Tory whips were last night scrambling to persuade MPs to back new coronavirus curbs amid fears Boris Johnson could suffer his ‘biggest rebellion’ yet.
With particular outrage at the plans to create vaccine passports, more than 50 backbenchers plan to vote against Plan B.
MPs have said the curbs – which also include an extension of mask-wearing and the return to working from home – are ‘illiberal’ and ‘unnecessary’.
Today, cinemas, theatres, and places of worship made mask wearing mandatory. Monday will see the return to work-from-home guidance. Walking along Oxford Street, London: This is a woman.
Last night a minister told the Daily Mail that Conservative whips are engaged in a ‘massive ring round’ in a desperate bid to quell the revolt. ‘[Plan B] will lead to probably the biggest rebellion in this Parliament so far, although the irony is we will win the vote by a huge amount because Labour is voting with us,’ they said.
‘But there’s a big operation going on to stop the rebellion growing beyond 40, which is the threshold for losing your majority.’
The minister said some ‘anti-Boris’ backbenchers are using Tuesday’s vote as ‘an opportunity to bash him’ – and warned the Prime Minister may face a leadership challenge next year.
‘If we lose the North Shropshire by-election and we do badly in the local elections in May, then I think that’s much more terminal.’
As well as fury at the Plan B measures, many MPs are angry at the way Downing Street has handled allegations of Tory sleaze, the ‘Wallpaper-gate’ row and reports of Christmas parties in No10.
MPs have said the curbs – which also include an extension of mask-wearing and the return to working from home – are ‘illiberal’ and ‘unnecessary’. On Oxford Street, people can be seen moving.
Yesterday’s mandatory mask wearing was required in theatres, cinemas, and worship places. Work from home guidance will be back on Monday.
Large venues will be able to use Covid passports starting Wednesday. One rebel, Tory former minister David Jones, said of Plan B: ‘It’s unnecessary. It’s illiberal. I’m not entirely sure when it comes to Covid passports what they are meant to achieve.’
Ex-minister Steve Baker, a prominent figure in the Covid Recovery Group of Conservatives, said: ‘I am not expecting to be lonely when I vote against Plan B but we do need MPs to vote against, not abstain.’
And Karl McCartney said he would not support the ‘draconian impositions on our hard fought freedoms’. Amid the opposition, Downing Street yesterday insisted it was not introducing ‘vaccine passports’ but rather ‘certification which requires either a vaccination or a negative test’.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘Evidence from Sage, from Public Health England research reports, shows that the use of certification means a lower probability that an individual’s infectious and that therefore they will be less likely to spread Covid in these venues.’