Tory Rebels Sign Big Brother Watch Declaration Against Vaccine Passports, as Labour Comes out Against Vax Passes

A protestor displays an anti-vax placard during a 'Unite For Freedom' march against Covid-19 vaccinations and government lockdown restrictions, in Trafalgar Square, central London on May 29, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson could face a party rebellion over his recent announcement for mandatory vaccinations to enter nightclubs and other large social venues, with at least 42 Conservative MPs signing Big Brother Watch’s declaration against vaccine passports. Meanwhile, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they oppose vaccine passports.

On Monday, Prime Minister Johnson made the extraordinary announcement that from September, “we’re planning to make full vaccination the condition for entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.” The statement came months after Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi promised the government would never introduce vaccine passports and called them “discriminatory”.

By turning the NHS Covid Pass into a domestic digital vaccine passport, Conservative MPs warned that the UK is “effectively moving to compulsory vaccination”, with former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith drawing parallels to Communist China’s socials controls and credit score system.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that more than 40 Conservative MPs are planning to rebel against the government, noting that many expressed concern that the vaccine passport will not be limited to large venues, but could be rolled out to other smaller venues including pubs — an issue on which Mr Johnson and his ministers have vacillated wildly in the past year. Number 10 refused to rule out passports for pints or public transport, telling media that “we’re going to use the coming weeks to look at the evidence, particularly both in the UK and globally before making a specific decision”.

Many more Tory lawmakers have reportedly told the left-wing broadsheet that they are unlikely to back the measures because the Covid Pass rules out proof of a negative test or evidence of antibodies after recovering from infection.

Further, at least 42 Conservative MPs have signed a declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individual access to services, businesses or jobs” formulated by the privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch.

Speaking to talkRADIO on Tuesday, Big Brother Watch’s Legal and Policy Officer Madeleine Stone branded the government’s vaccine passport plan “a complete disaster for freedoms” which would be “a step towards a dystopian new normal”.

“This will fundamentally change the lives of many people in this country. It will lock them out of society. This approach to vaccine uptake is not about public health, it’s about making people feel like if they don’t comply, they won’t be allowed to participate in the most fundamental, enjoyable parts of life,” Ms Stone said.

Big Brother Watch’s Director Silkie Carlo called on MPs to “get off the bench” and vote against divisive and discriminatory vaccine passports, which will “harm our liberty”.

The pressure group is also considering a legal challenge to the government if it goes through with the plans.

According to Big Brother Watch, the support for their declaration is a cross-party campaign, involving support from 79 MPs in the House of Commons and 14 peers in the House of Lords.

The Liberal Democrats, of which 12 sit in the House of Commons, have been consistent in their opposition to vaccine passports and called them “identity cards by the back door”, said via their Home Affairs Spokesman Alistair Carmichael earlier this week: “Vaccine passports are Covid ID cards: unworkable, expensive and divisive.”

However, even with a few dozen Tory rebels and the handful of Liberal Democrats, much rests on the position of the Labour Party, as the Conservatives have a comfortable working majority of 83.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer had signalled in April that he was against vaccine passports, labelling them contrary to “British instinct”. Finally, on Wednesday a Labour Party spokesman said, according to the Daily Mail‘s political editor John Stevens: “We oppose the use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services.”

“Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, and would give people and businesses more certainty,” the spokesman added.




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