Rebels turning their fire on Boris include 13 former Cabinet ministers

The rebels who turned their fire on Boris: List of 99 Tories who defied PM include 13 former Cabinet ministers – and an MP who has only been in the job a month

  • The Government’s newest MP is among nearly 100 Conservatives to oppose his own party’s pandemic restrictions
  • Louie French won Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election less than two weeks ago
  • New restrictions will see mandatory facemasks at more indoor spaces in England
  • NHS Covid passes will be introduced for access to nightclubs and large venues 

The Government’s newest MP is among nearly 100 Conservative politicians to oppose his own party’s pandemic restrictions.

The rebellion of 99 Tory MPs against the Government’s Plan B saw newcomer Louie French join forces with veterans to vote against the introduction of Covid passes.

Mr French, 33, who won the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election less than two weeks ago, said he was fulfilling an election promise in doing so.

In a tweet, he said: ‘I fully support the booster rollout and I will get mine ASAP thanks to the efforts of the Government, NHS, pharmacies, army and volunteers.

‘But, I made a clear pre-election pledge that I would not support Covid passes for our domestic economy and voted accordingly.’

Nearly 100 backbenchers defied the party whip to vote against the Government on Tuesday, with almost half of the Prime Minister’s MPs voting against the introduction of compulsory Covid passes in nightclubs and large venues in England.

The mutiny is thought to be the second biggest any sitting Tory prime minister has ever faced, after 118 backbenchers defeated Theresa May’s Brexit deal in 2019 – and greater than the biggest rebellions faced by David Cameron, Sir John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

Thirteen MPs who have attended Cabinet under four premiers defied Mr Johnson, along with 26 Tories first elected in his 2019 landslide victory. Rebels included Dame Andrea Leadsom, Mr Johnson’s former business secretary, David Davis, Liam Fox and Chris Grayling. 

Other backbenchers were Damian Green, Mrs May’s former deputy, former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and Sir John Redwood.

The vote came less than two hours after the Prime Minister made a last-ditch attempt to quell the rebellion by telling a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers that he has ‘no choice’ but to impose new curbs.

Conservative MP Louie French was one of nearly 100 Tory politicians to vote against `Plan B´ on Tuesday evening

Boris Johnson faced a Tory revolt over his ‘Nazi-style’ in crunch votes as furious MPs branded them a ‘softening up exercise’ for harsher lockdown

The Commons signed off the tighter rules on face coverings by 441 to 41, with 38 Tories defying the whip to oppose the move


Former chief whip Mark Harper (left) warned Sajid Javid (right) that parliament must be recalled over Christmas if ministers want to impose tougher rules

What big rebellions have Tory PMs faced? 

THERESA MAY

Mrs May suffered a bigger rebellion from her own MPs than Mr Johnson yesterday. 

In January 2019, 118 backbenchers rejected her the Brexit withdrawal agreement in the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ and five months later she had quit.

DAVID CAMERON

Mr Cameron failed to quell an uprising of 91 Conservatives over a bill to introduce House of Lords reforms in 2012. When abstentions were included, more than half of the backbench refused to back it. 

A year later, 133 Tories opposed Mr Cameron’s bill to allow gay marriage in England and Wales. 

Mr Cameron carried on in office for another three years, until the result of the 2016 referendum on EU membership.  

SIR JOHN MAJOR

Some 95 MPs rebelled against Sir John’s tightening of gun control laws in 1997 after the Dunblane massacre.

He lost the general election months later to Tony Blair’s New Labour Party.

BORIS JOHNSON’S BIGGEST REVOLTS 

Mr Johnson’s biggest revolts are: 

Strengthening of Covid-19 tier restrictions in England (December 1 2020)

A total of 55 Conservative MPs voted against the Government. This includes the two MPs who acted as tellers for the noes.

Four-week extension of Covid-19 restrictions in England (June 16 2021)

There were 51 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government, including two tellers.

New Covid-19 rules in England, including 10pm hospitality curfew (October 13 2020)

Some 44 Conservative MPs voted against the Government, including two tellers.

Introduction of four-week lockdown in England (November 4 2020)

There were 35 Tory MPs who rebelled in this vote, including two tellers.

