an unfair choice: either vote for the tiers, or appear to be voting for no regulations at all. MPs are also not getting a vote at all on whether the five day easing of restrictions over Christmas is a good idea, he said.
He told PoliticsHome: “We won’t know the evidence on the recent lockdown until December 16 or beyond but we are making decision on this tier system now.
“I personally think we could have done without the five days [at Christmas] and would much rather see hospitality sector open in a more consistent way.
“We are going after these higher tiers all for Christmas and they should be absolutely honest about it. We should be debating the whole package together.”
He said he was yet to make up his mind on how he will vote but he said he could not see how he could support the plan as it stands and branded the government’s impact assessment on the tier system released last night as “ridiculous”.
“The government has mishandled this badly,” he said.
Referring to the strict restrictions, followed by the five day Christmas break, then rules being restored, he said: “You turn a dial down slowly – you don’t turn it on and off again. There should have been a debate on what was needed from December 2 right through to the end of January that allowed a better form of tier sytem.”
One senior Tory source suggested that up to 70 Tories could either vote down or abstain on tonight’s vote. Labour is abstaining and the rules are expected to pass.
Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group and former chief whip, Tory MP Mark Harper, said the government’s justification for the tier system was “collapsing under scrutiny”.
“Before the current lockdown, incorrect death and hospital capacity modelling was leaked into the public domain to justify it, we asked for full details. We have asked repeatedly for the information that vindicates these hospital projections and they have not been forthcoming.
“We are now seeing that, once again, the wheels are coming off the government’s arguments,” he said.
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