Tory Rebels to Vote Against Boris over Coronavirus Curfew, Social Distancing Rule

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 20: Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a service to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Westminster Abbey on September 20, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson could face two party rebellions on the House of Commons over his coronavirus laws, with Tory rebels threatening to lodge a protest vote against the ‘rule of six’ on Tuesday and voting against the curfew on Wednesday.

After pressure from a reported 100 Conservative MPs last week over the extension of the emergency coronavirus laws, the government agreed that it would allow votes on new coronavirus measures “wherever possible”.

The Johnson administration is facing the first of this week’s rebellion on Tuesday evening in a retrospective vote over the rule of six, which since coming into effect on September 14th has made it illegal to gather in groups larger than six. Senior Tories and backbenchers want to see compromises, such as extending that number of eight, and not counting children amongst the gathering.

“The rule of six is a massive interference in people’s private lives,” a leading Tory rebel told The Times.

A more significant rebellion could take place on Wednesday if a House of Commons vote is held on the 10 pm curfew on pubs and other hospitality venues. The source told the newspaper of record that the night-time restrictions were introduced “with no scientific evidence” which he said had caused damage to businesses and failed to support social distancing, with patrons all flooding into the streets and onto public transport at the same time of night at closing.

“The 10 pm [curfew] is a huge mistake. The virus can’t tell the time. It is just absurd to impose this across the country,” Conservative MP Desmond Swayne had also said.

Sources and others, like Steve Baker MP, do not believe that either vote will result in a defeat of the government’s 85-seat working majority, however, particularly if Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP) continue to back the government in the restrictions. But the display could put pressure on ministers to change direction in terms of coronavirus policy.

Though two Conservative MPs told The Telegraph on Monday night that if Labour refuses to back the government in Wednesday’s vote unless it sees the scientific evidence to support the curfew, members of the left-wing party and the Tory rebels may have enough votes to defeat the government on Wednesday. That is if the vote is held. The government was not clear last week which laws would be up for Commons voting, with The Guardian reporting on Tuesday that the government has not confirmed if the Wednesday vote will take place.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Johnson suggested that coronavirus restrictions could go on beyond Christmas. Last week, Conservative MP Philip Davies criticised Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s “nanny state socialist” response to the pandemic, “which is serving no purpose at all apart from to further collapse the economy and erode our freedoms”.

Mr Baker, another vocal critic, had criticised the government’s powers to pass coronavirus legislation without MPs able to vote in the House of Commons. He said that “liberty… dies like this, with government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no one can understand”.

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