The Prime Minister will be hoping the dissatisfaction among his MPs is not felt more widely, as the Conservatives battle to keep the seat of North Shropshire in a key by-election tomorrow.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said that a leadership challenge has ‘got to be on the cards’ for Mr Johnson in the new year if he did not change the way he worked with his MPs.

While former Tory chief whip and leading rebel Mark Harper said: ‘You either listen and you respond and you do things differently or you ignore what you have been told and you plough on regardless and then this will happen over and over again.’

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the committee, said the rebellion was a ‘cry of pain’ by the party.

He told BBC News: ‘This was just a bridge too far. I think they were putting a marker down. It was a cry of pain from the Conservative Party. He (Boris Johnson) is in a very, very, very difficult position. There has been a strong view in within the Conservative Party that vaccine passports do not work and is not something many colleagues wanted to see introduced.

‘This is a very, very specific line being drawn in the sand now and I think the Prime Minister and his team need to listen.’

The message from MPs comes as many are still angry over the revelations of alleged parties and gatherings held in Downing Street and elsewhere during lockdown restrictions, as well as longer held resentment about the Government’s handling of the standards row involving former MP Owen Paterson which led to Thursday’s by-election.

Some 126 MPs voted against regulations to make Covid passes – also known as vaccine passports – mandatory in some venues, with fines for establishments that refused or those who faked the documentation.

This included 97 Conservatives, according to the division list, but Tory MP Steve Baker said he believed there were two more votes against – which had not been reported in the list – bringing the total to 99 Conservative rebels, plus two tellers for the noes.

In recent months, division lists have been updated to include names not initially published.

The measures still passed, as Labour had supported the Government in the vote. But leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘The Prime Minister needs to take a long, hard look at himself and ask himself whether he has the authority to take this country through the pandemic. This is a very significant blow for him.’

Other measures under the Government’s Plan B also cleared the Commons, including to drop the requirement to isolate and instead do daily Covid tests for those fully vaccinated people who are contacts of a positive Covid case.

MPs also approved mandatory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff by April 2022 and the requirement to wear face coverings to more indoor spaces in England – including museums and galleries. Some 61 Conservatives also voted against the mandatory vaccination plans.

Many MPs are still angry over the revelations of alleged parties and gatherings held in Downing Street last Christmas, as well as longer held resentment about the Government’s handling of the standards row involving Mr Paterson. 

On Tuesday night, a photograph emerged in the Daily Mirror of a previously reported party held by Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey’s campaign team on December 14 last year.

Mr Bailey quit the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee ahead of the publication of the photograph.

While the Mirror also reported No 10 staff who stayed in Downing Street to take part in a Christmas quiz on December 15 were told to ‘go out the back’ after the event.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has been asked to investigate, and could report back as early as this week.

 

 

BRISTOL: People desperate to get a booster jab before Christmas queued up in a snaking line over a car park. Many are facing up to three hour waits to get their top-up doses

Sturgeon heaps pressure on PM by unveiling new wave of Covid curbs 

Nicola Sturgeon re-introduced social distancing and asked Scots to cut down on socialising in the run up to Christmas today.

Pubs, restaurants and shops will have to take measures to avoid crowding and queues, the First Minister told Holyrood.

Additionally she asked Scots to limit indoor mixing to just three households. While the advice will not be enforceable in law, Ms Sturgeon announced that allowing staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty on employers.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she was not seeking to put restrictions on festive events at Christmas itself.

‘Turning to Christmas Day specifically, or Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or whenever you have your main family celebration, we are not asking you to cancel or change your plans, and we are not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings,’ she said.

‘My key request today is this: before and immediately after Christmas, please minimise your social mixing with other households as much as you can.

‘However, if you do plan on socialising, either at home or in indoor public places, we are asking that you limit the number of households represented in your group to a maximum of three. And make sure you test before you go.’

She also lashed out at Boris Johnson, complaining that it was ‘not acceptable’ that there was no additional funding yet available from the UK Government to support businesses affected by the measures she is introducing. 

A Government spokesperson said: ‘Given there is an ongoing review, it would be inappropriate to comment while that is ongoing.’

But the Liberal Democrats, who say they are now ‘neck and neck’ with the Tories in the North Shropshire poll, said the various scandals would hit the party – which previously enjoyed a nearly 23,000 majority in the seat – at the ballot box.

