Boris Johnson’s Covid plan B measures approved by Commons – despite almost 100 Tory MPs rebelling

Sir Keir Starmer says vote shows PM ‘too weak to discharge the basic functions of government’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 14 December 2021 20:26
Boris Johnson’s Covid plan B measures approved by Commons – despite major rebellion from Tory MPs

Boris Johnson’s Covid plan B measures for England have been approved by the Commons, despite almost 100 Conservative MPs rebelling in a major blow to the prime minister’s authority.

The introduction of Covid passes for crowded venues — the most contentious element of the plan among Tory backbenchers — was passed by 369 by 126 votes, with Mr Johnson forced to rely on Labour votes to get the measure through Parliament.

Despite an eleventh-hour attempt by the prime minister to win over potential rebels in an address to the 1922 committee of Tory MPs, 97 voted against the proposals, marking the biggest revolt of his premiership and far greater than the previous record of 55 MPs who voted against proposals to strengthen tier restrictions in December 2020.

The approved changes mean that from Wednesday people will have to demonstrate proof of either two Covid-19 jabs or a negative test to gain entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor events with more than 500 people.

In a second vote, MPs also retrospectively approved the extension of mandatory face coverings for most indoor venues, including cinemas and theatres by 441 to 41 votes.

A change to self isolation rules — dropping the requirement to self-isolate and instead do daily Covid tests for those fully vaccinated people who are contacts of a positive case — was also passed by the Commons without a vote.

Minutes after the vote, a senior member of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, also said that a leadership challenge in the New Year was “on the cards” unless the prime minister unites the party by delivering a “major change in the way he does things”.

He said he was “very surprised” by the size of the rebellion, adding it “shows quite a major division within the party”.

“I think now the Prime Minister’s really got to think very carefully about how he’s going to reset his performance, to actually govern with a united party because we will know what happens to disunited parties.”

He added: “He’s got to realise that he’s got to consult his party properly before bringing these sorts of measures to the Commons.”

Asked whether there was now the prospect of a leadership challenge in the new year if the PM did not change his approach, Sir Geoffrey said: “I think that’s got to be on the cards. He’s got to realise that he’s got to change.”

Speaking to broadcasters, he said it showed he was “too weak to discharge the basic functions of government” and said the measures would not have gone through without Labour.

Asked whether he would call on Boris Johnson to resign, Sir Keir said: “The Prime Minister needs to take a long, hard look at himself and ask himself whether he has the authority to take this country through the pandemic. This is a very significant blow for him.”

He added: “I think it’s very important to understand how deep the breach of trust is between the prime minister and his own party.”

The vote to approve the mandatory use of Covid passes in England was also branded “disappointing” by the chief executive of of the Night Time Industries Association.

Michael Kill said: “It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the Government have decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus.

“This is a slippery path we are going down. I would urge the government to listen to its backbenchers now - this far and no further.”

He said the latest restrictions “will jeopardise the survival of businesses in 2022” and called for “urgent additional support now”.

He added: “And it goes without saying that if more measures are increased we need a proportionate support package including a return of the furlough scheme.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in