Up to 100 Tory backbenchers could vote against the government’s new Covid restrictions regime in what may be the largest party revolt against Boris Johnson’s government so far.
Dozens of Tory MPs have said they will today vote against the new regionalised Covid restrictions, after the government’s analysis of the new system, released yesterday, was widely panned.
Scores of Conservative MPs said the release provided no new information on how the three-tiered regional restrictions could affect the UK’s economy beyond what the Office for Budget Responsiblity (OBR) said last week.
The OBR predicts GDP will contract by 11.3 per cent this year – the largest contraction for 300 years.
The proposed tier system will put the vast majority of the country into the top two tiers, meaning that the hospitality industry will still be severely restricted in most places.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer announced last night that his party would abstain from today’s vote, meaning there would need to be around 150 rebel Tory MPs to vote down the new measures.
This is considered to be highly unlikely.
The House of Commons is set to vote on the measures late this afternoon, with the Prime Minister opening the debate at 12.45pm.
Mark Harper, one of the rebel ringleaders, said the government’s Covid analysis “seems to be collapsing under the glare of scrutiny”.
“Before the current lockdown, incorrect death and hospital capacity was leaked into the public domain to justify it,” he said.
“We have asked repeatedly for the information that vindicates these hospital projections and it has not been forthcoming.”
The Times reported today that the government was not being transparent and in fact has detailed economic analysis for each industry, but has not released it.
A government spokesperson said the information came from publicly available information.
Conservative chair of the Treasury Select Committee Mel Stride yesterday criticised the lack of transparency from the government on the economic impacts of Covid.
Stride is still voting with the government today.
“On a number of occasions, I’ve requested from the chancellor and Treasury officials that they publish an analysis of the economic impacts of the three tiers,” he said.
“With little over 24 hours until MPs vote on the new tiered system, this rehashed document offers very little further in economic terms other than that which the OBR published last week.”
London will be in Tier 2 in the new system, which will allow retail and hospitality to open under strict conditions.
Pubs and restaurants can only serve patrons if they order a “substantial meal” and household mixing will not be allowed indoors.
Environment secretary George Eustice said yesterday that a scotch egg would count as a substantial meal, opening the door to an animated discussion in the media on what else would count under the new rules.