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: ‘From No 10 to Tory HQ, the slew of rule-breaking revelations show that Boris Johnson has set a very low bar for standards within his party and his presence in Downing Street is eroding public trust.

‘This Thursday, voters in North Shropshire have the chance to tell him the party is over.’ 

But there are concerns among senior government figures that the Conservative Party increasingly looks divorced from public opinion, which has been in favour of Covid restrictions throughout the pandemic.

‘Tory MPs and activists are a lot more libertarian than the public. There is a problem,’ one aide told MailOnline.  

Whitehall officials have drawn up proposals to limit the number of people allowed in pubs and restaurants, according to The Sun. There are also contingency plans to bring back furlough and support for businesses if tougher restrictions are needed. 

However, the options are causing alarm inside the PM’s top team as well, with Jacob Rees-Mogg insisting on his regular podcast that the country must ‘learn to live’ with coronavirus.     

Covid passes are the main focus of Tory rebels in Westminster today, with anger that they are ‘illogical’ and an infringement of civil liberties. Mr Javid said yesterday that in future booster jabs will be needed to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of the passes. 

There is also broad opposition to mandatory vaccination for NHS and care staff, and unhappiness at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices. 

The Plan B measures are not in danger of failing because Sir Keir Starmer has ordered Labour MPs to support them.

But the Commons mutiny could wipe out Mr Johnson’s majority and eclipse his biggest revolt yet, when 54 Tories voted against the tier system last December. Some rebels believe it could be bigger than the 80-strong revolt that forced David Cameron to promise the EU referendum. 

Mr Javid told MPs: ‘Omicron is a grave threat. We acted early to slow its spread, strengthening our testing regime and placing 11 countries on the travel red list.

‘But despite those swift steps the data over the past few days has shown more cause concern. I’d like to reinforce with the House today, to all honourable members why Omicron represents such a risk to the progress that we’ve all made so far together.’

Several Tories intervened to ask for guarantees of another vote if the government wants to go further.  

Former chief whip Mark Harper said: ‘Is he able now at the despatch box to commit that if the Government were to take further measures to deal with Omicron during the recess, that the Government would recall the House of Commons so that we’re able to have all of the evidence and participate in taking those decisions on behalf of the constituents we represent?’

Mr Javid replied: ‘I am not able to give that commitment alone, it wouldn’t be a decision for me and my department alone, but it is something that I know the Government would consider together seriously.’

Alec Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell, asked: ‘When will we know whether Omicron gives severe or mild disease? Therefore, if it is mild, how quickly will the decision be made that this would be of an advantage to get rid of Delta and get a herd immunity which doesn’t create strong disease?’

Fellow Tory Andrew Bridgen highlighted comments from the head of the South African Medical Association suggesting Omicron is a ‘mild form of Covid-19’ and will have ‘huge benefits for herd immunity and protection’.

But Mr Javid said: ‘Even if the hospital stay (of Omicron patients) is half of what it (other Covid variants) is at the moment, at the rate that this thing is growing, and if it continues to grow at that rate, that benefit could be cancelled out in two days.’ 

Ex-minister accuses the PM of creating a ‘ministry of fear’ 

A former minister has accused Boris Johnson of creating a ‘ministry of fear’ in an excoriating outburst.

In a passionate speech, Sir Desmond Swayne said between ‘200 and 350 people will die of flu’ on a ‘typical winter’s day’.

‘Do we hide behind our mask? Do we lurk at home working from home? Do we demand that people provide their bona fides before going to a venue? Do we require people to be vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs?’ he asked.

Sir Desmond demanded to know if MPs took seriously some of the ‘extraordinary extrapolations’ given to them by scientists.

‘The fact that these are things that might take place and we have to balance that against the known cost and damage to enterprise, economy and society, and in the end it comes down to a matter of opinion, a matter of our prejudices,’ he said.

He asked which ‘Stalinist minds’ had thought up the name behind the UK Health Protection Agency, adding: ‘Get them out there twisting the fear button and by and large you will get the reaction you want – people will crave more enforcement and more fearsome measures to protect them from this great danger that is out there.’

Sir Desmond said: ‘The Government, having administered this ministry of fear, is absolutely complicit with its officials and organisations that have designed it and delivered it.

‘They have abandoned in doing that any principle of social democracy, of liberal democracy, absolutely beyond anything we’ve endured in recent living memory in the history of this pandemic.

