More than 100 Tory MPs delivered a heavy blow to Boris Johnson last night as they refuse to support the government’s plan to force people to show Covid certificates to enter night clubs and large events.
Scores of Tory backbenchers decried the new law in a House of Commons debate, with the measure being described by different MPs as “illiberal”, “immoral” and “fearsome”.
The new regulation still passed through parliament thanks to the help of Labour, with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting saying the party was “putting public health before party politics”.
MPs also voted to pass through three other new restrictions – mandatory vaccination for frontline NHS and care staff, mandatory face masks in most public indoor settings and a new daily testing regime for anyone who has come into close contact with a case of the Omicron variant.
There were Tory rebellions against these restrictions, however most of the outrage from the backbenches came on the Covid pass legislation.
People will now have to show proof of full vaccination or a negative test when going to night clubs or large events, like Premier League football matches.
Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of anti-lockdown Tory MPs, said the government has “very quickly gone into panic and emergency mode … what is the approach we’re going to take which means we’re not going to have on-off seasonal restrictions forever?”
Tory Bosworth MP Dr Luke Evans said he did not support Covid passports as “I don’t believe they’re practical, moral, ethical or indeed evidence-based in a scientific rationale”.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom said: “Covid will be with us for many years to come and it’s unthinkable that every autumn from now on we will be limiting the quality of life for all its citizens just to be on the safe side. Justifying our new, illiberal rules on the basis that they’re less authoritarian than those of other countries is truly appalling.”
Health secretary Sajid Javid warned the highly transmissible Omicron variant is a “grave threat” and that cases are set to double every second day.
The UK recorded 59,610 cases today – a 12 per cent daily rise and the most since mid-July.
“I am mindful of the costs that restrictions can bring to the nation’s health, to our education and to our economy. So it’s vital that we act early and we act in a proportionate way, doing whatever we can to preserve our defences and greater freedom in the long term,” Javid said.
The Tory rebellion comes as Johnson’s standing in the Tory party is at its lowest ebb since becoming Prime Minister.
A series of sleaze scandals, a shambolic CBI speech and allegations Downing Street repeatedly broke lockdown rules last Christmas has led some Conservative MPs to question the Prime Minister’s future.
The last two months has seen the Conservatives go from holding healthy leads over Labour in the polls to trailing by up to nine points by the end of last week.
This morning transport minister Grant Shapps responded to the revolt. “Governing is difficult, especially with something like coronavirus, there’s no textbook, there’s no manual to work through,” he said in comments to Sky News.
“I think this government will have done some things where we haven’t got it right through coronavirus, we’ve also done some things where we’ve absolutely got it spot on.”