Tory rebellion overshadows passage of Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus rules

The UK prime minister faced the largest rebellion from his own side since the general election.

Tory rebellion overshadows passage of Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus rules

Boris Johnson pushed the next phase of his coronavirus plan through parliament — despite a large rebellion from his own party.

England will re-enter a tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions Wednesday, after MPs voted by 291 to 78 to approve the prime minister’s measures in the House of Commons.

In the largest rebellion since Johnson won last year’s general election, 55 Conservatives voted against the government.

The new system will place all of England into one of three tiers of coronavirus restrictions, with most set to be placed in the two strictest tiers.

The measures proved controversial with many of Johnson’s own MPs, who queued up to make their objections clear during a grueling four-hour debate ahead of the vote.

Among those rebelling were Graham Brady, who chairs the powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs. He criticized the government for failing to make a “compelling case” for the restrictions.

He warned: “If the government are to take away fundamental liberties from the people whom we represent, they must demonstrate beyond question that they are acting in a way that is both proportionate and absolutely necessary. Today, I believe the government have failed to make that compelling case.”

Jeremy Wright a former Cabinet minister also voted against the government and argued it made little sense to impose blanket restrictions on large regions, rather than smaller districts. Wright said it was the first time he had voted against his party in 10 years.

In an effort to appease the rebels, Johnson announced a one-off payment for pubs that do not serve food and will be forced to close under the new system. He told MPs there was a “compelling case for regional tiers and indeed a compelling necessity for regional tiers.”

The measures only passed in the end due to abstentions from opposition parties. Labour leader Keir Starmer ordered his MPs not to vote either way on the bill, saying that although Labour believes support for hospitality must go further, opposing the bill “wouldn’t be in the national interest.”

The decision to abstain marks the first time Labour has not voted with the government on new COVID restrictions, and will increase fears that No. 10 can no longer rely on the opposition to push measures through in the face of a large Conservative rebellion.

A government spokesperson welcomed the vote, saying it will “help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control.”

They added: “We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.”