‘And as a consequence, having abandoned what might have been their ideology, they are rudderless and as a consequence of that so much more at risk of the opinions and predictions of the advisers to which they are in hock.’

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely gave an excoriating assessment of the quality of information being issued by the government.

‘Will he accept that many academics have doubted the previous forecasts, describing them as hysterical, substantially inflated, consistently overconfident, lurid and severely flawed?’ he said.

‘We have had a problem with inaccurate forecasts. Will he accept that point?’

Mr Javid said: ‘Yes, yes I absolutely accept that point. And with previous variants of Covid we have seen forecasts and estimates whether it’s from academics or think tanks and others that have been completely off the mark.’

However, he went on: ‘Just because forecasts in the past… have been wrong it doesn’t mean to say every estimate or forecast is always wrong.’

In an vicious outburst, ex-minister Desmond Swayne accused Mr Johnson of creating a ‘ministry of fear’.

He said between ‘200 and 350 people will die of flu’ on a ‘typical winter’s day’, asking: ‘Do we hide behind our mask? Do we lurk at home working from home? Do we demand that people provide their bona fides before going to a venue? Do we require people to be vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs?’

He asked MPs if they took seriously some of the ‘extraordinary extrapolations’ given to them, noting: ‘The fact that these are things that might take place and we have to balance that against the known cost and damage to enterprise, economy and society, and in the end it comes down to a matter of opinion, a matter of our prejudices.’

He asked which ‘Stalinist minds’ had thought up the name behind the UK Health Protection Agency, adding: ‘Get them out there twisting the fear button and by and large you will get the reaction you want – people will crave more enforcement and more fearsome measures to protect them from this great danger that is out there.’

Sir Desmond said: ‘The Government, having administered this ministry of fear, is absolutely complicit with its officials and organisations that have designed it and delivered it.

‘They have abandoned in doing that any principle of social democracy, of liberal democracy, absolutely beyond anything we’ve endured in recent living memory in the history of this pandemic.

‘And as a consequence, having abandoned what might have been their ideology, they are rudderless and as a consequence of that so much more at risk of the opinions and predictions of the advisers to which they are in hock.’

Conservative MP Dr Luke Evans said he could not support Covid passes, telling the Commons: ‘I worry about the slippery slope. What businesses, what society interactions or what infections may become in scope in future months or future years?’

Conservative former cabinet minister Greg Clark said there appeared to be a ‘lack of clarity’ over the purpose of Covid passes. 

The PM’s spokesman said the decision to hold Cabinet remotely had been taken ‘in light of the increasing number of cases and our advice to work from home when possible’. 

Pressed on why Cabinet was virtual but MPs would have to vote in person tonight, the spokesman said: ‘I think my understanding is the Speaker, working with the Leader, on measures in place for voting, I don’t have the full detail but I believe they might be expanding the time allowed for votes.’

Asked whether people should still be going ahead with Christmas parties, the spokesman said: ‘Our position on that hasn’t changed. 

‘As I have said the Prime Minister believes we have a proportionate and balanced approach and given what we know about this variant and the protective measures we already have in place we do not want to close hospitality.

‘That is not a proposal in Plan B. But we will continue to encourage everyone going to a party or spending any time in an enclosed space with people they don’t know to get tested beforehand to make use of the significant capability we have and obviously to continue to take heed of things like good ventilation, good respiratory hygiene.’

The Tory rebellion shows little sign of running out of steam, with critics seizing on confusion after Mr Javid suggested there were 200,000 cases of Omicron yesterday – which would imply it is spreading even faster than previously thought. 

Tory rebel ringleader Steve Baker told MailOnline: ‘Public confidence relies on ministers obviously gripping facts. If they have not gripped the facts how can they have asked the right questions? This certainly does nothing to persuade me I am making a mistake in voting No today.’ 

Mr Kruger said he would support the Government after talks with Mr Johnson on Tuesday morning and having spoken to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is understood to have spoken to at least one other ministerial aide, the night before.

The MP warned he is ‘profoundly concerned’ about ‘mass surveillance’, and ‘the segregation or punishment of people who decline medical interventions offered by the state’.

‘I don’t believe that is where anyone in Government wants to go. I spoke to the Health Secretary last night and the Prime Minister this morning,’ he wrote on his website. 

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