Forty-two Conservative MPs rebelled against their government in a retrospective vote on imposing a 10 pm curfew on pubs and the hospitality industry, in the latest backbench revolt against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s coronavirus regime.
While the result of the vote was effectively meaningless as the powers are already in place, it registers the growing disquiet amongst the backbenches of the Conservative-led government. A similar rebellion took place last week over the ‘rule of six’; however, that protest was much smaller with just 12 MPs voting against the law that restricts gatherings.
On Tuesday night, MPs approved Mr Johnson’s proposed three-tier system, which is intended to slow the spread of coronavirus. Labour had abstained.
Dissenting MPs, however, forced a division in order to voice their disapproval of the 10 pm curfew law and the effect it was having on businesses and the economy. The law was approved on Tuesday night, 299 to 82, according to the i newspaper, with 23 Labour MPs, including socialist and former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, voting against the curfew.
The rebellion comes as the Conservative MP for Bolton West tendered his resignation as a parliamentary private secretary over the prime minister’s response to the pandemic, which Chris Green MP said resulted in the “cure” being worse than the disease.
“I now believe that the attempted cure is worse than the disease and that this second six-month phase will not see the delivery of a solution via mass vaccination. The government will then begin its next phase of control,” Mr Green wrote in his resignation letter.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under pressure from government scientists to go much farther than curfews and other current measures, including a full-blown second national lockdown for two or three weeks, which the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) referred to as a “circuit-breaker”, where household mixing is banned, and all hospitality venues are closed.
Chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty is also reportedly pressuring the prime minister to put more regions into ‘tier three’, the top tier with the most restrictions. The Times reports that they have seen a Sage report which claims that a two-week lockdown with “stay at home” orders and school closures could reduce coronavirus deaths for the rest of the year.
Despite a number of Labour rebels amongst last night’s vote, leader Sir Keir Starmer has also come out in support of a two-week lockdown.
A government speaking to The Mirror claimed that Prime Minister Johnson is willing to consider a two-week circuit-breaker national lockdown if his three-tiered regional system fails. Sources speaking to The Telegraph also said that the prime minister is considering ordering the closure of pubs as well as regional circuit breaker lockdowns but likened the implementation of a national lockdown to a “nuclear deterrent” — threatened, but never used.
On Sunday, Esther McVey MP, who founded the working-class Blue Collar Conservative Movement, wrote in the Express: “It’s madness to think the best way forward is more of the same. More lockdown, longer lockdown, harsher lockdown. Wouldn’t it be better to figure out why lockdown is not working?”
“…I believe in freedom of the individual and personal responsibility, not rule by fear and a police state. So please let us not lockdown further, it is not working,” she said.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 9, 2020